It’s possible that Nick Saban is genuinely concerned about the future of college football and wants to send out a wake-up call. It could also be that the Alabama coach is grumpy after winning just one of the last four national championships and sees the competition closing the gap.

This could all be true, especially the part about Saban being grumpy. He’s as good to be around as a Navy drill sergeant, and a relentless pursuit of perfection is what makes him great. At first glance, it looks like Saban doesn’t have much to worry about in 2022.

“Alabama looks like the team to beat again,” said DraftKings sports betting director John Avello. “Nothing has changed. Alabama normally lays big numbers and will be favored in all of their games.

But coaches don’t think like bettors. Saban is still afraid of not being #1, which is probably why he criticizes new NIL (name, image and likeness) deals that pay players while shooting rival Texas A&M.

First of all, how strong should Saban’s team be this season? DraftKings provided an answer by recently opening rows on the seven biggest games on the Crimson Tide schedule. Alabama is a double-digit favorite in each, with five of those games on the road.

In what will be a high-profile non-conference duel — the house dog has yet to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference — Alabama is a 14-point favorite over Texas on Sept. 10. In SEC play, the Tide scores 16 points at Arkansas, 16.5 against Texas A&M, 13 at Tennessee, 14.5 at LSU, 13.5 at Mississippi, and 23.5 against Auburn.

Saban brings back arguably the best offensive player in the nation, quarterback Bryce Young, and the best defensive player, outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr., to headline another loaded roster. The Tide also took advantage of the transfer portal by adding running back Jahmyr Gibbs from Georgia Tech.

“With this offense and the return of Anderson to lead the defense, I would generally recommend taking the Tide this season under 17 points,” said Paul Stone, a Texas-based college football handicapper.

South Point sports betting manager Chris Andrews is normally among the first to open lines on big games and win totals for the season, but Andrews said he would wait until June this year. It needs more time to evaluate all transfers and make the most accurate power ratings possible.

“I really don’t want to rush it,” Andrews said. “I have No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State and that’s not exactly news.”

DraftKings lists Alabama as the +200 favorite to win the National Championship, and Circa Sports recently released the Tide as the -125 favorite to win the SEC Championship. The Tide’s regular season win total will surely be pegged at 11.5 for the 12-game schedule.

“The question in my mind is how high will Alabama’s total get to the Over?” Stone said. “If I work for the house, I press the Over to -140.”

Young, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, and Anderson are No. 1 candidates in next year’s NFL Draft. The Heisman odds chart at DraftKings shows Young as the +350 second pick behind Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud at +250. Anderson is a 40-1 shot, but he’s the rare defensive player who could actually win the prize. Anderson led the nation with 17.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss last season.

It’s hard to say when the feud between Saban and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher started, but the Aggies’ 41-38 upset against the Tide last season likely lit the fuse. Saban was 24-0 in games against his former assistants, including 4-0 against Fisher, before the Aggies won with 17.5 points at home.

Texas A&M also overtook Alabama in most spring recruiting rankings, which surely upset Saban, who spoke to a business group this month and was caught on camera saying, “A&M bought all the players of their team – entered into an agreement for the name, image, likeness. We didn’t buy a single player, okay?

Fisher fired back, repeatedly calling Saban “narcissistic” while essentially accusing Alabama of paying players during Saban’s reign.

Anyone naive enough to believe that Alabama’s program was flawless under Saban would be a prime target for telemarketing scams. Players have been collecting money, cars and more from college football boosters for decades, and Saban is a hypocrite for launching his tirade at Texas A&M.

The influence of money in recruitment is nothing new, but players are now being paid above the board rather than below. The colleges with the most zero purchasing power will win recruiting battles and that is the immediate future of the sport, like it or not. Saban apparently hates it, saying the NIL deals are “completely out of control” and threaten to ruin college sports.

“The Saban-Jimbo thing is almost laughable,” said Bruce Marshall, editor of The Gold Sheet, who regularly attends SEC media days during the offseason. “Saban made the comments and never thought it would leak. He was right about everything, but in the days of NIL, almost anything is allowed these days. “Bama has benefited and will benefit from NIL as well as anyone. Jimbo missed his chance and should have taken the opportunity to let the masses know that A&M handles the NIL process better than anyone. There’s probably still money flowing to rookies outside of NIL, but it’s happening all over the SEC.

“Of course, college football remains a cesspool and it could get even worse until uniform standards are established for NIL, but I’m not sure that will happen or if it could happen. My bet is Ohio State is going to pay more than anyone.

College football, Saban rightly said, is moving toward free agency with no salary caps. The NCAA seems too weak to stem the tide, no pun intended.

Saban will adapt and thrive as he always does. Alabama and equally powerful programs will continue to dominate the sport, so little will change at the top.

The Saban-Fisher feud will be a hot storyline and a crippling angle on Oct. 8, when the Aggies are big underdogs in Tuscaloosa.

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