Alabama is once again the king of college football. That didn’t take long.

The Crimson had seemingly slipped a bit since winning the national championship in grand fashion last season with a team loaded with superstars. That wasn’t the case this time.

Alabama had to fight this season before it proved its merit in dramatic fashion by beating Georgia thoroughly in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday. After a bit of a slow start, the Crimson Tide took control and hammered the Bulldogs 41-24. Georgia came into the game as the No. 1 team in the nation and played the part well — until Saturday. Now, Bama is No. 1 as announced Sunday on the College Football Playoff Selection show. Georgia fell to No. 3. The Bulldogs will play No. 2 Michigan in the Orange Bowl semifinal. Bama will play No. 4 Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl. Both semifinals are Dec. 31.

There have been some compelling stories in college football this season. Cincinnati continued to put pressure on the College Football Playoff Committee before being selected to participate in the Playoff. The Bearcats made the Playoff despite not being a part of a Power 5 team. The committee members won’t admit it, but they would rather have the biggest names in its sport make the Playoff. Just ask UCF. However, Cincinnati could not be denied this year thanks to its play this season and some help along the way from other teams that fell short.

As for the Big Ten, Ohio State looked primed to be in the playoff as the mid-west representative. Then, the Buckeyes lost to Michigan, which closed out the season with a dominant Big Ten Championship. Notre Dame, despite an early home loss to Cincinnati, was in contention before the Fighting Irish lost their head coach to LSU. All the while, Georgia was widely considered the best team in the nation and had destiny was on their side before being torn apart by Bama on Saturday. Before that, no one was seriously considering that Alabama could indeed win another national title.

Now, the Tide are the favorite to become college football’s first repeat national champion since … Bama in 2011 and 2012.

All of those storylines pale in comparison to Alabama’s season for those that are willing to take a closer look. The Crimson Tide came out of the gate with a strong, season-opening win against Miami. Despite a new cast of characters, it looked like Alabama would just be the same Alabama of old and march easily toward the national championship as they did last year. That wasn’t the case.

Bama lost to Texas A&M and struggled against lesser opponents. The main culprit was an offensive line that didn’t look worthy of wearing crimson at times. Keep in mind, no one is talking about struggles that only showed up early in the season. Alabama’s offensive line looked horrible 2 weeks ago in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. There are a lot of things that good coaches can overcome. There are shortcomings that great coaches can disguise. A bad offensive line isn’t typically one of those areas that can vastly improve in a week. However, Alabama coach Nick Saban can.

Saban did better than just mask his offensive line issue. He somehow made his offensive line a team strength in just a week after struggling mightily against Auburn. That heavily criticized offensive line looked like another group of guys — really good guys — against Georgia.

This Bama team isn’t like Saban’s previous championship teams. It’s certainly not like last year’s national championship team, which had more first-round draft picks than Tuscaloosa has barbeque restaurants.

There was plenty of debate beforehand about where Bama should be ranked. Should they be No. 1 in front of Michigan or No. 2 behind the Wolverines? Both teams are 12-1. Both teams lost to teams they probably shouldn’t have. However, there was no real debate.

First, Bama is simply better than Michigan and has the history of success to back it up. Second, the College Football Playoff committee would certainly love to see a rematch of Alabama and Georgia in the National Championship Game. That’s far more compelling than them meeting in a semifinal. Let’s not forget that the College Football Playoff and the weekly shows by the committee are all about television. Michigan can use being No. 2 as motivation, but it was hard to imagine Bama not topping the list.

Bama being No. 1 is nothing new. However, this team is much different from the Bama teams in the past that waltzed into the season at No. 1, dominated and won the national championship. There were serious questions about this Alabama team besides the aforementioned replacements that Saban had to make on offense.

How would Saban handle this new transfer portal that would have infuriated him just a few years ago? Alabama needed immediate help in some key places. Again, Saban pivoted from his previous stance and accepted the transfer portal as an advantage. Why wouldn’t a forlorn player want to go to Alabama and compete for a championship and fill a need on Bama’s roster? Also, is there any better judge than Saban to see if a discontented player from another program can be salvaged or will just be unhappy forever?

Receiver Jameson Williams and linebacker Henry To’o To’o are proof that Saban has made the transfer portal work to his advantage and stay at the top of the college football world. Williams, who transferred from Ohio State, is the deep threat that Bama was missing in its offense. He practically destroyed Georgia’s vaunted defense by himself during the SEC Championship Game with his exceptional speed. To’o To’o, who transferred from Tennessee, has been one of Bama’s leading tacklers all season and become a leader in just his first year at Bama.

Maybe Ohio State wouldn’t have had that slip up against Michigan with Williams on the field. Maybe the Vols would have been in a better bowl game with To’o To’o on the roster. We’ll never know because Saban’s influence is everywhere.

All of that is what makes this Alabama team so intriguing. Some think it’s boring when Bama continues to contend for and win championships. Personally, I prefer to watch history being made. I don’t have a rooting interest for Alabama, but there should be a Michael Jordan-like appreciation for what Saban has done. Maybe a documentary will paint Saban in a better light one day and not just as a totalitarian dictator, which is far too often how he is unfairly characterized.

Saban used old-school player development to make his team better throughout the season. He used the transfer portal to make his team better before the season even began. Despite a slightly different process, the result is the same. Alabama is once again the king of college football.