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Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Alabama's pursuit of history

By Chris Low

Nick Saban
Don't expect Nick Saban to talk about defending a national title. The Alabama coach remains focused on the task at hand.
You really want to get Nick Saban steamed?

Hit him with a good dose of everything that’s out there concerning this Alabama team’s pursuit of history.

All the chatter about defending the national championship, extending streaks and generally accomplishing things that haven’t been done at Alabama since Bear Bryant was roaming the sideline is enough to trigger a full-blown explosion from Saban.

The ultimate live-in-the-moment guy, Saban is affixed only on this preseason camp. More specifically, the next practice of preseason camp.

To him, the bigger picture is finding a way to get better on special teams or solidifying roles in his young and inexperienced secondary.

But chasing history?

That’s for the rest of us to discuss.

“Every season stands on its own, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve just won the national championship or lost two games in a row just like we did two years ago [to end the 2008 season[,” Saban said. “Every season is different. Every team is different. The only thing this team will be remembered for is what we do this season.”

True enough, but another season like last year would also take this group to the doorstep of SEC immortality.

There hasn’t been a repeat BCS national champion since the BCS era began in 1998. Southern California was voted No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll in 2003, but Saban’s LSU Tigers won the BCS national championship that season. The Trojans came back to win the BCS national title that next season.

The last team to win outright national championships in back-to-back seasons was Nebraska in 1994 and 1995.

And from an SEC perspective, nobody in this league has repeated as champion since Tennessee did it in 1997 and 1998.

Ingram
Mark Ingram and the Crimson Tide have won 16 straight regular-season games.
“None of that means anything right now,” said junior running back Mark Ingram, who made a little history himself last season in becoming the first Alabama player to win the Heisman Trophy.

“The way we got to where we are is taking it one game and one practice at a time, and that’s not going to change just because we won a title. There’s nothing we’ve done to this point that’s going to help us this year.”

Ingram was still in high school the last time Alabama lost an SEC regular-season game. The Crimson Tide have reeled off 16 in a row. The record is 27 in a row, held by ... Alabama.

Bryant’s teams in the late 1970s went three straight seasons without an SEC loss of any kind. Alabama won its final four SEC games during the 1976 season and didn’t lose again to a league foe until Mississippi State upset the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide 6-3 on Nov. 1, 1980, in Jackson, Miss.

That loss ended a 28-game winning streak overall by Alabama, a streak that saw the Crimson Tide win the AP national championship in 1978 and the outright national title in 1979.

That 28-game streak is tied for the longest overall in SEC history. Alabama also won 28 in a row stretching from the final 10 games of the 1991 season through the first five games of the 1993 season, although those wins in 1993 were later vacated by NCAA sanctions.

Alabama has gone two seasons in a row now without any regular-season losses, the first time that’s happened at the Capstone since 1973 and 1974.

Only once in SEC history has a team gone three straight seasons without a regular-season loss of any kind, and that was Tennessee under Gen. Robert Neyland during the 1938, 1939 and 1940 seasons.

“One of the things you learn in this program is not to get caught up in looking down the road,” sophomore linebacker Dont’a Hightower said. “That’s when you get sidetracked.

“We’ll keep our eyes on what’s right in front of us.”