Nick Saban didn’t need a victory to validate his place as the greatest head coach in college football history. But if anyone out there had doubts — and I don’t know why they would — Alabama’s 52-24 demolition of Ohio State in Monday’s championship reaffirmed Saban’s unofficial No. 1 all-time ranking.
I have to agree with those who believe this was Saban’s best coaching job. And that this was his best team at Alabama. In a season of Covid-related chaos and turmoil, Saban navigated the Crimson Tide through the constant threat of health hazards, an All-SEC schedule, games against six ranked teams, football injuries and the pressure of being the targeted titan of the sport.
Because of the pandemic, 2020 presented the toughest and most challenging season in the modern era of college football. Saban and Alabama made their way through all of it, and then some. A 13-0 record, a scoring average of 48.5 points per game, and a record seventh national championship for the coach, including six at ‘Bama.
Every Alabama player from a Saban recruiting class that stayed in Tuscaloosa for four years left with at least one national championship ring. But that’s not all; every “three and done” Alabama player has won a national championship under Saban. Crazy.
Incredibly, Saban has now won national championships in three separate decades and shows no signs of downshifting and easing up at age 69. He’s won with dominating defenses. He’s won with powerful, old-school, ground-control rushing games. He’s won with a wide-open innovative passing assault. Name the terms of the engagement and Saban will evolve and prevail.
The Crimson Tide received no favors. Its season wasn’t reduced by half. (Hello, Big Ten. Hi, there, Pac-12. Here’s looking at you, Ohio State.) The SEC didn’t get cute with the schedule to clear a more open path to the playoffs for its teams. (ACC, nice work giving a smoother ride to Clemson and Notre Dame!)
“Well, to me, this team accomplished more than any team,” Saban said in speaking to the media late Monday night after Alabama’s rout of Ohio State. “No disrespect to any other teams that we had or any championship teams. But this team won 11 SEC games. No other team has done that. They won the SEC, went undefeated in the SEC, then they beat two great teams in the Playoff with no break in between. This is our fifth game in a row, from LSU to Arkansas to Florida to Notre Dame to here. Played 13 games, went undefeated with all the disruption that we had in this season. I think there’s quite a bit to write about when it comes to the legacy of the team.”
Alabama defeated teams ranked No. 2, No. 4, No. 5, No. 7 and No. 13 in the final AP poll by an average of 19 points. No team had a better passing attack in 2020 than Alabama, which less than a year ago had four star players from 2019 go in the first-round of the ‘20 NFL Draft: quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, wide receivers Henry Ruggs and Jeudy and offensive tackle Jedrick Wills. Saban and staff plugged in new starters and scored more points per game than any team in Alabama history.
As my friend Stewart Mandel pointed out at The Athletic: this season Saban had his third Heisman Trophy winner (DeVonta Smith), had Alabama ranked No. 1 during a season for a 13th consecutive year, and has coached his teams to nine national championship games — eight with Alabama and one at LSU. And Saban is 7-2 in these national title showdowns.
And Saban has dominated while residing in the voracious SEC, which has now won 11 of the last 15 CFB national championships. Saban has won six national titles at Alabama in 12 seasons. Until now, no program in the Poll Era (since 1936) had won six national titles over a 12-year time frame.
As for the Nick Saban vs. Bear Bryant debate for “Best Ever,” …
Saban has seven national championships to Bryant’s six.
And with win over Ohio State, Saban is now 18-11 against AP top-three opponents; Bryant was 5-6.
It’s Saban. The greatest coach.
“C’mon, man. Of course he is,” Alabama quarterback Mac Jones told reporters. “How could he not be? He does it the right way. He recruits well, but more importantly develops great players and young men … he’s the greatest to ever do it. He’ll be the greatest for a long time.”
Saban’s recruiting class for 2021 has been rated by analysts as the highest-graded recruiting class in CFB history.
Thanks for reading …
Listen to Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS, weekdays from 3-6 p.m. Or listen online and grab the show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app is available in the app store.