Nick Saban secured his sixth national championship in 14 seasons in Alabama Monday night thanks to a 52-24 victory over Ohio State.
However, not all championships are created equal. The way there, the strength of the opposition and the composition of the list have been different in all cases.
The following is a ranking of Saban’s six Alabama national championship teams, listed in reverse order from “worst”
6. 2017 (13-1)
Championship games: Beat Georgia 26-23 in overtime in Atlanta
Key players: QB Tua Tagovailoa, QB Jalen Hurts, WR Calvin Ridley, OL Jonah Williams, OL Bradley Bozeman, DL Da’Ron Payne, LB Rashaan Evans, DB Minkah Fitzpatrick
Why is it No. 6?: Alabama’s 2017 team would rank as the best of almost any program ever, but the standard is a little higher in Tuscaloosa. Alone among Saban’s title team, the 2017 team lost a regular season double-digit game (26-14 at Auburn) and needed overtime to win the championship. In the end, it was Crimson Tide’s fabulous beginner class that saved the day as Tagovailoa replaced the struggling Hurts in the second half vs. Georgia and threw the winning touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith in overtime for a walk-off championship.
5. 2012 (13-1)
Championship games: Beat Notre Dame 42-14 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Key players: QB AJ McCarron, RB Eddie Lacy, WR Amari Cooper, OL Barrett Jones, OL Chance Warmack, DL Jesse Williams, LB CJ Mosley, DB Dee Milliner
Why is it No. 5?: The only repeat champion on the list, Crimson Tide in 2012 gathered past LSU (21-17 in Baton Rouge), overcame a late stumble against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M (lost 29-21 in Tuscaloosa) and won a classic SEC title match (32-28 over Georgia) to reach BCS National Championship match. Faced with what turned out to be a highly overrated Fighting Irish team, Alabama jumped out to a commanding 28-0 break lead and drove to its third national championship in four years. This is the team that made the whispers of “dynasty” a reality.
4. 2015 (14-1)
Championship games: Beat Clemson 45-40 in Glendale, Ariz.
Key players: QB Jake Coker, RB Derrick Henry, OL Cam Robinson, OL Ryan Kelly, DL Jonathan Allen, LB Reggie Ragland, DB Eddie Jackson, DB Marlon Humphrey
Why is it No. 4?: Carried by Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry in offense and an incredible ability to score non-offensive touchdowns (10 in total), this Alabama team returned to the top after the mistakes of the previous two seasons, critics had wondered if Saban had lost its touch. Crimson Tide stumbled early in the season (losing 43-37 to Ole Miss) but shut it out with 12 wins in a row. The title game’s victory over Clemson was a classic all the time with a surprising kick on the spot and a kickoff return to a touchdown by Kenyan Drake now in the pantheon of the program’s greatest moments.
3. 2011 (12-1)
Championship games: Beat LSU 21-0 in New Orleans
Key players: QB AJ McCarron, RB Trent Richardson, OL Barrett Jones, LB Dont’a Hightower, LB Courtney Upshaw, DB Mark Barron, DB Dre Kirkpatrick, DB DeQuan Menzie
Why is it No. 3?: This Alabama team contained one of the greatest defenses in modern college football history, allowing only 8.2 points per game and only five opponents scoring in double digits. Crime was sometimes a struggle, including in Crimson Tide’s lone loss, a 9-6 overtime defeat against LSU in Tuscaloosa – referred to as the “Century game.” Alabama worked their way back into the national championship picture (in a somewhat controversial way) and got another shot at LSU, this time dominating in a 21-0 victory at the Superdome in New Orleans.
2. 2009 (14-0)
Championship games: Beat Texas 37-21 in Pasadena, California.
Key players: QB Greg McElroy, RB Mark Ingram, WR Julio Jones, OL Mike Johnson, DL Terrence Cody, DL Marcell Dareus, LB Rolando McClain, DB / KR Javier Arenas
Why is it No. 2?: The Saban team that started it all was the only one until this year to finish with a perfect record. Alabama beat some early in the regular season and barely survived in a 12-10 victory over Tennessee in late October. This Crimson Tide team was possibly able to finish stronger than anyone else during this race, ranking No. 1 and defending national champion Florida 32-13 in the SEC Championship and then beating undefeated and second-ranked Texas 37-21 in BCS national championship at the Rose Bowl.
1. 2020 (13-0)
Championship games: Beat Ohio State 52-24 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Key players: QB Mac Jones, RB Najee Harris, WR DeVonta Smith, OL Landon Dickerson, OL Alex Leatherwood, LB Christian Harris, LB Dylan Moses, DB Patrick Surtain
Why is it No. 1?: It’s hard to overstate how much Alabama achieved in 2020, not only going undefeated and winning the national championship, but only once in the second half all season (vs. Georgia) and beating 11 SEC teams (the best 11 as a matter of fact) and do it all during a global pandemic. Crimson Tide broke a record with five unanimous All-Americans and had the Heisman Trophy winner (plus two others who finished in the top 5 by voting). At the risk of engaging in recency bias, this is Saban’s best team and perhaps the best in Alabama’s history.