The first Associated Press College Football Poll appeared in 1934 and due to the feature's popularity, became a regular item by the news service two years later. Alabama's first appearance in the poll seems to be at the No. 14 slot on Oct. 14, 1936 (the Tide would finish at No. 4 that season).
The first occasion for the Crimson Tide to face off in a contest pitting two top ten teams was in the 1938 Rose Bowl. The second ranked team in the nation, California, succeeded in downing No. 4 Alabama 13-0. Since that game, the Tide has played in 61 games when they and the opponent were among the top ten squads in the country. Bama has a 35-26-1 record in those games overall and a 23-14-1 tally for those contests in the regular season.
On Saturday, No. 2 Alabama will face No. 1 LSU in Bryant-Denny Stadium to take part on one of just 45 games pitting the top two teams in the AP poll against each other. Alabama has played in six of those contests. LSU, one. Neither have ever played in such a contest during the regular season. It is fourth time Nick Saban has lead to Tide into one of these games.
As for the outcomes, Alabama has a 1-1 record as the No. 1 team and a 3-1 record as No. 2. Here is a run-down of each of these games and how they played out.
Jan. 7, 2010, No. 1 Alabama vs No. 2 Texas, BCS Championship Game
This will never get old. Ever.
How they got there: When No. 2 Alabama decisively downed No. 1 Florida in the SEC Championship, AP voters placed the Crimson Tide in the top slot of the poll. Texas, meanwhile, had begun the season ranked No. 2 and although mid-season shuffling of the top of the rankings dropped them to No. 3 several times, that was where they finished it as well. Despite a close scare against Nebraska in the BIG XII championship, the Longhorns kept their record intact and earned the invitation to Pasadena to play the Crimson Tide in the BCS National Championship game.
What transpired: A series of Alabama miscues early seemed to have given Texas the upper hand but Longhorns' quarterback Colt McCoy was knocked out of the game with a fluke injury on their fifth play from scrimmage. From there the Alabama defense stiffened and the Crimson Tide offense began mauling the Texas D. Although Texas launched an inspired rally behind backup Garrett Gilbert in the second half, it wasn't nearly enough. Alabama won 37-21 and claimed the Crimson Tide's 13th National Championship.
Dec. 5, 2009, No. 1 Florida vs. No. 2 Alabama, SEC Championship Game
McElroy and Ingram were unstoppable.
How they got there: Alabama's debacle in the Sugar Bowl to close out the 2008 seaon lingered on AP voters minds as they placed the Crimson Tide at No. 5 with nary a single No. 1 vote. By the mid-way point of the season, Alabama's dominating performance had earned them the No. 2 spot where they would stay the rest of the way. Florida, the defending National Champions began 2009 in the top slot and remained there throughout the regular season. The two undefeated squads then headed for a rematch in the SEC Championship game.
What transpired: Alabama, still stinging from the loss to the Gators in Atlanta the season prior, came out swinging and Florida never had an answer. The final score, 32-13, reflected the Crimson Tide's domination of the Gators in almost every phase of the game. Alabama outgained Florida 490 yards to 335 and had twice as many first downs. Mark Ingram alone accounted for 113 yards and three touchdowns and was awarded the Heisman Trophy days later.
Dec. 6, 2008, No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Florida, SEC Championship Game
The Million Dollar Band played great!
How they got there: Nick Saban's disappointing inaugural season in Tuscaloosa earned the Crimson Tide a No. 24 ranking in the pre-season AP poll. When Alabama pasted No. 9 Clemson 34-10 in the season opener, the Tide began a steady rise in the rankings. A dramatic upset of No. 1 Texas by No. 6 Texas Tech on Nov. 1 lead to Alabama assuming the top spot in the AP poll. Florida started 2008 in the No. 6 spot but slid all the way down to No. 12 after falling to Ole Miss in the fourth game of the season. A steady diet of wins as well as losses in the upper portion of the polls had the Gators at No. 2 as the regular season drew to a close.
