Like it is:

Player losses seldom throw Saban off game

By: Wally Hall
Published: Thursday, June 14, 2018
Alabama head coach Nick Saban walks the filed before an NCAA college football game against Mississippi, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Alabama head coach Nick Saban walks the filed before an NCAA college football game against Mississippi, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

In 77 days -- on Thursday, Aug. 30, at 7:30 p.m. -- Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher will make his debut at the school against the Northwestern (La.) State Demons, an FCS team that won four games last season.

Just two days later, the fun begins with 12 more SEC games, and on Sunday night, Sept. 2, LSU hosts Miami on ABC.

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Saturday's action includes five games on the SEC Network, two on ESPN and ESPNU, and ABC has a doubleheader with Washington playing Auburn in Atlanta and Louisville vs. Alabama in Orlando, Fla. For one day, Disney World will be the No. 2 attraction in Orlando.

That game will give Bobby Petrino one more shot at beating Nick Saban, but don't count on it even though Alabama returns only 10 starters from its national championship team.

Petrino returns only 11, and none of them are quarterback Lamar Jackson. He does have seven returners on offense, and that's where he works his best magic, but he hasn't pulled any tricks on Saban yet.

Don't feel too sorry for Saban with only 10 starters back: Last year he had only 11 and went 13-1 and beat Clemson for the national title.

What gets Saban every year is that thing called the NFL Draft. When you recruit the best, most of them aren't staying one day longer than they have to before turning pro. Can't blame them anymore. College will still be there when football is a speck in the rearview mirror.

Last season was the first time Saban ever won a national championship in the same year Alabama opened as the No. 1 ranked team, but it doesn't matter where they're ranked in August -- never count him or the Crimson Tide out.

Most ratings services, like some sportswriters, have learned their lesson. Just vote the Tide No. 1 and move on. If they get upset along the way, they are likely to make up for it.

Of course, Alabama is getting a lot of attention even 79 days from its first kickoff because of the perceived quarterback battle between two-year starter Jalen Hurts and the hero of the national championship game Tua Tagovailoa, who came in the second half and hit 14 of 24 passes, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

Rumors are growing stronger by the day that one of those quarterbacks will transfer in August, but until then Saban is the customary guardian of the two-deep so no one knows who has the edge in the head coach's mind.

Actually, Saban might be spending a little more time thinking about his defense.

The Tide lost three starting linebackers and both of their safeties and cornerbacks.

For most schools that would be a concern, but not in Tuscaloosa.

Saban has three linebackers who were five-star recruits and several more who were four stars.

The cornerback and safety situation has a five star and enough four-star recruits to make Auburn envious, and the Tigers beat Bama last year 26-14. Auburn lost to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and the playoffs committee opted to give the Tide the fourth spot.

Saban proved the committee was right with the help of Tagovailoa, who attended Saint Louis School in Honolulu, the same school Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota attended. Tagovailoa was named the offensive MVP of that championship game.

He did sit out most of the spring with a hand injury, but that seemed to add fuel to the debate over who would be the starter.

Hurts is 24-2 as a starter. Saban said he has talked with Hurts, but Hurts' dad has said if his son isn't the starter he'll be the biggest free agent ever.

Saban will use all of that for one thing: to make Alabama better.

Sports on 06/14/2018

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