As Alabama makes their way towards another National Championship, they have cemented themselves as one of the greatest dynasties in college football history (until Saban leaves and the NCAA isn’t scared to investigate them and the last 10 years are vacated). As dominant as they have been, they still have had incredibly lucky breaks.
This season’s team is the best of the Saban era and the exception to the luck rule, but previous Alabama teams have been almost as lucky as they were good.
Let’s start with the 2012 team, which, before this season, was widely thought of as the best Alabama team under Saban.
That iteration of the Tide memorably loss to Johnny Football and Texas A&M in November, which all but knocked them out of any realistic National Championship Game talk.
After losing to the Aggies, the Tide fell to No. 4 in the rankings and needed a lot of things to go their way to make it to the National Championship game – and that is exactly what happened.
As Notre Dame fans, we will never forget the night when then-No.1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon lost on the second to last weekend of the season to give ND a surefire berth in the National Championship game and its first No. 1 ranking since 1993.
While Irish fans were reveling, it was Alabama who was the real winner that night. Those dominoes allowed them to control their own destiny towards the National Championship game. As most ND fans are not over that crushing loss to Bama in the National Championship, many (and by many I mean me) always think of what would’ve happened if fucking Kansas State could’ve just beaten Baylor that night.
Yea, I am totally over that for sure.
That season’s SEC Championship game was essentially a play-in game for the National Championship as No. 2 Alabama squared off with No. 3 Georgia. The Tide were outplayed through most of that game, but made some critical plays down the stretch and benefitted from a Georgia player catching a ball at the five -line, only to have the clock run out.
In 2015, Alabama comfortably defeated Florida in the SEC Championship game on their way to another National Championship. However, it took a miracle play for the Tide to get to Atlanta as the SEC West Champions.
Earlier that season, Ole Miss defeated Alabama and thus had the tiebreaker over the Tide in the SEC West standings. The difference between Alabama going to Atlanta over Ole Miss was the Rebels’ loss to Arkansas which came as a result of this miracle play in overtime.
That is one of the craziest plays in football history, but the Razorbacks weren’t done. They scored and instead of kicking the extra point and extending the game to another overtime, Arkansas went for two and converted to win the game.
Alabama won their first National Championship with Nick Saban in the 2010 season. The Tide again benefitted from some great luck. Alabama played a subpar Tennessee team that year coached by current Bama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin in October. The Vols were undermanned, but outplayed Alabama through much of that game and had a chance to win the game with a field goal with three seconds left in the fourth quarter.
The field goal was miraculously blocked the Alabama’s mammoth defensive tackle Terrence Coady, but after blocking the attempt, Coady threw off his helmet in celebration while the ball was still in play. That action should’ve been a 15-yard penalty and should’ve given Tennessee a shorter look at a game-winner, which would’ve knocked Alabama out of the National Championship hunt.
In the National Championship that season, Alabama squared off with Texas in a much-anticipated matchup. Most of the intrigue of the game was taken out early when Texas QB Colt McCoy was injured in the first quarter and did not return to the game. McCoy was a Heisman finalist and the best quarterback in the nation, but instead the Tide faced freshman Garrett Gilbert, who had never taken a meaningful collegiate snap.
Gilbert ended up throwing four picks and Bama dominated the game.
In Alabama’s second National Championship year, they lost in “The Game of the Century” in a #1 vs. #2 matchup with LSU during the regular season, but was resurrected when #2 Oklahoma State lost to Big XII basement dweller Iowa State in the second to last weekend of the season.
Having a team you need to lose and lose at Iowa State is beyond fortunate, but the circumstances surrounding that loss were nothing short of bizarre. The game was a rare Friday night contest and earlier that day members of the women’s basketball team and staff at Oklahoma State were killed in a plane crash.
For those who may be unaware, Oklahoma State has an eerie history with plane crashes as some members of the men’s team and coaching staff perished in a plane crash in January 2001.
So the mood surrounding Oklahoma State heading into that game was not one conducive to winning a football game. The Cowboys were upset, the Tide advanced to the National Championship where their defense completely smothered LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and won 22-0.
So while all college football fans constantly wonder why they can’t get over the hump and into the Final Four or National Championship, it is helpful to realize every team that makes it to the Final Four, with the exception of this year’s Alabama squad, has some incredibly lucky breaks along the way – like ND had in 2012.
For instance, Ohio State needed a stop on a two-point conversion to get past a three-win Michigan State team, Washington needed overtime to beat a two-win Arizona team, and Clemson needed to beat Louisville in a game they were outplayed in as well as rely on an N.C. State kicker missing a game-winning field goal from inside 40 yards.