What transpired: The 2008 SEC Championship Game promised to be a tightly contested affair and it certainly delivered as promised. The Gators entered the game with an average margin of victory of 37 points while Alabama was allowing just 11-and-a-half points per game. During the course of the contest the lead changed no less than four times. Florida's 358 total yards was just total yardage was just 35 more than the Crimson Tide offense could accrue. In the end, though, Alabama could not hold off Florida's fourth quarter burst and the to-be National Champion Gators earned the 31-20 win and the SEC championship.
Jan. 1, 1993, No. 1 Miami vs. No. 2 Alabama, The Sugar Bowl
George Teague, ladies and gentlemen.
How they got there: Corky Simpson, the sports columnist at the Tuscon Citizen in Arizona, entered Alabama football lore with his insistence the Crimson Tide was the No. 1 team in the land during the 1992 season. Defending National Champion, The University of Miami, started the season ranked No. 1 and stayed firmly ensconced in that slot the whole way. Alabama started the year ranked No. 9 in the pre-season AP poll with one voter, Simpson, casting a No. 1 ballot for the Tide. As Alabama kept collecting wins, the Crimson Tide climbed up the rankings. By the end of the '92 season Alabama was No. 2 but of the 62 AP poll voters only Simpson cast the No. 1 vote for the Crimson Tide instead of Miami.
What transpired: When the two undefeated teams met in New Orleans, Simpson's preiscence proved to be well founded as the Crimson Tide crushed Miami 34-13. While the Hurricanes mocked Alabama as "a one-dimensional team" it proved more than up to the task of stopping Miami's vaunted offense. In the first half of play, The Crimson Tide outrushed the Hurricanes 152-6 and took a 13-6 lead and never looked back. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Gino Torretta tossed three interceptions and Miami fumbled no less than four times (although only losing one). Alabama won 34-13 and the Crimson Tide became National Champions.
Jan. 1, 1979, No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 2 Alabama, The Sugar Bowl
The Goal Line Stand
How they got there: Alabama started the 1978 season ranked No. 1 in the AP pre-season poll but dropped to No. 2 after a 24-14 loss to Southern California the third week of the season. The Crimson Tide didn't falter again and held the spot for the remainder of the way. Penn State, meanwhile, started ranked No. 3 in the pre-season poll but dropped as low as No. 5 during the season due to close wins over the likes of SMU. When Oklahoma fell to Nebraska on Nov. 11, the undefeated Nittany Lions assumed the top spot and set up the meeting with the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl.
What transpired: While the Goal Line Stand has come to symbolize the entire contest, the fact is the Alabama defense performed spectacularly the entire game. The Tide D forced five sacks, four interceptions and allowed just 19 yards rushing. The Nittany Lions' defense was also stout permitting just 91 passing yards but giving up more than 200 on the ground. The go-ahead score for Alabama came as a result of stellar special teams play when Lon Ikner's 62-yard punt return put the Tide on the PSU 11-yard-line. Major Ogilve punched it in to put Alabama up 14-7 and that's where the score stayed at the final whistle.
Jan. 1, 1972, No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 2 Alabama, The Orange Bowl
Nebraska's Johnny Rogers was just too much for the Tide.
How they got there: Nebraska, who had won the National Championship in 1970 (by besting, ironically enough, LSU in the Orange Bowl), started the season ranked No. 2 in the pre-season AP poll. A 34-7 drubbing of Oregon the first game of the season restored the Cornhuskers to the top spot which they maintained the rest of the way. Alabama was ranked 16th to start the season but the unveiling of the wishbone offense rejuvenated the Tide. Starting with a 17-10 victory over USC in Los Angeles, Alabama climbed steadily in the polls until reaching the No. 2 spot when the Cornhuskers downed Oklahoma in the final week of the season.
What transpired: The two undefeated teams met in Miami with hopes of securing the National Championship but Nebraska proved too much for the Tide. A 77-yard punt return for a touchdown by the Cornhuskers Johnny Rogers at the end of the first quarter was indicative of how much Nebraska controlled the game. The Nebraska defense forced Alabama to make critical mistakes; the Tide fumbled five times and threw two interceptions. After the 38-6 Alabama loss Nebraska won their second straight National Title and Coach Bryant remarked that they might have been the best team he had ever seen.