(MCT) FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. _ How far might Alabama take this thing?
That's the altogether legitimate question in the wake of the Crimson Tide's second consecutive college football national championship _ and third in four years _ earned Monday night with a crushing 42-14 victory against Notre Dame in Sun Life Stadium.
How long can 'Bama remain so dominant?
Can it win, for example, three of the next four crowns?
Such an extension of excellence would give Alabama six championships in eight years, which, for point of reference, would duplicate what the Chicago Bulls did in the 1990s. That's an appropriate comparison, because Tide coach Nick Saban said Tuesday morning that he had used Bulls superstar Michael Jordan as a motivational example for the team.
"I showed them a film of (Jordan) saying, 'Everybody thinks the first championship is the hardest, but it's really (always) the next one. Because you have to have the will to fight against yourself,'" Saban said. Don't allow satisfaction to sabotage future efforts, in other words, which isn't likely to happen on Saban's watch.
He spoke of a team's need to exhibit the proper "psychological disposition" required to keep winning championships. Or, as senior linebacker Nico Johnson explained Monday night, anything less than another title would be a failure next year.
"They're going to do their best to live up to that standard," Johnson said. "That's just something you've got to do."
The frightening news for Alabama opponents is that Johnson was one of only 10 seniors listed on the Tide's two-deep chart _ laden with freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores. Saban also has another highly regarded class coming in.
Know what Saban does with his four national championship rings, including one won at LSU? Hint: He doesn't often wear them.
"I just put them on the coffee table for recruits to look at," Saban said. It was a good line made better by its probable truth.
Saban, too, should know a lot about Alabama's potential early next season after a September game at Texas A&M. The Aggies, with freshman quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, handed the Tide their only loss this year.
Saban already knows the warning label he'll put on 2013.
"I really hope that we all appreciate what we accomplished and understand what it took rather than just revel in it," Saban said. "If you appreciate something, I think you may be more committed to what you need to do in the future to be successful.
"Every opponent we play will certainly have it targeted on their schedule to beat us. We'll have a lot of challenges."
But almost certainly nothing Alabama can't handle.
Saban said the competition in the Southeastern Conference, which has produced the past seven national champions, is its own proving ground.
"You can't play up and down, or you're going to have problems," he said.
Saban's point that the SEC's fires steel its champion is backed up by most of the Bowl Championship Series title-game scores of the past seven years: 41-14, 38-24, 24-14, 37-21, 22-19, 21-0 and 42-14. Alabama's three wins have come by an average margin of more than three touchdowns.
And for good measure, Saban all but buried the idea that he'll ever return to the NFL, where he spent two frustrating seasons with the Dolphins before leaving to take the Alabama job six years ago.
"How many times do you think I've been asked this question?" Saban said. "How many times do you think I've been asked to put it to rest? I've put it to rest, and you continue to ask it. I'm going to say it. I think somewhere along the line you've got to choose. You learn a lot from the experiences of what you've done in the past.
"In the two years I was (with Miami), I had a very, very difficult time thinking I could impact the organization in the way I wanted or the way I was able to in college. I'm really happy and at peace with that."
He is signed through 2020, and sounds like a 61-year-old coach who is exactly where he wants to be. How dangerous does that make Alabama?
Well, ask yourself this question: Would you take the Crimson Tide against the college football field for next season's national title? That such a proposition could even be considered defines Alabama's stature.