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Nick who?

By Staff
Paul Finebaum
Nick Saban Who? -
Good gracious, what else can they say about this fine man?
Isn't it enough for the national media to call him a liar and cheat and a scoundrel and a weasel? In a perverse way, one might suppose those are really compliments, at least to the degree that Saban is still relevant.
But when CBS lead analyst Gary Danielson – who sounds like he could win the starring role of any of the Three Stooges if Hollywood ever does a remake (take your pick, Curly, Larry or Moe) – went after Saban in the waning moments of LSU's victory over Florida, one had to wonder what the world is coming to.
In his obvious glee over Les Miles blindly rolling the dice correctly five times on fourth down (hitting that number has to be the biggest upset since David over Goliath), Danielson officially declared the end of Saban's reign on the Bayou when he uttered "Nick Saban Who?"
Clearly, he meant this was now Miles' team and it would be impossible to argue, considering this was his biggest win to date, his program is indisputably No. 1 in the nation and his record at LSU is a staggering 28-4.
When you juxtapose that stentorian scene in Tiger Stadium with the creepy sight in Bryant-Denny a few hours earlier, perhaps it gave Danielson reason to start flapping his gums.
While the biggest crowd ever in Tiger Stadium had fans hanging off the flag pole trying to catch a peep of one of the most dramatic college football games in eons, tens of thousands had already fled the premises in Tuscaloosa, fully expecting Alabama to finish off the Houston Cougars (fresh off a 37-35 loss to East Carolina) in classic Crimson Tide style after jumping to a 23-0 lead.
Do you think Saban was kicking himself late Saturday night, painfully watching his old team (and a few of his former players) become the new "it" team in college football? Meanwhile, in Tuscaloosa, the home of those 12 dusty national championships, Saban's "new" team continues to search for an identity six games into the season?
There are no guarantees in life, but if Saban doesn't completely turn around the mess he inherited in Tuscaloosa from Pretty Boy Shula, his decision to leave LSU for Miami (where he went 15-17 and beat the rush out of town considering the Dolphins currently stand at 0-5), might go down as one of the biggest blunders of all-time.
Suddenly, instead of LSU fans yearning for Miles to depart for Michigan and a return of Saban, it's a safe bet the hottest T-shirt in Baton Rouge next week will be: "Nick Saban Who?"
When I watch Miles coach, I don't know whether to call the state authorities to order up a paddy wagon completely furnished with a purple and gold straight jacket or to declare him an absolute genius. He's the most baffling coach to watch I've ever seen. But Saturday night, he won the game and that's all that matters.
There may be another explanation. Knowing he probably has the Michigan job if he wants it, Miles is finally coaching with reckless abandon and no fear. Of course, Urban Meyer trying to out-dumb him aided in the cause. Can we now officially strip the prefix "Genius" from his name?
Suddenly, Ole Miss and Mississippi State don't look like sure bets for Alabama anymore. Talk of a "dream matchup" between two undefeated teams on Nov. 3 (LSU-Alabama) seems as distant as the thought of the 2007 Southern Cal team going down as the greatest college football team in history.
Instead of answers at this juncture, there are mainly questions, such as: Is there a reason why Alabama can't play four quarters in a game against Houston? I understand that going up against Arkansas, Georgia and Florida State in a row is difficult. But finishing off Houston?
It's one thing for Alabama to suffer late in major battles because of depth issues. We factored that in before the season. But some of the decisions made by this staff, particularly on the offense side of the ball, are baffling.
Can I please get someone to double check for DNA and make triple-sure Mike Shula has left Tuscaloosa County?
Having said all of this, there is no reason for panic.
I still believe Saban has the program moving in the right direction over the long term. Reasonable people felt this season would be a struggle, even after the 3-0 start. However, the Tide is certainly facing an interesting stretch over these next few weeks when things possibly could get worse. Alabama beat Ole Miss on a last-second field goal two years ago and won in overtime last year in Tuscaloosa. I can't imagine the Rebels have gotten worse since then, although it's possible.
Regardless, it's difficult to avoid peeking around the league and seeing Auburn getting better, Tennessee turning around and LSU raging in Cajun Country. Of the remaining five games, only Louisiana-Monroe seems like a lead-pipe cinch for Alabama.
And for the first time in forever, Nick Saban looks human.
And for the first time in even longer, Les Miles looks like Superman.
Is that murmur I hear out there Alabama fans quietly hoping Miles will take the money and run for Michigan? Or is it the sound of novelty shops in Louisiana working overtime this week to stock the shelves in T-shirts and bumper stickers reading: Nick Saban Who?
Paul Finebaum is a guest columnist for the Franklin County Times. He can be reached via email at finebaumnet@yahoo.com

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