Alabama's Nick Saban already working on chasing title No. 8

Alabama head coach Nick Saban leaves the field after the win against Ohio State in the national championship game.

Nick Saban wasn’t ready to contemplate his legacy moments after capturing a record seventh national championship “because you’re always looking forward.”

It was time to start chasing No. 8, after all. The Crimson Tide capped off a 13-0 season with a 52-24 win over Ohio State Monday night in the national championship game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

“The to-do list started after the game last night,” the 69-year-old coach, who is showing no signs of slowing down, said at a Tuesday morning news conference.

The championship celebration for Saban didn’t last very long. They never do.

The work started by meeting “right after the game” with players considering leaving early to enter the NFL draft, along with seniors who are eligible to return because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Next up on his to-do list is polishing off another loaded recruiting class and replacing offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who is taking over at Texas. Saban declined to give any timetable for making that hire.

None of this is new for Saban, known for his singular focus and ability to annually replace elite talent on both the roster and his coaching staff. Saban broke a tie with Alabama predecessor Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most national titles by a major college coach, including one he captured at LSU and six over the past dozen years in Tuscaloosa.

“It’s an ongoing process, building a team,” Saban said. “I don’t think you can fall asleep at the switch for a minute if you want to try to do it the right way for your players and your program.”

But Saban said this was one of his best teams, if not the best. Facing a regular-season schedule of all Southeastern Conference opponents because of the pandemic, Alabama breezed into the league title game having scarcely been challenged.

Only Florida in the SEC championship game came closer than 15 points. Neither semifinal opponent Notre Dame (31-14) nor the Buckeyes mustered much of a challenge.

Quarterback Mac Jones, a Heisman Trophy finalist who is exploring entering the NFL draft, left no doubt where he believes this team belongs historically.

“I think we’re the best team to ever play,” Jones said. “There’s no team that will ever play an SEC schedule like that.”

The 2009 Alabama team that went 14-0 is Saban’s only other undefeated group.

And he left no doubt this one holds a special place for him because of how well Tide players negotiated the COVID-19 dangers and issues.

This team earned a place in his heart, and perhaps history. But now Saban has begun laying the foundation for next year’s team.

“This was kind of the ultimate team,” Saban said. “These guys were like a high school team in terms of how they got along together, how they supported each other, how they played together, how they overcame adversity.”

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