Alabama Reaches #1 for 13th Year in a Row

A mind-boggling statistic.

When Nick Saban took over as head coach at Alabama in 2007, the team had been a long line of lackluster seasons since its last national championship in 1992. After a hot start, the team collapsed down the stretch in that first year. Every year since, though, it has been in contention for Southeastern Conference and national championships—being ranked #1 by the Associated Press at at least some point in the season.

ESPN (“Alabama earns No. 1 spot in college football poll for 13th straight year“):

Alabama is No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll for the first time this year, extending its record of consecutive seasons with at least one week on top of the rankings to 13.


It’s no surprise when Alabama reaches No. 1, but it’s always historic. The Crimson Tide’s streak of seasons with at least one appearance at No. 1 started in Nick Saban’s second year as coach in Tuscaloosa. The Tide reached the top of the poll for the first time under Saban on Nov. 2, 2008, the day after beating Arkansas State.

No. 1 Texas lost that week at Texas Tech — Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree in the final seconds as the Red Raiders shocked the Longhorns — to open the door for Alabama to ascend. The second-longest streak of consecutive years appearing at No. 1 in AP poll history belongs to Miami, which went seven seasons from 1986 to ’92. This No. 1 appearance is the 92nd under Saban and Alabama’s record 123rd overall.

Take away Alabama’s other No. 1 appearances and just Saban’s appearances at No. 1 would rank as the fourth most in college football history behind Ohio State’s (105), Oklahoma’s (101) and Notre Dame’s (98). That’s also one more than Southern California (91) has ever had.

Alabama has a lot of advantages that most programs don’t have, in terms of tradition, geography, and resources. And, since success begets success, it’s been easier to keep recruiting top talent to the school.

But the fact that the next longest streak is a mere seven seasons shows how hard it is to sustain success. Last year’s national champions—the remarkable Joe Burrow-led LSU team that went 15-0—has a mediocre 2-3 record thus far this year, having lost their Heisman winner and several other stars to the NFL.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Scott says:

    On the other hand, this is a totally weird year. Indiana is ranked 10th! And it’s not the basketball team.

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    The NFL should take its cue from futbol and bump successful teams up a league. Move Alabama to the NFL.

  3. Mister Bluster says:

    @Sleeping Dog:..Move Alabama to the NFL.

    And they can move the Jets to the SEC where the players can get tuition and free room and board!

  4. James Joyner says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Alabama might be able to win a game every few years against a bad NFL team but there’s just so much talent on an NFL roster that it wouldn’t happen often. Now, if Saban could build a roster of nothing but Alabama players, that’s a different story. I just read somewhere recently that, with Tua Tagovailoa now helming the Miami Dolphins at quarterback, we’re the only school that currently has an alum at starting in the NFL at every single position on both offense and defense.

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    @James Joyner:

    James, you’re taking me too serious this morning, but Bama is too good for the SEC. You’re right about the talent, but as @Mister Bluster: suggests they may not be worse than the jets.

  6. EddieInCA says:

    @Sleeping Dog: @James Joyner:

    Move Alabama to the NFL.

    The very worst team in the NFL would destroy any top college team every single time they played.

    Think of all the great College players who are only average in the NFL. Sam Darnold was a good college QB. His NY Jets would put up 70 points on Alabama, and shut them out.

    I played college football. I was a very good Junior college player. My JC team sent four guys to the NFL I walked on at UCLA, and was an absolute bust because these guys (at UCLA) were BEASTS! Seriously, they were bigger, stronger, faster, better athletes… and most of them never sniffed the NFL. Most people have no idea how good guys at the pro level are in every sport. Football, baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, etc – we have no idea how good these guys/gals really are.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @EddieInCA: Oh, absolutely. There might be the occasional game where the weather is awful and turnovers about where a vastly inferior team can win. But, as much talent gap as there is between an Alabama and a Louisiana-Monroe, it pales between that between Alabama and the Jets. There are certainly current Alabama players who are better than current Jets players. But, even at Alabama, every starter isn’t a future pro, much less a future pro starter.


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