College football's only remaining dynasty
Dynasties, by definition, have to extend beyond the current roster.
For a team to even be considered for D-word status, it has to have gone through numerous iterations.
The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers jump to mind. Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, Kevin Garnett, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant -- all are superstars, but in every case, the name on the front of the uniform carried more heft than the name on the back.
College basketball has its share of modern dynasties as well: Kentucky, Duke, and North Carolina just to name three.
But college football has only one program left that makes the dynasty cut: the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Oh, sure, USC has had its share of monumental teams – and this year's Trojans might be the best of the bunch – but it has come in fits and spurts, never sustaining a drive of more than a season or two before sputtering.
Notre Dame used to have it, but it last contended for a national title back when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas and the word email was a typo.
Michigan fans still speak of their beloved Big Blue as a dynasty, but Lloyd Carr has been retired for almost five years and Bo Schembechler has been dead for almost six. The Wolverines have cracked the preseason Associated Press Top 10, but they face Alabama in the opener on Saturday, a game Michigan is not expected to win.
Miami made a run during the late eighties and early nineties. Ohio State, not even close.
Penn State? Let's not go there.
The only dynasty left – the only program with double-digit national championships that fields one team after another near the top of the polls regardless of how many players they have to replace – is Alabama.
And this year is no different.
What makes Alabama so amazing is their ability to field one great player after another in critical positions. Mark Ingram led Alabama to a national championship and won the Heisman trophy before gracefully exited for the NFL only to be followed by Trent Richardson.
Richardson took the Tide to a national title and had a seat in the front of row at the Heisman presentation, and then left for the NFL only to be replaced by Eddie Lacy, another bruiser back with All-American status written all over him.
Backing up Lacy is a 210-pound beast of a freshman named T.J. Yelding who already has observers gasping because of his power and explosiveness.
The list seemingly never ends.
Pick a position: Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones played left tackle last year, protecting quarterback A.J. McCarron's blind side. Now Jones is snapping the ball to McCarron from the center of the offensive line.
So, who is taking his place at arguably the most important spot of the front-five? A 6-foot-6, 310-pound mountain named Cyrus Kouandjio who was the most sought-after offensive line recruit in the nation in 2011.
Kouandjio was injured as a freshman, so this will be his first official year starting but when your least experienced offensive lineman is one of the biggest, strongest, and quickest men in college football, you're in pretty good shape.
"I'm a defensive coach and watching that offensive line, that's as good an offensive line as I've seen in college football," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.
How about the other side of the ball?
By all logical thought, there should be holes in the Tide defense, right? You can't lose stars like Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Dre Kirkpatrick, Josh Chapman, DeQuan Menzie and Mark Barron, who all traded in their Crimson jerseys for the NFL, and still be one of the best defenses in the nation, right?
You can if you're Alabama. Players like Ed Stinson, Damion Square, Adrian Hubbard, Trey DePriest, Deion Belue, Nico Johnson and Vinnie Sunseri have filled the void without missing a beat.
Granted, until the first snap on Saturday night, nobody knows if this year's Alabama team will have the focus and determination of the prior two national championship teams. Letdown is always a possibility -- one Nick Saban speaks of with poisonous contempt.
But if they beat the Wolverines in Week 1 in Cowboys Stadium, the Tide could be well on their way to a successful defense of the national title.
And, more importantly, they could continue to build the legend of the Crimson Dynasty.