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Alabama’s “Perfect” Season: the Best in Years?

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I’m not sure that the 2010 National Championship Game was the single finest hour for the Alabama Crimson Tide, but in the context of an exclamation point to a nearly flawless season, it was fitting.  Their opponent game into the game featured the most complete quarterback in college football, a vaunted passing attack, a fast defense, and an undefeated record coming in.  Even when Colt McCoy left after only two plays with a shoulder injury, every other thing that Texas promised to bring was on display in this game.  Alabama’s opponent fought hard, as their opponents had so many times this year.

No one was surprised when it wasn’t enough.  No one was ever able to muster up enough to beat the Tide.  With all due respect to the Texas Longhorns, as good as any team in the rest of the nation this year, Alabama didn’t leave a whole lot to the imagination after the SEC Championship game.  Both of Alabama’s most impressive victories this year came in the Georgia Dome: the first against a fast, talented Virginia Tech team, the second obviously against Florida.  It’s not that Texas wasn’t every bit as good as those teams, just that neither of those powerhouses got all that close to taking down the Tide.

In many ways, Texas fought tougher and got closer than any of Alabama’s prior opponents.  Sure, there were some in-season scares.  Auburn led Alabama with two minutes to go in the Iron Bowl.  Sure, in the middle of the season, Tennessee and LSU were both close enough to beating Nick Saban’s squad to which we could see some cracks in the armor.  Perfection is something that isn’t meant to be obtained.  The Alabama Crimson Tide were hardly perfect in 2009, merely the best college football team we have seen in many years.

If Boise State is the reason that College Football should institute a playoff system, Alabama is the counter-argument.  Their last title came 17 years prior to this season, clearly, they did not enter the season with a particular advantage with the polls.  They only entered with a significant scheduling advantage, which is to say, any season in which Alabama had gone undefeated against this schedule in any given year, they’ll play in the national championship.  In the case of Boise State, the institution of a playoff system offers an oppotunity to win a championship through merit, that wouldn’t otherwise be there.  Opportunity, however, is a zero-sum game.  For Boise to receive a percentage of that opportunity, teams who play the toughest schedules have to lose some of that opportunity.  That’s Alabama, Va. Tech, Miami, and Florida, those SEC and ACC powerhouse programs.  In the eyes of many, the same playoff that gives opportunity to teams that make it because of soft schedules just offers up potential pitfalls to teams that would be in the championship game in a bowl system.

In other words, a proponent for playoff system specifically implies that we don’t know who the best team is after a whole regular season.  Is this realistic?  After Alabama had beaten down on Florida in the SEC Championship, were they a true no. 1 team, or a nominal no. 1?  If there had been any doubt, they took care of it on Thursday night.

In historical context, I think we can call this the best Nick Saban college football team, ever.  The 2003 LSU Tigers split the championship with USC.  The next year, USC was even more dominant in 2004.  I’ll submit: that was the greatest college football team of the decade, with 2001 Miami a close second.  Has there been a team more impressive than the 2009 Crimson Tide since then?  2005 Texas went undefeated and upset the heavily-favored Trojans in the National Title game.  The next three National Champs were one or two loss teams, not to take anything away from them.  As for dominant teams that didn’t win the national championship, I’ll submit that only 2006 LSU would be competitive with 2009 Alabama, and they had two losses.  Given all that, I think it can be declared that Alabama is the strongest college football team we have seen in the last five years.

With this victory, Saban has moved much closer to becoming a college football legend, QB Greg McElroy has yet to lose a game as a starter, and RB Mark Ingram bucks a recent (likely meaningless) trend of Heisman winners underperforming on the games’ biggest stage.  And once Colt McCoy was unable to return for the Longhorns, the only thing for an impartial fan to enjoy in this game was a breif fling with destiny encompassed by utter dominance.

  1. April 16, 2010 at 8:28 am

    I don’t know if this could be considered the best team or best season in Alabama history but you could with confidence say it is in the top 13 as that is how many national championships they have. You could also narrow it down to less than that by saying how many undefeated season they have had. Also this was the only year of having a Heisman Trophy winner.

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