TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – One second.
Just one lousy second.
Just one second from a national championship and one second from perfection.
Alabama was the nation’s No. 1 team on the first day of the 2016 season and remained in that position until the final second of the final game. One second was how much time was left when Clemson’s Deshaun Watson secured his place in college football history with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow. It gave the Tigers a 35-31 victory and their first national championship in 35 years.
That one second was enough to keep Alabama from its fourth national championship in six season. It was enough to keep coach Nick Saban from his sixth national title, which would have tied him with Bear Bryant for the all-time record.
All of that history, all of that joy and sorrow and memories that will last a lifetime — all of that was won and lost with one second left.
So what do you do, I asked Saban in his office last week, when you come that close to perfection but finish one second short?
Simple, said the man about to enter his 12th season in Tuscaloosa: You start over and work like hell to get into that position again.
First, you go recruiting. Alabama signed the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class for the seventh consecutive year. Check. Then you start to figure out which players need to go into the positions that will give you the best chance to win.
“I never know about our teams this time of year; every year you lose 25 to 30 percent of your team,” said Saban, who has 205 wins as a college coach. “So you not only have to figure out which players belong on the bus, you have to get them in the right seats on the bus. The most important thing is you have to build the team chemistry that you need.”
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