In winning championship, Alabama makes case for the best college football team ever

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Collegiate athletes returned to campus over the summer, banished for months at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, to no promises. The greater conversation was less about how a season would be played and more about if one would be played at all.

Most would have been overjoyed just to play, having seen the spring athletes experience their seasons ripped away from them. Alabama wanted more than playing a season; it wanted to dominate a season.

“We set this as a goal, to potentially be the greatest team to ever play,” UA quarterback Mac Jones said.

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Alabama could not make that claim without winning the national championship first, which it did, beating Ohio State 52-24 on Monday. A college football season unlike any other produced a championship team unlike any other — possibly unparalleled by any other.

“Well, to me, this team accomplished more almost than any team,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “No disrespect to any other teams that we had or any championship teams, but this team won 11 SEC games. No other team has done that. They won the SEC, went undefeated in the SEC, then they beat two great teams in the playoff with no break in between.”

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is doused with Gatorade after defeating Ohio State to win the national championship.

In that sense, the pandemic that made its path to a championship more difficult is also the one that enhances that championship’s value.

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Saban thinks the unique difficulties this team faced started when spring practice was ripped from underneath it just hours before it was scheduled to begin. Coaches didn’t get the developmental time over the summer, nor the non-conference games that are often opportunities for developing younger players.

Then it created a schedule unlike anything else in college football history. The 2020 Crimson Tide became the only team to win 11 SEC games in a season and the only 13-0 national championship team to do it exclusively over Power 5 competition.

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA;  Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) and Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban enjoy their 52-24 victory over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

It won eight of its 13 games by at least 28 points. Last year’s LSU team, at the time propped up as a best-team-of-all-time candidate, only won seven of its 15 games by that margin, three of those wins coming in non-conference games against Georgia Southern, Northwestern State and Utah State.

Going off the final rankings from the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, Alabama beat the Nos. 7, 4 and 3 teams in the span of 24 days to end its season, after claiming victories over Nos. 5 and 9 in the first four weeks of its season.

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Ohio State coach Ryan Day saw in Alabama, “elite players, and this is probably one of the better offenses in college football in a long time,” making the Buckeyes’ margin for error, “tiny.”

Jones thinks Alabama made a, “valid statement,” in winning the national championship. For this team, a valid statement comes with a place in college football history.

“I think we're the best team to ever play,” Jones said. “There's no team that will ever play an SEC schedule like that again. At the same time we're just so happy to have won this game and kind of put the icing on the cake.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson