Was 2020 Alabama the Best Team Ever? The Debate has Just Begun

All Things CW features some incredible numbers about the 2020 Crimson Tide, and examines the uproar about Jaylen Waddle playing at less than 100 percent
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — With the University of Alabama football team finishing undefeated and dominating both of its opponents in the College Football Playoff, it didn't take long for someone to ask if the 2020 Crimson Tide might have been the best team ever. 

After all, Alabama outscored its opponents by an average of 48.46-19.38, and it absolutely dominated the national awards. It also did so while dealing with numerous issues that were unique to season, especially the coronavirus pandemic, and played 11 straight Southeastern Conference opponents. 

"I think we're the best team to ever play," Mac Jones said after the 52-24 victory over No. 3 Ohio State on Monday night. "There's no team that will ever play an SEC schedule like that again."

Jones was the Crimson Tide's quarterback, what's he going to say when asked?

But it is something to consider, just like how LSU made the claim last year. 

We have all offseason to weigh in on this debate, but here are few things that stood out about the 2020 Crimson Tide:

• Alabama scored 50 points against seven teams, including three ranked opponents: Texas A&M, Florida in the SEC Championship Game, and Ohio State in the title game. Note that only one of them was at home in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

• The Crimson Tide averaged 4.4 points per possession in its two playoff games. It ran 138 plays, earning first downs on 55 of them (40 percent). Specifically, it converted 21 of 43 second-down opportunities, 12 of 21 third-down chances and was 2-for-2 on fourth downs. Alabama never had a third-down play longer than nine yards. 

• Alabama didn't have more than one turnover in any game this season. It had only one in the College Football Playoff.

• The Crimson Tide led the nation in completion percentage at 76.2 percent (324-for-425) and came very close to breaking the NCAA record of 76.7 set by Texas in 2008. However, that Longhorns team didn't come close to having the same running game, as quarterback Colt McCoy was the leading rusher with 561 yards. 

Yeah, we're definitely going to be looking into that greatest team ever thing ...   

The debate of Jaylen Waddle playing

Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle had a a simple description about playing in the National Championship Game: "It was great."

But not everyone saw it that way. Numerous NFL players posted on social media during the game that he shouldn't be playing.

Among them:

Jalen Ramsey: "Who advised 17 for Bama to play? Whoever it is definitely doesn’t have his best interest at heart. As a competitor, I understand why he would want to play, but no way he should be out there with the future he has ahead. I hope he can stay safe."

Patrick Mahomes: "Respect the heart! But you can’t let that man be out there!"

A.J. Brown: "Waddle please sit down."

Darius Leonard: "Cmon nick don’t let Waddle do this, he’s hurt and shouldn’t be out there! Cmon bro! Sometimes you gotta protect players from themselves!"

Ramsey went to Florida State. He's the only one of the four to have been in a national championship game, and won in 2013.

Mahomes attended Texas Tech. Brown was at Ole Miss. Leonard played at South Carolina.

Showing concern is one thing, but what they were missing was that Waddle had been medically cleared and really couldn't do any more significant damage to his injury.

"I wasn't worried about getting injured," Waddle said when declaring himself eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday. “I think if you worry about getting injured, that’s how you get injured. I wasn’t worried about that, I was just trying to win.”

Waddle broke his ankle on the opening kickoff at Tennessee, on Oct. 24. Even before having surgery he was talking about trying to come back and play in the title game should Alabama advance that far.

It gave him an extra incentive during his rehab.

“To be honest, when they told me I was gonna have a chance to play, I already had it in my mind to play,” Waddle said. “It was just great to get back out there with the team and just really do it one last time and go out the right way.”

Waddle finished with three catches for 34 yards, but his mere presence was a problem for the Buckeyes, who had to account for him on every snap. He played more than expected with DeVonta Smith and John Metchie III dealing with injuries during the second half, but often as a decoy.

Nevertheless, the only trouble Waddle had was when trying to slow down and/or stop, and cutting. That's when he would start wincing and limping.

In other words, the key was whether Waddle could play through the pain, and Alabama had an expert on it.

“I had the same injury, so I know the difficulties coming back from that," Nick Saban said. "You're healed but your ankle is so stiff, it's difficult to get the flexibility and the flexion back so you can explode like you want to, especially when you drop your weight on that foot, which comes when you're slowing down, trying to make a cut.

"I have a lot of respect for Jaylen Waddle, his mental toughness and his ability to be able to come back.”

If anything, Waddle only improved his draft stock.

Statistical domination 

Monday saw the first CFP Championship Game in which the winning team never trailed, but that only begins to tell the story of Alabama's 52-24 victory. 

Consider: 

• During the first half, Alabama's average gain on first downs was 7.8 yards. It converted 8 of 13 second-down opportunities, and only reached third down five times. 

• Jones set a new championship game record with 12 consecutive completions beginning with 1:21 remaining in the first quarter until 5:21 was left in the second quarter. During the streak he threw for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The previous record was eight, by LSU’s Joe Burrow vs. Clemson last year. 

• The Crimson Tide quarterback also set a championship game record for passing yards in a half with 319. The old record was 291 by Jake Coker of Alabama vs. Clemson in the second half in Arizona on Jan. 11, 2016.

• Of Alabama's first 23 play, 19 were in plus territory (gaining 87 yards). It ran 25 of 43 in the first half. 

• Ohio State didn't pressure Jones on his first 15 pass attempts. He was knocked down just two times when dropping back to pass during the entire game.

• Jones was was 29-for-34 for 265 yards on passes 1-10 yards, 5-for-7 for 64 yards for throws 11-20 yards, and 4-for-4 for 125 yards and one touchdown for any attempts 21-plus yards. 

• Alabama has twice as many plays gaining five or more yards (43‐20), and had a significant edge in 10-plus plays (31‐19).

• The Crimson Tide nearly had more offensive yards on its non-touchdown possessions (144) than the Buckeyes had during their touchdown drives (149). Alabama had 477 total yards on top of that. 

More Unbelievable Numbers

• The College Football Playoff has been around for seven years, meaning there's been 21 games between the semifinals and championships. Saban has coached more than half of them. His teams are 8-3.  

• Alabama led the SEC in scoring defense (19.0). Despite having just one returning starter in the secondary it topped the conference is passing-efficiency defense (120.0 rating). The Crimson Tide had 12 interceptions, compared to 14 touchdown passes allowed.  

• With Jones completing a career-high 36 passes and 464 yards, he finished the season with a 203.1 passer-efficiency rating. Not only did that lead the nation, which makes him the NCAA's passing champion for the 2020 season, but set an NCAA record. 

• Alabama is the first team in the poll era (since 1936) to win six national titles in 12 years. The only other team to win six in 25 years or less was Alabama from 1961-79, a span of 19 years.  

• There are only eight players in history who have won a national championship after being award the Heisman Trophy. Three of them played for Alabama: Mark Ingram II, Derrick Henry and DeVonta Smith. Before Ingram did it only two players had pulled it off, Charlie Ward (1993) and Matt Leinhart (2004). The rest were 0-10 in title games. Smith, of course, was the first receiver to pull it off.  

Did you Notice?

DeVonta Smith's Dazzling Night a Fitting End to Alabama's Dominant Title Run

• Unstoppable, Unbreakable, Unbeatable: Alabama Is Back on the College Football Mountaintop

Was the 2020 College Football Season Worth It?

Sports Illustrated announced its special commemorative edition for Alabama's national championship

DeVonta Smith SI national championship commemorative issue cover

Christopher Walsh's notes column All Things CW appears every Thursday on BamaCentral