Sports

With 100 straight wins over unranked opponents, Bama has come a long way since 2007

The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles 63-14 on Saturday to clinch the football program’s 100th consecutive victory against an unranked opponent.

Before this run, the longest such streak in the AP poll era (since 1936) belonged to the Florida Gators‘ mark of 73 straight from 1990 to 2000.

Do you remember what you were doing on Nov. 17, 2007?

That’s the day Alabama lost 21-14 to the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks in what remains Bama’s most recent loss to an unranked opponent.

Head coach Nick Saban, then in his first year in Tuscaloosa, was quite honest in his assessment of Alabama’s shocking loss that fateful Saturday.

“I’m certainly not pleased the way we represented that tradition today,” Saban said back then. “We did all the things in this football game that get you beat regardless who you play.

“We just did a lot of things today that is not winning football. I think we’re all responsible for it. It starts with me. I don’t think we had a very good week of preparation.”

Much has changed in the nearly 14 years since Alabama’s last loss against an unranked opponent.

By the end of 2007, Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” and T-Pain’s “Buy You a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” were the top two radio songs on the Billboard charts. J.K. Rowling published “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the final installment of her acclaimed novel series.

Depending on your age, one of the few constants from 2007 could be the rise of gas prices, which reached a record high in May of that year.

Alabama’s streak against unranked foes reaching triple digits adds to the impact of Saban’s tenure as head coach of the Crimson Tide. The reigning national champions are seeking their second repeat under Saban and continue restoring the school’s aforementioned tradition.

Here are five notable ways Alabama has impacted college football since 2007.


106 players drafted into NFL

During this year’s NFL draft, the Crimson Tide tied the Ohio State Buckeyes for the most selections by a single school with 10. Alabama’s 2021 draftees pushed the program’s total to triple digits during the Saban era.

Fifty-one of those selections have come in the past five years. That figure ties the USC Trojans (1973-77) for the most draft picks from a single program over a five-year span in the common draft era (since 1967).

Mac Jones of the New England Patriots and the Miami DolphinsTua Tagovailoa, who were Alabama quarterbacks and teammates from 2017 to 2019, squared off in Week 1, as the latter’s team won 17-16.

Boasting 106 pro players would be impressive for any head coach, but it appears Saban has trouble keeping up with how often Alabama produces high-end talent. Up to 70 former Crimson Tide players were on an NFL roster for Week 1 of the 2021 season.

“I usually am focused on what our team is doing,” Saban explained. “I think we text all 70 players in the NFL and let them know that our thoughts and prayers are with them, and we wish them luck.

“But we have so many players in the NFL, I can’t — I don’t really reach out individually.”


Three Heisman Trophy winners

Only the Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (each with seven) and USC Trojans (six) have more Heisman winners than Alabama. Even more impressively for the Crimson Tide? Their respective winners came over a 12-season span.

Among coaches, Saban’s Heisman list of DeVonta Smith, Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram II places him behind only Frank Leahy for the most all time.

Those three are also the only three non-quarterbacks to win the Heisman in the past 15 years.

Smith’s victory marked the first by a wide receiver since Desmond Howard won in 1991. Upon being selected 10th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in this year’s NFL draft, the two-time national champion shared why he holds Saban in such high regard.

“When he first started recruiting me, he took a chance on me, small kid from Amite, Louisiana,” Smith said on ESPN’s First Take earlier this year. “He just gave me the opportunity to come to the University of Alabama and do the things that I do.

“And just him giving me that chance, I’m grateful for it, and our relationship has just built since then with him allowing me to be part of the leadership group and be a leader on the team and do whatever I can to help the team get to where we want it to be.”

Following Smith officially becoming a pro, Eagles fans got an early opportunity to share their excitement about the Heisman winner’s next chapter.


Six College Football Playoff appearances (2014-18, 2020)

The College Football Playoff era has been dominated by Alabama and the Clemson Tigers. Ohio State took home the inaugural championship before the Crimson Tide pulled away with tournament records in total games (11), victories (eight) and national championships (2015, 2017, 2020).

Alabama’s six CFP appearances are tied with Clemson for the record, but Saban & Co. were the only program to appear in each of the first five playoffs.

The Crimson Tide defeated Notre Dame in last season’s Rose Bowl semifinal, as Saban (79) broke a tie with Joe Paterno (78) for the most victories by a head coach against AP top-20 opponents.

Prior to Saban’s arrival, Alabama hadn’t appeared in the national title game since winning it all in 1992.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney played wide receiver for the Crimson Tide that season.


Six national championships (2009, 2011-12, 2015, 2017, 2020)

Alabama’s 52-24 national championship victory over Ohio State in January set another slew of records for the prestigious program.

It was the third-highest-scoring title game in the BCS/CFP era (since 1998). The Crimson Tide’s point total trails only USC (55 against Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl) for the most by any team over that same span.

It was also Alabama’s 13th AP/Coaches Poll national championship, six of which have come since 2009. Upon winning his first title in Tuscaloosa, Saban, who led the LSU Tigers’ title run in 2003, became the first head coach in the AP poll era to do so with two different FBS programs.

He has since passed Bear Bryant (six) for the most titles among head coaches in college football history. Though Saban’s Alabama tenure has rewritten the record books, he defers to Bryant’s legacy for setting the standard.

“I think Coach Bryant is sort of in a class of his own in terms of what he was able to accomplish, what his record is, the longevity that he had and the tradition he established,” Saban explained in January.

“If it wasn’t for coach Bryant, we would never be able to do what we did. I mean, he’s the one that made Alabama and the tradition at Alabama a place where lots of players wanted to come.”


Zero losing seasons

Since Alabama’s loss to Louisiana Monroe, Saban has totally reshaped the program’s weekly approach well enough to beat just about every opponent (ranked or unranked) in its path.

The Crimson Tide haven’t finished below .500 since going 7-6 in Saban’s first year in Tuscaloosa.

What could be the secret to his success since that trying first year with Alabama?

Of course, Heisman-caliber recruits, top-notch coaching and legendary precedent certainly help matters, but Saban has another key element for what pushes him.

ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this story.


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