FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Alabama coach Nick Saban said he doesn’t wear any of his collection of national championship rings.
He has another use for them: “I just put them on the coffee table for the recruits to look at,” he said, smiling.
That collection is growing. After Alabama beat Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS National Championship Game on Monday night, Saban has four national titles, including one at LSU and three at Alabama.
Next season, the Crimson Tide will aim for an unprecedented third in a row. Alabama’s win over Notre Dame made the 2012 Crimson Tide the 12th repeat national champion since the poll era began in 1936. But all previous 11 two-time champions failed to win a third straight, including Alabama after winning in 1964-65 and 1978-79.
“This can continue however long we want,” Alabama defensive back Dee Milliner said. “As long as we buy into what Coach (Saban) is preaching. Coach does a great job coaching and preparing us for the game. If we buy into what the coaches are telling us, we can do great things.”
As Saban aims for another title, he made it clear Tuesday morning the team will be based around its quarterback, AJ McCarron, who announced last month he will return for his senior season. McCarron has compiled a 25-2 record as a starter, which means he has more national championship rings as a Tide team member (three) than he does losses as a starter (two).
“AJ has gotten better and better every year. ... We certainly have to build the team around him,” Saban said. “I’ve talked a lot about it’s difficult to play quarterback when you don’t have good players around you.
“I think we should have — God willing and everybody staying healthy — a pretty good receiver corps. We’ll have to do some rebuilding in the offensive line. ... We’ll probably still have some pretty decent runners. But I think AJ can be a really good player, maybe the best quarterback in the country next year.”
Defensively, Alabama will return first-team All-America linebacker C.J. Mosley, who also said he will come back for his senior season. At the end of the regular season, the Tide players voted Mosley as the team’s most valuable player.
“His consistency and performance is what makes him a special player,” Saban said. “It really doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, he always seems to make a lot of plays.”
Next season, Alabama will face a schedule that will include a season opener in Atlanta against Virginia Tech, road games at Texas A&M and Auburn, and home games against LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas.
The Crimson Tide has no regular-season game against Georgia, Florida or South Carolina, but Saban said who Alabama plays doesn’t matter.
“Every opponent that we play next year will certainly have it targeted on their schedule to beat us, so we’ll have a lot of challenges for ourselves,” Saban said. “The team that we have next year is 0-0. Even though I really appreciate what this team accomplished, and I’m very, very proud of what they accomplished, we do need to start getting ready for the challenges of the new season very quickly with the team that we have coming back.”
So what does Saban need to work on for next year? Maybe it’s the Gatorade bath, which he has endured after each of his national championship.
“I really pride myself in being able to anticipate what’s coming next, anticipate what the next problem in the organization is, anticipate what we need to solve, what we need to focus on, what we need to work on, and I’ve never been able to anticipate the Gatorade coming,” he said. “I don’t know what’s up with that.”
Saban said the Gatorade bath is cold and sticky. But Monday night’s went better than previous ones have. “I appreciated not getting hit in the head with the bucket,” he said. “That was an improvement.”