While calculating my mid-season SDPI ratings back in October, I got the notion that this year's Alabama team could be one of the best college football teams ever. Of course, almost immediately after that post, the Tide lost a tight home game to LSU and seemed doomed to be just another Sugar Bowl champion. After they were written off, all the other challengers faltered and the Tide ended the season ranked number two in the BCS. In the hyped rematch, the Tide dominated LSU and claimed their second BCS Championship in three years. Even with the loss, Alabama still enjoyed a dominant campaign. But how dominant? Where do the Tide rank in terms of recent national champion? To find out, I looked to see how Alabama compared to each national champion since 1993 in four different categories. Why 1993? Its completely arbitrary, but that is when I first began to follow college football.
The first category of dominance I looked at is scoring margin. The following table lists how the past 21 national champions (1997 and 2003 featured two champions) have fared in terms of per game scoring margin.By this measure, Alabama ranked eighth among the 21 teams. Their scoring margin was very good, but not quite ridiculous like that of 1995 Nebraska. Notice that if we take the scoring margin of the two worst teams (2006 Florida and 2002 Ohio State), and add them together, it still does not equal the margin of that Nebraska team. A few other tidbits from the table: Four of the top-eight teams on the chart actually lost a game (1993 Florida State, both Florida teams, and this year's Alabama). I think its a little ironic that the bottom two teams are Ohio State and Florida. As you may recall, Florida beat a solidly favored Ohio State to win the title in 2006.
The second category of dominance is scoring ratio. Scoring ratio is simply the number of points scored divided by the number of points allowed. A team with a ratio of 1 would have scored and allowed the same number of points. While scoring margin tends to favor teams with great offenses, teams with great defenses will fare well in scoring ratio. Here is how the past 21 champions have fared in scoring ratio.When you only allow a shade of eight points per game, your scoring ratio is bound to be pretty good. 2011 Alabama ranks second to the 2001 Miami Hurricanes in terms of scoring ratio and are one of just three teams to have scored more than four times as many points as their opponents. Once again, as in the previous table, a loss certainly does not preclude dominance. Four of the top-six teams (2011 Alabama, 1993 Florida State, 2008 Florida, and 2003 LSU) all lost a game.
The third category of dominance is number of wins by twenty or more points.Alabama ranks very highly by this measure. Ten of their twelve wins came by 20 or more points. The only victims that were able to hold the margin under 20 points were Penn State (16 points) and perhaps surprisingly, Mississippi State (17 points). 1995 Nebraska is tied with 2008 Florida atop the list. The Cornhuskers lone victory by fewer than 20 points in 1995 came against Washington State (14 points).
The final category of dominance is performance away from home. The table below ranks the 21 teams by their road/neutral field scoring margin. Their road/neutral field record is also listed.Once again, the Crimson Tide do not disappoint. Only 1995 Nebraska (sensing a trend?) and 2005 Texas fared better on the road than Alabama. Once again five of the top-eight teams in road scoring margin lost a game (2011 Alabama, 2008 Florida, 2003 LSU, 2003 Southern Cal, and 1993 Florida State). Perhaps more interestingly, 2011 Alabama, 2008 Florida, and 2003 LSU all lost at home! The most surprising number on this chart belong to 2001 Miami. The Hurricanes are widely regarded as one of the best champions of the BCS-era, and they do rank third in scoring margin, first in scoring ratio, and tied for third in wins by 20 or more points. However, their road/neutral field performance ranks only 15th. The Hurricanes struggled mightily in a pair of road games against decent, but hardly dominant conference foes. They beat Boston College 18-7, in a game with a misleading final thanks to a steal of an interception and return by Ed Reed. See below.
They also edged Virginia Tech 26-24. Both of those teams managed 8-4 marks, but neither was a great.
So where does 2011 Alabama rank in terms of champions of the past two decades? For my money, 1995 Nebraska is head and shoulders above everyone else. However, after the Cornhuskers, I think Alabama belongs in the conversation with 2008 Florida, 2005 Texas, 2001 Miami, and 1993 Florida State (a very underrated champion) as the second best champion. And who is the worst? No one team stands completely out, but two certainly do. Its a close race between either 2006 Florida or 2002 Ohio State.