The night of January 7th, 2010 wasn’t the beginning, but rather the coronation.
That’s the evening that Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and the rest of Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide ran around, through and right by Mack Brown’s Texas Longhorns in the BCS Championship Game at the Rose Bowl, en route to the Tide’s first national title since 1992. And while I wouldn’t count the title among this decade’s haul for Bama (it was the finish to the 2009 season), its significance looms large over the rest of the decade.
Over the course of the last 10 seasons, Alabama has reigned supreme over the college football kingdom, claiming the throne as king of the sport. The resume speaks for itself: 4 national championships, 5 SEC titles, 5 playoff appearances, an overall record of 123-15, and a metric shit ton of draft picks — including 26 first round selections.
Clemson and Ohio State have the best arguments for challengers to the Tide’s throne, but neither had the consistency throughout the decade that Alabama did. The Tigers certainly have a claim to at least match the Tide for the latter half of the 2010s. Dabo Sweeney and company won 2 titles (with a shot at a third coming up), even besting the Tide for both, and – despite Dabo’s phony “poor lil’ old Clemson” shtick – have the resources in their program to match anybody in the country. But they began the decade with a losing season and gave up 70 in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
The Buckeyes might have a better case in terms of consistency, winning 117 games this decade, including a national title in 2014. But, they had a bout with probation in the early years of the decade, including a losing season in 2011. After the title win, the Buckeyes have been in the playoff hunt every year; but a string of comical slip-ups against the likes of Purdue and Iowa combined with losses in big games kept them from winning a second title.
Alabama’s “worst” seasons have bookended the decade. A 10-3 showing in 2010 – with arguably Saban’s most talented team – was considered a disappointment after 2009’s title win. Of course, the Tide ended that season by annihilating Michigan State in the Citrus Bowl and then winning two straight national championships; and were a Kick Six away from becoming the first team in the modern era to win three straight national titles (look, we all know they would’ve crushed Missouri in the SEC title game, and Jameis Winston and Florida State wouldn’t have been able to pull that “fall behind by 20 and comeback to win” bit against a Saban team).
After lamenting the spread offense’s takeover of college football, Saban relented and adjusted by hiring Lane Kiffin in 2014. And though the Tide lost to eventual champion Ohio State in the CFP semis that season, the offense rewrote the Alabama record books and the program won two more national titles in 2015 and 2017, and made the championship game four straight seasons from 2015-2018.
This season saw an uncharacteristic lack of discipline from Bama’s squad, ending the regular season 10-2 with losses in their two biggest games, and missing the playoffs for the first time in its existence. They’ll play Michigan in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day, with eyes on finishing the season on a strong note and setting the tone for the 2020s.
Those numbers alone could write the story. But the truest measure of Alabama’s impact is their reputation. The Crimson Tide have taken on and embraced the role of the Evil Empire of college football. From recruiting to facilities to fundraising to on-field production, Saban’s program is the measuring stick by which all other programs are judged.
On the rare occasion Alabama loses, the entire country celebrates. No matter who they root for, fans will take the chance to talk shit to their nearest Alabama fan as if it were their own team who felled the Tide. Sports writers take every loss as a chance to pen the latest “This is the end of the Alabama dynasty!” think piece, without even a shred of evidence of a crumbling empire. Again, the Tide’s worst season this decade was 10-3 (with a bowl win).
The dark side to the immense success of Alabama is the level of expectation the program has set for itself. While level-headed fans know that we are in a golden age of Crimson Tide football, there are a good number of idiots who expect a national championship every season. This falls in line with the moronic “Is this the beginning of the end?!?!” columns. There is, I shit you not, a sect of Alabama fans who would have Saban fired after this season. This is a good time to point out that the longest period the Tide has gone without a national title this decade is two (2) seasons. Bear Bryant’s Alabama teams once had back-to-back five-loss seasons, and one can only shudder at the thought of the scorching hot takes had that happened in today’s environment. By the way, Bryant led the Tide to three more national championships after those five-loss years.
Any arguments against Alabama as the team of the 2010s is, well, foolish. You can make your arguments that the rest of college football is catching up to the Tide, but we’re here to reflect on the past decade. And no team came close to the 10-year period of success Alabama enjoyed, a span that will be remembered as one of the most dominant in the history of the sport.