The game of the year, or at least September, arrives Saturday in College Station, Texas.
Alabama vs. Texas A&M. Johnny Manziel against the World. The school of Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings, Jackie Sherrill and Dennis Franchione against the school of Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings, Jackie Sherrill and Dennis Franchione.
Just don't tell Nick Saban. The Alabama coach doesn't recognize the existence of big games.
“He was never about a rivalry or the importance of one game,” Colorado State coach Jim McElwain, formerly Saban's offensive coordinator, told ESPN.com. “Now, the players could sense the bright lights. They were like thoroughbreds. They know when that Derby bell goes off. But I never saw us where we were too high or too excited, and Nick was a master at that.”
So don't expect Alabama to play the revenge card, even though A&M stunned the Crimson Tide 29-24 last year in Tuscaloosa, a game that largely delivered the Heisman to Young John Football.
Even if Saban is 7-1 in his last eight games against opponents that won the previous meeting. Even if Bama's margin of victory is 20.9 points in those so-called revenge games.
“It's the same approach every week, no matter how big of a game, no matter if it's the national championship, the SEC championship or if it's the state rival,” Florida coach Will Muschamp, Saban's defensive coordinator at LSU, told ESPN.com. “He approaches every game exactly the same. He spends the same time at the office. He has the same type of preparation. He has the same type of intensity.”
Certainly, few people have seen Saban without his game face, no matter the setting.
But this game will test that theory. With the hype of Bama's three national titles in the last four years, and Manziel's off-field exploits, and the Aggie crowd boiling toward a frenzy, the SEC showdown promises an environment unlike anything we'll see in college football this season.
Just don't tell Nick Saban that it's anything special.