The SEC has won between 28 and 40 college football national championships — depending on your source and school colors. Saturday Down South is ranking the conference’s 10 greatest national champions, acknowledging history while bowing to progress.

The countdown continues …

No. 6 2011 Alabama

Record: 12-1

PPG: 34.8

Allowed: 8.2

SRS: 24.44. SRS combines margin of victory and strength of schedule, where 0 is average. The higher the number, the more dominant the team. Alabama’s strength of schedule, however, was the lowest of Nick Saban’s four title teams.

Statistical oddity: 1. Number of touchdowns the Tide scored in eight quarters and an overtime against LSU. The lone touchdown came in the fourth quarter of the BCS National Championship Game when, already leading 15-0, Trent Richardson scored on a 34-yard touchdown run.

Their case for greatness: Alabama has won four championships under Saban — and all four were candidates for a spot among our ranking of the SEC’s 10 greatest national champions.

The 2011 squad was Saban’s second title team in Tuscaloosa. Some, including noted sports statistician Jeff Sagarin, view this squad as Saban’s best. also liked the 2011 team, ranking it second among the 18 BCS era champions, even though its computers predicted it would lose 60 percent of the time to LSU in the BCS Championship Game.

Most analysts ding the 2011 Tide team for its most obvious blemish: It didn’t even get to the SEC Championship Game, let alone win it. Which meant it needed a healthy dose of good fortune just to play for the national championship.

It got that when undefeated and No. 2 ranked Oklahoma State lost to lowly Iowa State in double overtime in Week 12, essentially eliminating the Cowboys’ championship hopes and opening the door for Alabama.

It didn’t take long for resentment to surface.

The SEC, which had won the previous five BCS national championships, entered Week 13 of 2011 with teams ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the BCS poll.

People outside of the SEC were growing tired of hearing how dominant the league had become. The idea rewarding two SEC teams who recently played — to a 9-6 defensive standstill, no less — with a national championship rematch pushed many fans over the edge and likely hastened the arrival of the four-team College Football Playoff.

“It left a distaste in people’s mouths,” ESPN’s College GameDay host Chris Fowler told USA Today. “I don’t know if it was a final push for the playoffs. It was certainly another piece of dissatisfaction with the BCS, and people outside of the SEC region certainly had SEC fatigue. I think that contributed to the rematch not being very popular for a lot of people.”

Few outside of the SEC watched the rematch, which Alabama won with five field goals and touchdown run. College football fans missed a defining defensive masterpiece from a unit ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense, run defense, pass defense and scoring defense.

It’s easy, given hindsight and fading memories, to rely solely on the numbers — and the defensive numbers were dazzling.

The issue against placing this Tide team higher on our Top 10 gets back to its most troubling stat: 1 lone touchdown in 8-plus quarters against LSU. That same season, Oregon and West Virginia scored three TDs each against LSU. Arkansas scored two. had so little confidence in the Tide’s offense going into the BCS Championship Game that it estimated LSU would beat Alabama six times out of ten, by an average score of 26-22.

Alabama overcame the odds — again.

The 2011 Alabama team proved it could slow down most teams, but as you’ll soon see, the Top 5 teams on our countdown complemented dominant defense with more offensive firepower.


No. 10: 1961 Alabama: Greatest defense gives Bear first title

No. 9: 1980 Georgia: Herschel Walker and Run, Lindsay, Run

No. 8: A battle of Alabama caps golden era

No. 7: Super Cam and 2010 Auburn