HOOVER, Ala. — Alabama head coach Nick Saban has won three national championships and 84 games in the last seven seasons.

The Tide won another SEC title in ’14 before falling to eventual national champion Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals. For some, that represented a disappointment.

Just what is a fair definition of success at the University of Alabama?

“Is expectation just winning the national championship?” Saban said Wednesday. “I had an interesting thing happen to me this summer. I’m at the lake. We’re eating at a place called LaPrade’s Marina. It’s a marina where you can get a hamburger. And the nicest, nicest older couple that are Alabama people — this is in Georgia at Lake Burton — come up to me and say, ‘Coach, we love what you do. Why don’t you take a picture with us?’

“I say, ‘Absolutely,’ so I go to take a picture with them. They’re just the nicest older couple that you’ve ever, ever met or been associated with. [They] thanked me. She puts her hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Maybe we’ll win this year.’

“So what is expectation? I’m not sure what that is. We won 84 games in the last seven years and ‘maybe we’ll win this year?'”

It’s a wonder that the fans and media don’t drive Saban crazy sometimes. Right or wrong, a large portion of the fan base does expect Alabama to win a national championship each year, especially when the Tide starts many seasons ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.

After Alabama beat Arkansas, 14-13, on the road in October last season, Saban said it “pisses me off when I talk to people who have this expectation like they’re disappointed that we only won the game 14-13 and the way we played.”

Here’s video of the mini-rant:

Clearly it’s a hot-button issue with Saban. But he seems more like a protective parent when discussing expectations surrounding his team. While it’s more than OK for fans to expect so much from a coach that’s making more than $7 million per year, it probably isn’t fair to put the same weight on college athletes.

So, Coach Saban, what criteria to you use to measure whether a season is successful?

“First of all, I don’t think a team is successful based on the expectations. My goal as a coach for every team that we have is, ‘Can we get this team to play to its full potential on a consistent basis?'” Saban said. “That’s every individual, that’s every unit and the team as a whole. That’s our goal for this team. That’s my goal as a coach for this team.

“In the past there’s been times where we’ve done that to a certain degree and there’s been times when we have not. There’s been times when we do it for a portion of the season and we’re not able to finish it like we want.”

Some in the media think that so much inexperience on offense, a weakening defensive secondary (at least in recent seasons) and trouble defending mobile quarterbacks in up-tempo offenses portends a backslide for Saban’s Tide.

If that happens, it will be interesting to monitor the expectations of the fan base this season and beyond.