There is a feeling of inevitability to Alabama. This decade's Crimson Tide team is the world order, as dominant as any team in history. They are not fun to watch in the traditional sense, but interesting in a clinical way, like when the doctor is showing you the X-ray and describing in detail the fracture in your femur. It is interesting, but you're not having fun.
That's the real reason that the comparisons between Alabama and the NFL resonate so well. Alabama is like the NFL, but not because of the talent and coaching. Not only because of the talent and coaching. The NFL does not care about the excitement of the game or your enjoyment of it. It cares about solving the equation in the most efficient manner possible and executing without drama or circumstance. Such is Nick Saban and Alabama football.
The game started with the familiar slow building dread, the early turnover, score, and rushing gains like clouds on the horizon of an approaching storm that won't arrive for hours but you know you can't outrun. Clemson made some plays and kept things close, but heading into halftime there was little reason not to believe that Saban would spend the break debugging the football automaton and have her back to efficiently removing happiness from the human experience in no time.
Right now, somewhere in Boca Raton, Lane Kiffin is drinking grapefruit whiskey and laughing about how it was actually Dabo's coaching crew who spent halftime showing their players the flaws in Sarkasian's scheme. And then in the third quarter the shem on Scarbrough's mouthpiece fell out and Alabama's golem turned to dust. Nick Saban is a recruiting doomsday prepper who keeps stocks of 5 star RBs in his root cellar, but even after replacing in kind things never seemed quite as easy for the Tide.
Alabama is still Alabama though, so the first lead change of the game wouldn't be the last. And when Jalen Hurts jogged a casual 30 yards into the end zone with two minutes to go it felt, well, inevitable. But Dabo's Team, which beat Urban's Team to get there, would not be stopped and with one second remaining score the go ahead TD over Nick's Team.
And with that remaining second Clemson kicked an onside kick, which they recovered, because life sucks but sometimes you get to see something that makes you laugh so hard you scare the dog into farting which just increases the laughter and that makes life OK.
It's that delight that made this game so great. Saban's compulsive control over himself and his program contrasts well with Swinney's charming goofiness. And while Saban does have a heart despite popular belief, his happiness after his many recent championship victories registers somewhere between satisfaction from a job well done and relief at not failing - nothing in his makeup will ever resemble the gee-shucks joy displayed by Dabo Swinney on the sidelines of Ray J last night. Football is fun and its culminating accomplishment should result in that kind of joy.
Saban is still probably the best coach in college football. And in 2017 Alabama will be very good and most likely ranked preseason #1. But with heart, heroics, and drama Clemson showed that they can be beaten. All other teams are now on notice, and at least one excuse has faded.