Alabama football head coach Nick Saban came to Tuscaloosa in 2007 inheriting a program that was coming off a 6-7 record and a 34-31 loss to Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl. After one season of growing pains, the Crimson Tide started a run of NCAA Football dominance that no team has been able to match since.
Even after six national titles and eight SEC Championships during Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa, the Alabama Crimson Tide remain a College Football Playoff mainstay every season. Ask Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Florida, Miami or even Tennessee, the National Championship runs through Bama. The Bulldogs? recent National Title is proof of that. But of all of those titles, and more than 200 wins, which one is the most memorable for the Hall of Fame head coach?
The iconic football coach dished on his most memorable game during his weekly Thursday night radio show back in 2018:
Nick Saban’s Favorite Alabama Win
“If I had to pick one, it would probably be the Rose Bowl game, the first national championship game in 2009 against Texas. Only because in just the third year of being here, we took a not-so-good team, a 6-6 team, and all these players — some were here, some were new guys, some came here like Julio Jones and Rolando McClain and a bunch of guys, Mark Barron — they all came here when we weren’t good. But they were highly-recruited guys and they believed in what we were trying to do and what we were going to.”
— Nick Saban
That 2009 Alabama team was one of Nick Saban’s two perfect teams during this historic run, finishing with a 14-0 record that was capped by running all over the Texas Longhorns.
Running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson both ran for over 100 yards and each scored two touchdowns in a dominating 37-21 BCS Championship win in Pasadena, California. Bama?s rushing attack was necessary with Texas? ability to shutdown wide receiver Julio Jones. All the same, this was the first time Nick Saban would bring a National Championship to Tuscaloosa.
“The Rose Bowl was a great atmosphere,” Saban said. “And that’s probably, if I had to pick one, not that all the championship games aren’t special. And the one I think about the most and the one that bothers me the most is the one that we lost. But if you want a best memory, I guess it would have to be the first one.”
2010 BCS National Championship
Fortunately for Alabama, Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Colt McCoy suffered a shoulder injury on the Longhorns’ opening drive and was replaced by true freshman Garrett Gilbert, who was eaten alive by the Tide’s top-ranked defense, completing 15-of-40 passes and tossing four interceptions in that game.
The Crimson Tide were national champions once again, and that team boasted one of the most insane rosters in college football history that laid the foundation for the decade-long dynasty that followed. Seriously, this roster is a who?s-who of notable Alabama players.
QB: Greg McIlroy
RB: Mark Ingram (2009 Heisman Trophy Winner)
RB: Trent Richardson
WR: Julio Jones
OL: Barrett Jones
DL: Marcell Dareus
DL: Terrance Cody
LB: Rolando McClain
LB: Dont’a Hightower
LB: Courtney Upshaw
DB: Mark BarronAdvertisement
DB: Javier Arenas
DB: Kareem Jackson
There may never be another team as special as the 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide in Nick Saban’s mind, strictly because of the nostalgia of that first title game they bring to the table.
Then again, that undefeated team might have a run for their money with the Tide still dominating more than a decade later.
This article was originally published October 12, 2018.