The Alabama Crimson Tide have just won the 2020-2021 College Football Playoff. The Tide rolled to an undefeated season, capped off by a 28-point win over the Ohio State Buckeyes in Miami.
Alabama won all 13 games this season, with an average scoring margin of +29.2 (before the National Championship). The Crimson Tide were unstoppable on offense, led by the unforgettable season that wide receiver and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith had. In a season with such uncertainty, Nick Saban’s squad always looked like a sure bet to win the coveted College Football Playoff Title. Therefore, the question is warranted; was this the best Crimson Tide team Nick Saban has ever coached?
Firstly, I feel that it is only right to compare the teams that have had to play under the current CFP format. I’m sorry, but the 2009 Crimson Tide will not be in this discussion. Seeing as Alabama went 14-0 this season, it seems only fair that they should be compared only with other CFP National Championship teams.
Before tonight’s win, Alabama had previously won two College Football Playoff title games, the 2016 game, and the 2018 game. Those offenses were led by Jake Coker and Jalen Hurts (eventually Tua Tagovailoa), respectively. This year’s team was led by quarterback and Heisman finalist Mac Jones. Because of Coker’s inconsistencies and Hurt’s struggles in big games as a college sophomore, the quarterback play edge will have to go to the 2020 Tide. Jones was consistent and efficient all season and kept his cool under the brightest lights.
This year’s running back room was dominated by Najee Harris, who has looked like a star all season. Harris rushed for over 1,400 yards this season and was just as much of a threat in the passing game. The 2017 Crimson Tide employed Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris, Bo Scarborough, and Najee Harris in their running back room. The former two got the bulk of the work, with Jacobs emerging late in the season. In 2015, the Tide had Kenyan Drake, Damien Harris, and the Heisman winner Derick Henry. It is also worth noting that Alvin Kamara was supposed to be on this team. Only comparing these players by their college performances, this is a close race. Still, Derick Henry’s collegiate performance edges out 2020 Najee Harris.
Most of the receivers from these teams played on two of the three championship Alabama teams. Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle all dominated as Alabama players. However, the 2020 season that DeVonta Smith had out shadows the rest. The senior became the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard in 1991. Smith capped off his brilliant 2020 with a 12 reception, 215 yards, and 3 touchdown game in the National Championship.
On the offensive line, the 2020 Crimson Tide were the best in the nation. Landon Dickerson, Alex Leatherwood, and Evan Neal all figure to be top 50 selections in the NFL Draft once they declare. Other than Jonah Williams (2017) and Cam Robinson (2015), Saban’s other squads did not have the personnel to match the current team on the line. A huge portion of Alabama’s success this season should and will be credited with strong offensive line play.
Alabama’s defense this year looked a bit undermanned on paper. Besides Christian Barmore, the defensive line was not as talented as usual. Prospects such as Jonathan Allen, Calvin Tomlinson, Raekwon Davis, and Quinnen Williams from other years were much more threatening.
Similarly, the linebacker room was much younger than in years past. This year there was no Reuben Foster or Mack Wilson. The Tide made due with Dylan Moses, Christian Harris, and Christopher Allen, who played great in their own right, but maybe did not pose the same threat as the aforementioned linebackers.
Marlon Humphrey, Eddie Jackson, and Minkah Fitzpatrick are all stars who won a National Championship with Nick Saban. This year, Alabama’s secondary was led by the dominant Patrick Surtain II. Surtain was a lockdown cornerback all season and likely played his way into the first round of the NFL Draft. Besides Surtain, there was not much star power. Safeties Jordan Battle and Malachi Moore are two underclassmen who stepped up. Battle and Moore will certainly be stars for the Crimson Tide in the future and we will not forget their contributions in 2020.
Finally, I think it would be unfair to forget about this year’s Alabama kicker, Will Reichard. Reichard did not miss one kick this entire season and certainly made Alabama’s special teams look great all year.
Was the 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide the best team that Nick Saban has ever coached? Like I said earlier, it is difficult to compare this team with prior teams that did not play in the College Football Playoff. Those teams missed at least one game that many players could have potentially underperformed, or shined bright. The magnitude and pressure of a CFP game is often underestimated.
In comparison with the 2015 and 2017 Crimson Tide Teams, it is very close. I can say with near certainty that this is the best Alabama offense of Saban’s tenure in the CFP. The Crimson Tide put a beating on SEC opponents all season, and did not let up against the fourth and third ranked teams in the country. DeVonta Smith’s ridiculous year was the greatest in Alabama receiver history. And, the rest of the offense was consistently dominant as well.
On the defensive side, this was certainly the most unproven Alabama team. The 2015 and 2017 teams statistically were more efficient defenses and the defensive lines were undoubtedly much better. With that being said, it is difficult to discredit a defense that went undefeated through 14 games.
The 2020 Crimson Tide will likely include at least five first round draft picks and plenty of day two selections. I do not think this defense will have the number of Pro Bowlers that other years did. While this defense may not be Saban’s most talented, they were Saban’s most surprising. Many people expected the College Football Playoff games to be high scoring. Alabama only gave up 14 to Notre Dame and 24 to Ohio State.
The 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide will likely include around 10 first round draft picks (five in 2021). Additionally, many of its players can win another National Championship in the next two or three seasons. The sky has always been the limit for Nick Saban’s teams, and this years’ is no different. Alabama won another championship, and this team looked like one of the best College Football teams to ever step on the field.