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Alabama football program on the verge of several milestones

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An average Nick Saban season will see the Tide eclipse several programs

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">CFP National Championship presented by AT&amp;T - Alabama v Georgia

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The past dozen years have been fun, haven’t they?

But, lost in the trophies and draft picks and individual accolades is the impact that Saban has had on the football history record books as they pertain to all-time programs.

Alabama has steadily climbing up the sport’s all-time ranks during Saban’s tenure. The past 11 years, Alabama has won 132 games on the field — good for exactly 12 wins-per season. And, just an “average” season by Saban and company will see Alabama eclipse several prestigious benchmarks.

Assuming the average record for every team comparison, a median Saban record by the Crimson Tide will impact the record book as follows*:

  • Alabama boasts a .723 all-time winning percentage, good for fourth place. However, 12 wins by Alabama and Notre Dame’s 10-year average of 7.2 wins, will see the Domers’ .724 eclipsed by a mere fraction this season, and will leave the Tide sitting all alone in third place. It is even possible that Alabama could overtake Ohio State for second-place at .725 in the next three seasons: A few seasons of 14-1 or 15-0 really jacks up the ole’ winning percentage. The record-holder, Michigan, has been playing football for 150 years and has posted a .730 winning percentage — that is likely out of reach for a few decades, if ever.
  • Alabama is in 6th place in all-time consensus All-Americans. It lags behind the Oklahoma Sooners by a full nine selections. Even assuming Alabama posts its Saban average of 2.3 CAA picks per year, it is doubtful the Tide can eclipse the Dirt Burglars here during his tenure.
  • Alabama is very likely to pass Penn State in number of NFL Draft picks this year. The Tide is in 8th place, just one behind the Nittany Lions’ 344. And, given the talent disparity, it is likely Alabama will move past Nebraska’s present number of 358 by the time CNS hangs up the whistle.
  • If Alabama can win its 31st conference title in 2018, it will put the Tide into a tie with Texas for 8th place in terms of titles won. It is very possible that Alabama could move all the way into a tie with USC and move into 5th place over in the next four years. One has to assume that Ohio State — presently tied for 4th place — likely will not enter a persistent tanking in the next half-decade, nor that USC will suddenly regain its ferocious results of the Student Body Right days. While that is impressive it has a long way to go even scratching the surface of the old Big 8/Big 12/SWC powers: Nebraska and Oklahoma each have 46 conference titles. Michigan (42) and Ohio State (39) aren’t far behind.
  • Alabama is already all alone in first place for national titles by a wide margin — at least five over Notre Dame in claimed natties, and three more if we’re just counting AP titles (16 to 13).
  • Alabama also leads the nation in bowl appearance (68), and it is in first place for bowl victories (39).
  • The ignominy of a post-season appearance is the potential for a post-season loss. And, yup, Alabama is up at the top there too. The Crimson Tide is tied with Ohio State for the second-most bowl games lost (25), and those two powers trail only Nebraska (27) for the most ever bowl losses.

A note about those bowl appearances: Alabama undoubtedly owes a lot to Paul Bryant. He is responsible for 24 of the Tide’s extra game appearances. But, man, did Bear Bryant have a pretty crummy bowl record relative to the rest of his success. He coached 37 winning seasons, including 25 years at Alabama without a losing season, earning 24 bowl bowl bids at his alma mater. But he lost a lot of those games, particularly in the peak of Alabama’s dynasty decades — and he lost some pretty convincingly too. Overall, he had a 15-12-2 post-season record, and with the Tide he posted just a .500 mark: 12-10-2, far underperforming Alabama’s historic program record in this respect.

  • But, in terms of post-season winning percentage, Alabama has done quite well. I randomly selected 40 bowl appearances as a decent metric for historic success (one bowl appearance about every three years, over a 120 year program, seems fair.) And, by those lights, Alabama is still 4th with a .609 winning percentage. It trails only USC (.654), Penn State (.652), and Florida State (.622.) Of those, only Florida State looks like it could be overcome by the end of Nick Saban’s tenure. [One team that just missed the cut by arbitrarily picking a number was Ole Miss. The Rebels have made 37 appearances, and they have done quite well in bowls. Had I randomly chosen 37, WAOM would be ahead of the Tide in post-season winning percentage.]
  • The Tide is 5th in all-time first round draft picks it produces, with 57. That is eight behind the Hurricanes, nine behind Notre Dame. Given the rate that Mark Richt recruits and that Fighting Irish produce, it is probable Nick Saban will pass neither of those teams....this year. And, frankly, Ohio State’s 77 and USC’s 80 first-round are probably not going to be touched in our lifetime. Those teams aren’t going to stop attracting high-end talent either.
  • The penultimate biggie: Alabama is second all-time in weeks at the top of the AP Top 25 poll. The Crimson Tide have topped the charts for 103 weeks, just two short of Ohio State’s 105. Alabama will enter the season at Number One. And, barring a disaster, will have a chance pass this mark on September 22nd at home, versus fellow hillperson Jimbo Fisher and the Texas A&M Aggies. There’s a nice symmetry there, I think. Especially given the longstanding program ties. (ESPN, you’re welcome in advance for these preseason talking points when you need to hype the game later.)

If Notre Dame really tanks this season, as is very possible, Alabama can also jump the Irish for all-time appearances in the AP Top 25. UA is just 7 weekly appearances behind them: Assume the Tide are ranked all 15 weeks and a 7-5ish ND team only appears for 6-7 weeks, Alabama will move into 4th place. Oklahoma and Michigan are not going to be topped. And Ohio State is apt to reach its 900th ranked week by Thanksgiving. That Buckeye record is never going to be beaten.

  • And, finally, the sweetest of all: Alabama has a slim opportunity to vault all the way into second place in all-time program victories (more than likely 3rd or 4th place, but bear with me). The Michigan Wolverines have an almost unreachable 943 victories. They’ll add 8-12 to that this year. But, Alabama presently sits in 5th place with 891 wins — that number is just two shy of Nebraska’s 893 wins. Texas and Ohio State are tied in second place with 898 victories.

If you foresee a continued rebuild in Austin, and the Buckeyes staring down another 10-plus win season, Alabama can very well tie the ‘Horns for 3rd place, or even take sole possession of 3rd. And, at its present clip, the Crimson Tide would likely overtake second place by 2019 or 2020....but we can always wish bad things on Urban Meyer, at any time, right?

So, keep your eye on some of these numbers as the season progresses: Alabama is about to pass a lot of programs that have historically tormented it, particularly the Irish, Longhorns, and Cornhuskers.

Happy Gump Day!