Now this you didn't expect. Who knew there was some wild-ass lettin' it ride at the craps table underneath all that dry dust and buttoned-upness?
You never figured Nick Saban would try an onside kick in a tie game for the national title, but that's what he did last night, and that's what saved a dreary bowl season. It at once turned what was already a great game into a memorable game, and this after a whole lot of Stanford rolling Iowa, Alabama rolling Michigan State and Clemson rolling Oklahoma.
Nobody rolled anyone in Alabama 45, Clemson 40, a not-unexpected result that was gloriously unexpected in its execution. Who figured both teams would go up and down the field like lawn mowers against those two defenses? Who figured, as good as he is, that Deshaun Watson would outshine Vince Young's legendary Rose Bowl against USC, throwing for four touchdowns and piling up 478 yards against a 'Bama defense that gave Michigan State nothing?
Who figured the game would turn on a goofy gamble by Saban, who smiles in public like they hand out detention for it -- which is to say, hardly at all?
The onside pooch kick at 24-24 was a thing of beauty and a vaudeville wink at the world, and after Alabama recovered and scored, the Crimson Tide was never caught again. Clemson kept trying right up until the last minute, but the Tigers couldn't quite stop Derrick Henry or the occasional 95-yard kickoff return, and so they lost.
And now the discussion begins about where the statue of Saban will go in Tuscaloosa, because with his fifth national title he's caught everyone in history but Bear Bryant, and you know Bear has a statue or two knocking about. I'm guessing it'll be smaller than Bear's, if it happens, and tucked away somewhere discreet. That would befit a man who, no matter how many titles he wins, will somehow never seem larger than life, the way Bear is. Maybe he needs to smile more and not occasionally treat media attention like it's something he stepped in. Or maybe he just needs a catchy nickname.
Nicky the Blade, perhaps. Showtime, maybe, just for the irony. Ol' Showtime Saban, boy. He sure pulled a fast one on them Clemsons, didn't he?
Boy, he sure did.