Single-minded Saban chases immortality

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Kickoff for the 2010 BCS title game is a little more than 24 hours away, and the only thing missing from Nick Saban’s game face are smears of eye black.

And the only thing tighter than the smile he is forcing as he faces the media for the last time is the knot in his tie.

Relax, Nick. The suffering is almost over. This is the last time you’ll be asked silly questions about Texas’ kickoff return game, your backup quarterback and your hoarse voice.

“Is anybody having trouble understanding me?” Saban said. “Just trying to project a positive image. It’s something called allergies, you know?”

Count on Saban being in full-throat, drill sergeant form Thursday night when Alabama meets Texas in the BCS title game. There’s a lot on the line, besides the Crimson Tides’s quest for their first national title since 1992 and the SEC’s fourth crown in a row.

For Saban, this one is for icon status.

“He’s driven,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “He works very hard. His teams are very disciplined. They’re well coached, and he wins at everything he touches. I just think when you see what he does, you just admire he way he handles his business, the way he runs his program. He’s in charge. He’s confident, and his teams play like that.”

Saban is too wound up and worried about “clutter,” “objectives” and “focus” to contemplate his place in the pantheon of college football history. It’s all about what’s sitting two inches from his nose at this moment that matters.