The last decade in Tuscaloosa has seen some of the program’s most sustained period of excellence in college football history. During that time, the sport has undergone significant changes, structurally and on the playing field.
However, it is to the next five years we turn, as we project what the next half-decade will bring to the Crimson Tide and the sport in general. Without further throat-clearing, let the speculation begin: Five predictions for the next five years.
- Coach Nick Saban will meet or exceed Coach Paul Bryant’s six national championships. Saban’s squad was one second away from tying Bear’s record six national titles in 2016. He is tied for second with Ohio State’s great Woody Hayes. Alabama’s unprecedented influx of talent and the program’s ability to develop players and attract excellent assistants mean that the Tide will be in the discussion as long as Nick prowls and scowls on the sidelines.
- The College Football Playoffs are entering their fourth year of a 12-year deal. That contract, however, is open for renegotiation and modification. After another season or so reminiscent of 2014 and 2016, where several teams vied for the 4th spot, near unanimity will grow to expand the field to eight teams. The Playoff has already flirted with electoral disaster twice, with the Big 12 in 2014 and the Big 10 last season. After enough times of this scenario unfolding, primarily to some money conferences -- the SEC and Big 10 -- expansion will come. However, the School President stakeholders at the NCAA will not eliminate the 12th game, making a college season nearly as long as the NFL.
- In five years, the SEC East will still not have emerged from the shadows of the SEC West. Barry Odom may or may not turn out to be a good coach, but it will take 3-5 years to get Missouri back into the elite. Does anyone believe that Muschamp can build a championship-caliber program at South Carolina? Kentucky’s best days are aiming for 8 wins while they impatiently await the start of basketball season. Florida will be a consistent winner, but under McElwain still appears to always be a piece or two short of being a champion. Kirby can recruit, that is certain. But, his first year at Georgia, and the way the Dawgs lost, seems to indicate that some things in Athens never change no matter who leads the puppies. Tennessee will be breaking in one, and perhaps two new coaches over the next five years. Butch Jones does not seem to be the answer there. And Vandy is always gonna’ Vandy.
- Nick Saban will retire from active coaching. He turns 66 this year. And, though he is young, vigorous, and energetic, time marches on and he will nonetheless one day be a septuagenarian. However, do not think for one second that a man as driven as Nick Saban is being put out to pasture. With his departure from the sidelines, Saban will lobby for/be enlisted to become the first College Football Commissioner, a post which will attempt to unify officiating, recruiting, and other disparate facets of the game. While the results of efforts won’t manifest themselves within five years, one day we’ll all remark in awe that the sport never had a commissioner: One of the first issues he will tackle is head trauma and practice reform.
- At least one Alabama player from the signing day classes of 2016-2017 will win the Heisman Trophy. Jalen Hurts is certainly on this list. He was mentioned as a serious candidate as late as November last season: being responsible for over 30 TDs, nearly 900 yards rushing and 2300+ yards in the air as a true freshman will do that. And, folks, he’s only getting better. This is to say nothing of the A-Day trio of standout freshmen early enrollees (and the ones yet to arrive): Tua Tagovailoa, Jerry Jeudy, and Najee Harris — any of which could turn heads and potentially devour record books. Then again, it could be more than one player on this list that wins. However, at least one from these two classes will win college football’s most nebulous prize.
There are our five predictions for the next five years. Take the poll, feel free to comment below and add your own: What is your ironclad prediction for the next five years?
Which prediction do you think is most likely to come true over the next five years?
This poll is closed
Nick Saban wins at least one more national title
Nick Saban retires from active coaching
The SEC East will still be far below the SEC West in quality
The College Football Playoffs will expand
At least one Alabama player from the 2016-2017 NSD classes will win the Heisman Trophy