There are some coaches out there who transcend their sport. Bill Belichick turned the lowly New England Patriots into an NFL dynasty. Phil Jackson won a handful of rings with two different NBA franchises by harnessing the talent of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Mike Krzyzewski transformed Duke into college basketball’s biggest brand, whether you love them or hate them.
Nick Saban has made Alabama an unstoppable college football juggernaut that shows no signs of slowing down.
The Crimson Tide head coach has won an astounding seven national championships in his legendary coaching career, which ranks as the most by a coach in college football history. At the time of this writing, Saban has a very good chance at adding an eighth to his trophy case and he’s likely already recruited sixth graders who will help him capture the 2028 title.
It’s extremely safe to bet on a Saban team to win it all as long as he’s coaching. For now, let’s take a look at his best national title teams so far.
Ranking these teams is like trying to pick flaws in puppies. Some are marginally better by the tiniest of tiny fractions, but don’t let it distract you from the fact that they’re all amazing and deserve the world.
Ranking Nick Saban’s 7 National Championship Teams
7. 2015 Alabama Crimson Tide
The 2015 Crimson Tide fell to Ole Miss in the third game of the season. Things quickly turned around from there. They tore through the SEC, Derrick Henry won the Heisman, they crushed Michigan State in the College Football Playoff semifinal and beat Clemson in the national championship.
It’s unheard of for a Saban defense to allow over 200 points in a year. The 2015 unit allowed 227. I would consider sacrificing my first born child for my defense to allow that number, but at Alabama it’s preposterous.
6. 2017 Alabama Crimson Tide
What if I told you the cost of a national championship was losing to Auburn? The 2017 squad fell to the Tigers in the Iron Bowl but still earned a spot in the CFP. Clemson was thrilled to see four-seed underdog Alabama in the semifinal. The Tide pulled out a 24-6 win over the their new rival in what would be the third of four consecutive postseason matchups. They earned a date with SEC foe Georgia.
The Bulldogs were controlling the 2018 national championship game until Saban pulled starting quarterback Jalen Hurts in favor of freshman Tua Tagovailoa. Decisions like that are what separate the great coaches from the rest. Saban was willing to replace his number one guy, who led them to a national championship game appearance the year before, in favor of an unproven freshman.
The Tide’s team last two SEC games of the year were a seven-point win over Mississippi State and the loss to Auburn. These huge, ginormous “slip-ups” weren’t as dominant as other championship teams. As if that mattered.
5. 2003 LSU Tigers
There’s a common theme when looking at the history of Nick Saban’s teams. They go on a rampage following a loss. Saban pulled this off with championship results for the first time in his fourth season at LSU.
The Bayou Bengals lost to Florida in the sixth game of the season and fought their way to the BCS national championship game to square off against Oklahoma. Led by running back Justin Vincent, the underdog Tigers beat the Sooners 21-14 to take home the program’s first title in nearly 50 years.
I particularly respect this championship because it was before Saban was the Saban we know today. The 2003 LSU team may not be as sexy as his other title teams, but they weren’t backing down to anybody.
4. 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide
The 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide were about as dominant as you can get. They beat No. 5 LSU in a thriller in Death Valley late in the season. Texas A&M came to town the next Saturday to catch ‘Bama in the middle of a big-win hangover. Johnny Manziel had his Heisman moment in what was the only blemish on the schedule.
Alabama asserted their dominance by destroying Notre Dame in the national championship game, further proving it was Alabama and everyone else like it is most years.
3. 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide
Every college football fan knew the 2011 season would come down to Alabama and LSU. The Tigers won the first bout in a 9-6 nail biter in Tuscaloosa. The Tide got its revenge by shutting out their SEC West rival 21-0 in the BCS national championship game.
The defense only allowed 106 points all year. Nobody scored more than 20 in a game besides Georgia Southern. Yes, the formidable Georgia Southern Eagles put up the most points against the Tide that year. Having Trent Richardson in the backfield didn’t hurt, either.
2. 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide
Saban’s first national championship team in Tuscaloosa ended the Tim Tebow era and ushered in the current era of Crimson Tide supremacy. Mark Ingram ran for 1,658 yards on his way to the Heisman Trophy prior to Alabama beating a Colt McCoy-less Texas team in the Rose Bowl.
Pretty remarkable how Saban was able to take Alabama from mediocrity to undefeated national champions in only three seasons.
1. 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide
You could say this team had six first-round NFL Draft picks, which is tied as the most by one school in history, and call it good. You could say this team had the first wide receiver Heisman Trophy winner in 30 years and call it good. You could say this team never scored fewer than 31 points in a game and call it good.
There wasn’t anyone who was beating Alabama in 2020. In fact, there are few teams in college football history who could’ve taken them down.