By Ray Hamill
Nick Saban and Alabama are playing for more than just a national championship this season. They’re playing for a place in college football history.
The Crimson Tide, who have won the past two national championships and three of the past four, are looking to become the first team since the 1936 Minnesota Gophers to win a third straight title, a feat that would firmly establish the current Alabama program as the greatest ever in college ball.
With all due respect to the pre-World War II Gophers, the modern game has become increasingly competitive, and with so many top-notch programs competing for recruits, it has become increasingly difficult to win on a consistent basis.
Yet Alabama makes it looks easy.
Love him or hate him, Saban knows how to win in the modern game, and he has built a recruiting machine that continues to dominate no matter how many players he loses to the NFL.
He loses games about as often as he smiles, and you get the feeling that the only way Alabama stops winning championships is if (read when) he packs his bags and heads to Texas, where he will no doubt be welcomed as emperor of the land.
To put Alabama’s recent success in perspective, look at it this way. Since the 1936 Gophers, only two other programs have managed to win three championships in four years – Notre Dame (1946-49) and Nebraska (1994-97) – while only eight other teams have managed back-to-back championships.
During the Tide’s run – almost five full seasons now – they have lost just five games combined, while winning 58. You could lose five games in one year and still have a winning record.
Of course there are still some substantial stumbling blocks for the Tide, most notably bitter rivals Auburn in a few weeks and perhaps Florida State in the BCS Championship – if both should make it that far – but with each passing week, Alabama inches ever closer to that date with history.