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The spotlight is on, and now it’s time to see how the Tide handles pressure. Because from here on out, every game, every playeven, will be a chance at greatness. One slip and suddenly you’re merely good–not great. But if anyone can prepare a team for this moment, it’s Nick Saban.

It might have been better for them to have climbed the polls more slowly than they did. If they only hadn’t looked so damned dominating against Clemson and at Georgia, maybe right now they’d be number 8, or number 5, instead of 2. Not that it matters that much, as the Head Coach will tell you.

I don’t know what we’re ranked,” Saban said. “But wherever it is, let me ask you this: Who was ranked there on Sept. 29 of last year? Do you remember?””>”I don’t know what we’re ranked,” Saban said. “But wherever it is, let me ask you this: Who was ranked there on Sept. 29 of last year? Do you remember?”

Yes, we understand, and we all chant in unison: Ranking doesn’t matter until the season is over. Watching the rankings is fun business if you’re a fan, but as a fan, wouldn’t you rather your team didn’t even know what they were ranked? Is a team ranked #2 going to play any harder (or softer) than a team ranked #22 or #72? I’m sure if the Head Coach had his way, the team would be incommunicado concerning rankings as a general rule.

But even players are fans. Fans of their own team. They want to see their teammates succeed as badly as they want to succeed themselves. So they know what the rankings are, where they lie, and they know what they have to do to stay there. There is only one rule the players need to abide by in order to remain in the BCS hunt:

  1. Listen to the Head Coach.

Saban has done an amazing job of letting the team know how good they can be (Clemson, Georgia), while mixing in just a bit of letting them know how bad they might be (Kentucky, Tulane), and at the same time, winning every game in the process.

And now the coach has posted two words as reminders all over the football complex: “consistency” and “finish.” If they listen to those valuable lessons, they may–they may–achieve greatness. In a college football world where the talent division between the top and the bottom is as tight as it’s ever been, that’s all one can really hope for–a chance. And if they listen to the Head Coach, if they play with consistency and finish…There’s no team in the country who can line up and win every time they play. 

Every game from here on out represents for the Tide an opportunity to write their names in the annals of college football’s greatest. If they win out, Alabama will hoist their thirteenth championship flag above Bryant-Denny Stadium, and Nick Saban will be enshrined with his own statue on the Walk of Champions. But at the same time, every game represents an opportunity for the team to end the season as a good team, not a great team.

Either way, though, the nation’s face has turned south once again, and one and all know that the Crimson Tide is back in the land of prominence.

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