If Nick Saban is So Great, Why Only One Undefeated Season?
By: Larry Burton
A question I get from time to time is, “If Nick Saban is so great, why has he had just one undefeated season?” The answer can be complex or simple, take your pick.
The simple reason is that Alabama plays in the SEC, the home of hard knocking, big boy football, where the last place team on your SEC schedule can still give you a game, some injuries and a bruised up team. It’s not like most other conferences where you have Snow White and the eleven dwarfs.
It’s a league that you may make it through undefeated, only to face teams that don’t enter the post season all beaten up and almost all used up.
Forget that Alabama did in fact whip up on the SEC last season, at least on the scoreboard, but when you look at scores and stats, you fail to see the fact that every SEC team gives Alabama their best and tries hard every play to slam their bodies into every Crimson jersey so they’ll know they were in a game regardless of the score. It a league where many of the opposing teams have played against and know players on the Bama team before, even back to high school days and they play with pride.
According to the NCAA Interconference Records listed by Topdan.com, only the SEC and PAC 10 have winning out of conference records in the BCS and playoff eras and the SEC tops the PAC 10 head to head.
So who’s been the best conference in the modern BCS and playoff eras? Hands down, the SEC, not just in percentages, but the SEC has won more trophies than the other conferences combined. So save your pale arguments.
Now it can and should be argued in a legitimate counterpoint, that Alabama playing in the best conference for most of the year should make them a better team once they have to go out of conference for a title hunt. After beating the best conference, you should have an easy time knocking off someone from a lesser league. You can’t have it both ways, playing SEC school 8 out of 12 games can’t be both a blessing and a curse.
But it is just that. Yes, it prepares Alabama both mentally and physically for the tough post season, but as previously stated, it wears them down too, both mentally and physically. How many times has Alabama limped into post season with lots of injuries? Almost every season, while facing teams that have not endured such a season and such injuries.
In 12 seasons of the Saban era, Alabama has lost just 7 of 59 out of conference games and only 2 of those have come during the regular season and both of those were in Saban’s first year when he was building the program. So except for the first year just noted, once Nick Saban got things rolling after the first year, the only time an out of conference team beat him was after a brutal season. Don’t expect to do it in the regular season when they’re healthy.
So there it is, the simple and complex answers of why Alabama has just one undefeated season so far under Saban. Though the answers may be the same, it’s all in how you tell the story and give all the facts.
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Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter