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The fallout from 2007: Saban’s hiring ended the era of the scrappy underdog.

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And that’s a good thing for college football.

nick saban after arkansas game

In 2017, we take for granted the relatively quiet status quo of of the college football landscape. Four major conference powers will meet in a playoff and a team with a lot of money and fantastic recruiting will walk away with a trophy.

That was not always the case.

As part of its final major offseason feature, SBN’s College Football staff and affiliate sites are taking a retrospective look at the craziest season of all; the year which saw schools like Kansas, Missouri, South Florida all vie for a national title; the season where the national champion had two losses, yet was undefeated in regulation play.

The insanity that was 2007.

The 2007 Missouri-Kansas Border War was a national championship elimination game. WTF?

Today’s calm waters have undoubtedly been the result of better coaching hires that have allowed CFB’s traditional powers and first-tier programs to rise back to the top (or at least see them make progress to return there.)

Since 2007, Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida, Oklahoma, Florida State, LSU, and Auburn have played for or won a national title. Meanwhile, former blue bloods fallen upon hard times are in the midst of reclamation projects; schools like Nebraska, Michigan and Penn State. And sleeping giants, programs that have always had talent, are working their way over the hump or have taken strides to get there -- these are your Clemsons, Oregons, Washingtons, Michigan States, Wisconsins and so forth.

Nothing that happened on the field in that bizarre 2007 was as instrumental in shaping the college football landscape as Alabama’s hiring of Nick Saban.

While the rest of the nation was tuning in every weekend to see what madness unfolded, Tide fans were watching a sanction-decimated team try and compete in the SEC without a power running game, having moved to the 3-4, lacking elite talent, and with an offensive coordinator who wanted John Parker Wilson to sling it around like Kliff Kingsbury.

It was a year that began with a home win over a Top-25 Arkansas program, that saw Alabama destroy the No. 19 and eventual-East-champion Volunteers, that ended with a bowl win in Shreveport. There were some good things to take away from the year on the field.

But, it was also a 7-6 season that saw the LSU-UA rivalry take a turn for the nasty, that saw Tommy Tuberville hoist his fingers in the air for the sixth straight year, that saw the Tide being manhandled by elite physical opponents, that saw a desultory loss to Florida State, that saw a dreadful Mississippi State team win its second straight over ‘Bama, that saw a four-game losing streak, that saw the Pearl Harbor of losses: A seven-turnover disaster at home to Louisiana-Monroe, and, in the end, saw five of those vacated for the stupidest infraction ever: kids selling their school books and keeping the cash.

It was a season as schizoid on the field for Alabama as it was dysfunctional nationally.

Of course, we now look back on that year as a bad memory: The funk of that season would be washed away with the bellwether class of 2008, the class that brought Julio Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Mark Ingram and others to town. We have the four national titles and five SEC crowns to console us. We dither over the one or two plays that cost our team a national title and deprived them from the chance of another.

And, above all, we take for granted the sameness, the solidity that has mercifully embraced the sport.

The trickle-down effect that Nick Saban’s hiring had on the rest of the sport cannot be understated: Everyone got better because everyone had to get better. Those that could spend, did spend. The arms race for facilities, staff salary and recruiting went nuclear. Entire teams’ offensives have been retooled and have become the norm to beat his defenses. The programs that can keep up have done so; others have fallen by the wayside; yet others have simply hit the unemployment line. Nick Saban is the last coach standing in the SEC. His Alabama coaching career has now survived Gene Chizik, Bobby Bowden, Lloyd Carr, Les Miles, Bob Stoops, Phil Fulmer, Joe Paterno, Urban Meyer (once,) Charlie Weis, Mack Brown -- all coaches who had competed for a national title at the time of his hiring -- and he has Processed so many others.

College football’s oligarchs rely on predictability, they demand a restoration of the natural order. To that end, the traditional powers should thank Nick Saban. He forced them to return to their glory or maintain excellence to keep up with Alabama.

The sport is always strongest and at its best when the cream rises to the top. Kansas is a nice story, sure, but the money involved in major college football cannot be justified when we are seriously considering the South Florida Bulls for the Fiesta Bowl. Boise State’s fans aren’t filling up the Rose Bowl. The playoff so many wanted would not happened if we are debating the merits of TCU for the BCS.

The era of the scrappy underdog is dead. And that’s a good thing for college football.

Long live the king.