It is often difficult to appreciate history as it happens, but this much we know for sure: if Alabama wins its fifth title in nine years Monday night, it will be the best sustained run in college football history. Heck, it might be already.
Five reasons why college football fans should appreciate coach Nick Saban’s unparalleled dominance in Tuscaloosa:
1) Count the rings. We have simply never seen a concentration of greatness like this in modern I-A/FBS history. Only six FBS coaches have ever won more than two AP championships – and only one, Bear Bryant, won more than three. Nick Saban has tied Bryant at five and will be gunning for number six – all in a decade’s span. Meanwhile, even Bryant went 13 years between his third and fourth titles; Saban’s entire career at Alabama fits comfortably in that window.
2) The SEC is the best. In theory, there isn’t a rockier road to a clean record than the SEC West – Alabama sharing a division with Auburn and LSU (then adding Texas A&M!) seems unfair on some cosmic level. And yet, Saban has won the division in more than half of his years at Alabama, all while Auburn and LSU have put together a combined four title runs in that same span. Now that Mississippi State and its cowbell army are on the rest of the conference’s level, we’re at the point where there are essentially no easy wins in the West, and Alabama is still utterly dominant. Excluding that strange first season, Saban is a preposterous 71-9 in SEC play.
3) The NCAA has more enforcement tools than ever. This is not the collegiate landscape for programs that enjoy exploiting loopholes. Players need to meet reasonable academic qualifications, minimum GPAs keep them on track to keep making use of their time at the school, and the old scholarship-hiding tactics of the past have largely been sealed up. Add in an enforcement arm that’ll punish teams for calling on the wrong day or introducing recruits to media members, and it’s nearly impossible that Alabama is achieving its victories improperly.
4) This is the most competitive era of college football. Gone are the days where Michigan-Ohio State and Nebraska-Oklahoma decided their respective conferences while a handful of programs ruled the independents. The baseline in the Power 5 conferences is closer to the top than any time in modern history, including the ascent of Vanderbilt and Kentucky to intermittent success in the SEC. And Alabama still is the unquestionable best program of the era.
5) The postseason is tougher than ever. A good postseason rule of thumb is this: the more chances there are to lose, the less likely the top-ranked team will win. When most of today’s players were born, 12-0 was a title-worthy season. Now it’s just the start of a postseason run, with conference championship games and two playoff games looming. Under Saban, Alabama has won its last five SEC championship games and boasts a 7-1 record in BCS Championship and College Football Playoff games.
–Adam Jacobi, Field Level Media