It is hard to pinpoint exactly where a dynasty begins. It is usually a collection of things that lead to one championship, and then winning spurns more winning. Nick Saban’s dynasty at Alabama is arguably the greatest in college football history. He is one win away from his fifth National Championship in eight seasons, and they don’t look like slowing down any time soon with the #1 rated recruiting class coming into Tuscaloosa next year.

Many people will tell you Alabama’s dynasty started the moment they hired Nick Saban. But I will challenge that. I think it all started with a game against those same Clemson Tigers he will be seeing again tonight.

August 30th, 2008. Atlanta. Nick Saban was getting set to begin his second season at Alabama. His first one was less than stellar. They finished 7-6 with an Independence Bowl win, and an embarrassing home loss to Louisiana-Monroe was all people remembered.

But the first game of his second season was the one where Alabama put themselves back on the national map in college football. Alabama faced Tommy Bowden’s Clemson in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game, a new feature to college football pitting an ACC team against an SEC team at the Georgia Dome in week one of the new season.

Alabama romped Clemson.

It finished 34-10 to the Crimson Tide. Clemson’s only touchdown came on a kickoff return by C.J. Spiller. The Tide defense stuffed Clemson, and kicker Leigh Tiffin nailed four field goals. The defining play came in the third quarter when John Parker Wilson hit Julio Jones for a touchdown to make it 29-10. It would be the first of very many touchdown catches for Julio Jones in the Georgia Dome.

Alabama took the momentum from this to finish the regular season a perfect 12-0. It was Alabama’s first season with more than 10 wins since 1994, and it set the tone on the field, in the recruiting battlegrounds, and everywhere else that Alabama was a force again.

Even though the 2008 season ended in disappointment with losses in the SEC Championship Game and then the Sugar Bowl, the bar was raised. Alabama came back next season to win the National Championship, the first of at least four under Saban. Tonight they go for number five.

It is amazing how fast things can change. Nick Saban was being questioned in Tuscaloosa the first time he played Clemson at the helm as Alabama coach. The next time he played them a National Championship was up for grabs last season, and he won it.

Now those same orange and white foes from South Carolina are all that stand in the way of him tying Bear Bryant’s record of six National Championships ever as a head coach.