After an alarming loss in the national championship, ESPN analyst Paul Finebaum laid out a series of concerns for Alabama and Nick Saban.
During an appearance on ESPN’s ‘Get Up,’ Finebaum admitted that he was wrong in his expectation for the national championship, as Clemson rolled to a 44-16 victory over Alabama.
“I think what happened was that Nick Saban was as badly out-coached as any game I can remember him being in at Alabama, and that includes his first year,” Finebuam said, according to 247Sports. “What it means is the more vexing question and I know a lot of people today will rush to judgment after an epic beatdown and I’m not quite ready to do that, but I do have to question those who assume Alabama will be back next year because they’re Alabama. The same logic went into thinking Alabama would beat Clemson because they’re Alabama.”
One of those coaching mistakes was the failed fake field goal attempt that showed to Finebaum that Alabama didn’t trust its key players, and wondered if it could beat Clemson.
“He had been successful on (special teams) in the past with daring decisions, but this was a panic,” Finebaum said. “It wasn’t necessary. He has so many talented weapons. He didn’t trust them and was going for broke. I understand the urgency, but I think he threw the game away right there. There was no chance after that. That was a play he has not run in a long time and it just blew up on him.”
While Alabama has laid waste to the SEC in recent years, Finebaum sees some storm clouds on the horizon in the form of former Saban assistants who are building programs to take down the perennial power.
“I would be very careful,” Finebaum said. “The competition in the SEC is getting more problematic for Nick Saban, especially with some of his disciples like Jimbo Fisher and Kirby Smart at Georgia. It’s the SEC and getting out of the SEC. Clemson will get there next year because there’s no one in the ACC that can stop them.”
Alabama has held the top spot for many years across college football, but Clemson has twice toppled Alabama, and may have staying power, especially given the relative lack of strength of the ACC, and competition in the SEC. Not to mention Saban’s age is increasingly brought up in these conversations. Alabama could stay at or near the top, but it may not be as easy as it’s been to this point.
“I think there is a paradigm shift … you can not deny what Clemson has done,” Finebaum said. “Look at these programs. Clemson continues to ascend. They beat the the two biggest names in college football and they eviscerated the two of them in ways I didn’t think was possible. History is always difficult to stop as it moves quickly at the speed of sound, but we’ll talk again next year on the day after the championship and Nick Saban will be 68 years old. I’m not writing him off, but you have to wonder how this loss will settle with him.”