Why is Nick Saban going for his 7th national title being overlooked, ignored?
Where’s the hype?
Where’s the sense of accomplishment?
Where’s the perspective about history being on the line?
When the University of Alabama begins play in the College Football Playoff, facing off against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29 (7 p.m. CT, ESPN), Nick Saban will be going for his seventh national title.
It might be the greatest coaching accomplishment in college football history, yet isn't being mentioned. There’s no buzz. There’s no countdown to the National Championship Game, or anything similar to when Paul W. “Bryant” won career game No. 315 to become college football’s all-time winningest coach.
You could have a good argument about which achievement should be considered bigger, but that’s for another day.
Perhaps the lack of discussion is because Alabama still has to get through the Sooners and then there’s a week-plus buildup to the title game. There’s also no denying that Crimson Tide fatigue has reached a new level.
It’s evident with things like quarterback Tua Tagovailoa not winning the Heisman Trophy, the Football Writers Association of America snubbing Biletnikoff Awardwinner Jerry Jeudy for its All-American teams, and Saban being overlooked for every coach of the year honor.
All he did was lead the Crimson Tide to an undefeated regular season and conference championship after having six assistant coaches hired away, including both the offensive and defensive coordinators. Alabama also lost 22 players to the last two NFL drafts and the new lineup has had to deal with the pressures that go with being the reigning champions.
Yet here we are.
At times under Saban the Crimson Tide’s been the equivalent of watching someone play a video game at a lower level of difficulty. Or Alabama’s viewed as being like the big boss at the end of a stage, the ultimate foe that has to be vanquished despite appearing to be invincible.
If anything, Saban doesn’t get anywhere the credit he deserves.
You look around college football —from Mario Cristobal in Oregon to Mike Locksley in Maryland, and Mark Dantonio in Michigan State to Kirby Smart at Georgia —and his former assistants are nearly everywhere.
If you include Geoff Collins, Saban’s first director of player personnel at Alabama who is now at Georgia Tech, more than 10 percent of the head coaching jobs at the Division I level are held by either Saban or one of his disciples.
There’s just no one left to compare him to except for maybe John Wooden, who won the NCAA Tournament 10 times in basketball (1964, 1965, 1967–1973, 1975).
His recruiting classes are exceptional. His players win awards. They go on to do incredible things in the NFL.
Plus, Saban wins more than anyone.
To list his accomplishments in that respect alone would be like the credits for a Marvel movie minus the bonus scenes. But here are 10 that stand out:
• Saban’s winning percentage of .817 in regular-season conference games is on pace to shatter the SEC record set by Tennessee’s Gen. Robert Neyland of .787 (Alabama’s Frank Thomas is third at .765, just ahead of Paul W. “Bear” Bryant’s .764).
• Alabama has defeated 82 straight unranked opponents, 10 more than any program in college football history.
• Since 2008, the Crimson Tide has lost just once to a team outside of the top 15 in the AP Top 25. Every other program in college football has lost at least 10 during the same time period.
• Alabama has been ranked No. 1 at some point of every season since 2008.
• The last time the Crimson Tide wasn’t ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for a regular season game was against Auburn in 2015. It’s been first in 45 of the last 48 polls, with the three exceptions all being in the postseason. The record for most appearances at No. 1 in a 50-week span is 33 (Southern California, 2003-05).
• Saban has won 46 of his last 48 games at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
• When Alabama went into November undefeated it marked the 11th straight season the Crimson Tide didn’t have more than one loss heading into the final month of the regular season. Since 1950, only one other program had done that, Nebraska under Tom Osborne.
• Saban has coached 75 games in which his team was ranked No. 1. He’s 68-7 (90.7 winning percentage). He’s closing in on doubling the most number of wins by anyone else, as Bobby Bowden and Woody Hayes are both second on the all-time list with 40.
• Saban has more wins against teams ranked No. 1 than any coach in history. He also has the most wins against teams in the top five, with 23. He’s “only” third in wins over ranked opponents with 81, trailing Joe Paterno with 86 and Bowden with 82. Fourth on that list is Bryant with 66.
• Each game Alabama has played since 2010 has had national title implications.
Consequently, every game, every season and every championship is history in the making.
And now Saban’s going for seven.
To steal a quote from Carl Sagan, “We live in an extraordinary age” when it comes to college football and coaching. It's time for people to start acting like it.
This is the first story in the “Saban going for 7” series during the College Football Playoff, which will attempt to put perspective on Nick Saban’s accomplishments