Nick Saban’s 10th season in Tuscaloosa didn’t end the way he’d hoped, but Monday’s 35-31 loss to Clemson in the national championship game did nothing to the school’s stamp of consistency under the legendary coach.
Alabama accomplished some things that were never done before, and it was also on the verge of uncharted territory in many other ways.
Here’s a look at some of the figures that best define Alabama’s impressive run under Saban.
1. Four national titles in seven seasons
Although Clemson thwarted Alabama’s plans of becoming the first team in the AP Poll era (since 1936) to win five national championships in eight years, winning four in seven years had only been done one other time.
With all due respect to Notre Dame’s teams from 1943-49 — a time in which the Fighting Irish did beat good teams, make no mistake about it — college football was not the same during World War II. That feat also came in a pre-integrated United States.
2. Nine straight seasons reaching AP No. 1
The Associated Press Poll has been around for 80 years, and no school has gotten more of its respect than Alabama has under Saban.
The poll has named the Tide the top team in the country at least once in each of the last nine seasons, the longest streak ever and two better than Miami’s squads in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
3. Six straight seasons leading SEC in rushing defense
There may not be a better hallmark of a Saban-coached team than a defense that stuffs the run.
Alabama’s current run of leading the SEC in rushing defense (yards allowed per game) is unequaled in SEC history. In fact, the Tide have led the SEC in yards per rush ever since 2008, Saban’s second season in Tuscaloosa.
4. 16 straight wins vs. ranked opponents
This was yet another mark Alabama had a chance of setting on Monday night but came up short.
Alabama had 16 consecutive wins against AP ranked opponents entering last night’s game, tied with USC under Pete Carroll from 2002-05.
However, what’s interesting is that the Trojans set that record over a span of four seasons, while the Tide had faced — and conquered — frequently stiff competition over the last two seasons.
5. Three best units in total defense since 2009
The figures in the graphic below were entering the Washington game, but that average for 2016 is now 261.8 after the loss to Clemson, falling just short of Michigan’s 261.77 for the lead among Power 5 teams.
Nonetheless, even if we take 2016 out, the Crimson Tide defenses in the remaining years in the chart (2011, 2009, 2012) are still the three best in this aspect among Power 5 teams over the last eight years.
6. Nine consecutive 10-win seasons
We put together this graphic the week before Alabama extended its streak to nine against Mississippi State back on Nov. 12. That’s the longest streak in SEC history by a comfortable margin, three better than Steve Spurrier’s run at Florida from 1993-98.
It’s also the longest active streak in the FBS with newly crowned national champ Clemson next in line with six straight.
Also keep in mind that over this span, the rest of the entire SEC West has combined for just 11.
7. 44 players drafted since 2011
That’s a lot of players drafted from one school, and no one can match it over that time span.
Of those 44, the Crimson Tide have had 15 first-rounders and 25 first- or second-rounders.
8. Fewest TDs allowed by defense since 2009
Alabama has only allowed 162 total touchdowns over the last eight years. That’s the fewest in the country, and it’s not even close. The next-best teams are both SEC squads: LSU (202) and Florida (207).
That’s astonishing that the Tide have allowed 40 fewer touchdowns defensively than any other team in the country despite the fact that they’ve played six more games (109) than LSU (103).
9. Saban most games coached & won as No. 1 at one school
Saban surpassed some of the all-time greats in this regard in 2016 to set the record.
The national championship game was Saban’s 50th game coaching an AP No. 1 team at Alabama, the most by any coach at one institution in college football history. In those games, he’s gone 44-6 (.880). Florida State’s Bobby Bowden and Ohio State’s Woody Hayes are tied for second with 40 wins each.
However, Saban has done that in a 10-year span at Alabama, while Bowden (34 seasons) and Hayes (28) needed significantly more time to reach their totals. The Tide have been the top team in the country in about 36 percent of the games played under Saban. That’s unbelievable.
10. Saban: 9-2 in SEC and national title games
Saban’s loss to Clemson is one of only a pair that he’s suffered in championship games while coaching in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama is 5-1 in SEC title games and 4-1 in national title games under him. The only loss for the SEC crown came to Florida in his first trip with the school in 2008.
What’s even more remarkable is how easily Alabama has dispatched its opponents, for the most part, in those games. Of his four wins in Atlanta, the only one-possession game was a 32-28 win over Georgia in 2012. Meanwhile, the only one-possession games for the ultimate prize have come in the last two seasons to Clemson. No other team came within 15 points.