No. 1 Alabama

Before last year’s national championship game, there was a lot of discussion about whether a win would make Nick Saban the greatest college coach of all-time.

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Saban was going after his sixth national championship, which would tie him with the original Alabama legend, Bear Bryant.

I may be in the minority here. But even though the Crimson Tide lost 35-31 to Clemson in Tampa last January, Saban is still in that discussion as far as I’m concerned.

No disrespect to the man in the hound’s tooth hat. But it’s way harder to win in this era than it was in Bryant’s day. The competition is so much fiercer; there are so many more schools that are threats to go all the way. Five titles in Saban's era vs. six for Bryant is at least a wash, as far as I'm concerned. Especially because Saban, who won his first title at LSU, is the only coach in AP-poll era to win national championship at two schools.

That said, I won’t press the argument that Saban already is the best of all-time.

There is no arguing this, though: He is far from done.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

This year’s Alabama team is the next in a series of heavyweight contenders that could wind up winning all the marbles.

As usual, the Crimson Tide will be long on defense. Even though they must replace five players in their front seven, that’s what Saban and his staff do. On offense, the Tide again should have a punishing running game, with Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough running behind another vintage offensive line. And Jalen Hurts is Albama’s first returning starter at quarterback since A.J. McCarron in 2013.

The schedule starts with a bang: ‘Bama vs. Florida State in Atlanta on Sept. 2.

This is the beauty of the four-team College Football Playoff that so many traditionalists resisted for so long. These teams, which would have avoided each other in the past, now can play on Labor Day and know that, no matter the outcome, they will still have the opportunity to play for the national championship at season’s end, if they take care of the rest of their business.

Considering that the national championship game will be played in Atlanta in January, there would be a lot of symmetry to a rematch.

I’m not going to predict that, not with worthy contenders like Ohio State and Penn State in the Midwest, and USC and Washington out West, not to mention defending champion Clemson.

But it wouldn’t surprise me if Saban added another title to his resume when it’s all said and done in college football this season.[/membership]