Kings Of The (SEC) Mountaintop
The Alabama Crimson Tide are on a stunning run of dominance in the college football world under head coach Nick Saban. While it is easy to get caught up in the champions of today, dynasties have been around college football almost as long Bobby Bowden. There is no debate that Alabama is currently the class of the SEC, but how does Saban’s stretch stack up to the glory years of Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators?
The Case For The 1993-96 Florida Gators
SEC Championships: 4
National Championships: 1
In a time before Tim Tebow (BTT), the Gators experienced their first stretch of greatness from 1993-96. Steve Spurrier was at the height of his powers, transforming the Gators from an inconsistent contender to a perennial powerhouse. The Ol’ Ball Coach was in the process of revolutionizing the SEC with his Fun 'N Gun offense, steering the conference away from ball-control offenses that looked like they belonged in the Big Ten.
Florida enjoyed a run of four consecutive SEC championships, many at Alabama's expense, and a .862 winning percentage. Starting quarterback Danny Wuerffel set school records in nearly every passing category and won a Heisman Trophy. The Gators were the upstart dynasty of the South and capped off their apex with a national championship in 1996.
The orange and blue were national contenders every year. If not for the unlucky timing of Florida State peaking simultaneously, the Gators could have ended the decade with two more championships.
The Case For The 2009-12 Alabama Crimson Tide
SEC Championships: 2
National Championships: 3
While dynasties are a tradition in college football, Saban’s run is unprecedented in many ways. From 2009-12, he became the first coach to win three (then four) championships in the BCS era, the first coach since Pop Warner to win a title at two different schools, and Alabama became the first team to win a BCS championship without winning their own conference.
Saban became the savior for a frustrated and demanding fan base in Tuscaloosa. He resurrected the Alabama program that had been stuck in mediocrity for over a decade. He won his first title with the tide in only his third year with the team. It was a quick turnaround from middle of the pack to beast of the SEC.
When the rest of the league embraced the spread, Saban racked up trophies with old-school, smashmouth football. He controlled the ball, controlled the game and won some of the lowest scoring championship games of the modern era.
In addition to all the wins, Alabama also produced its first Heisman winner in Mark Ingram. And had it not been for some unfortunate slugfests with LSU, Alabama’s record might have been better.
The Gators were able to win the SEC every year, while Alabama only won it twice. While it has always been a tough conference, the power has shifted to the SEC in a tremendous way the last 10 years and two SEC championships for the Tide seems excusable. Florida was able to stay competitive each season, fighting for a title, while Alabama was knocked out of the national conversation in 2009. That counts for something, but Florida’s lack of a perfect season becomes glaring in comparison to Alabama’s record during those four years. Plus, Alabama appears poised to contend for SEC and national titles as long as Saban remains coach of the Crimson Tide.
As much as my SEC world view makes me want to believe that winning the SEC is the hardest accomplishment in college football, national titles will always carry more clout. History will remember this Alabama run as more dominant than anything Spurrier did in Gainesville.