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Alabama Dynasty in BCS Era: First Among Equals or Overhyped?

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Alabama Dynasty in BCS Era: First Among Equals or Overhyped?
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Alabama's quest for a BCS championship three-peat in all likelihood ended on the dramatic final play of the Iron Bowl, when Chris Davis ran 109 yards to take home a missed field goal for the winning touchdown. While the Tide are a lock to play in a BCS bowl this year, they'll miss out on that most elusive of prizes.

Since the AP poll began crowning national champions in 1936, no team has ever won three consecutive titles. The team that came closest was USC in 2005, but it blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead and gave up the winning touchdown with 19 seconds to play to lose to Texas, 41-38, in the epic 2006 Rose Bowl game. 

And the BCS era will probably end with just one team playing in three consecutive title games—and that would be Florida State, whose 1999 title was bracketed by losses in the 1998 and 2000 games. Until their loss in the Iron Bowl, the Crimson Tide were on a quest to equal that achievement (and surpass it) by winning a third consecutive BCS Championship Game.

BCS Era Dynasties
Team Years Record (Win %) Titles BCS Bowls Win Streak Final AP
USC 2002-08 82-9 (.901) 2* 7 34 1-4
Miami 2000-03 46-4 (.920) 1 4 34 1-5
Alabama 2008-13 72-8 (.900) 3 5 19 1-10
Florida 2006-09 48-7 (.873) 2 3 22 1-13
Oklahoma 2000-04 60-7 (.896) 1 4 20 1-6
Florida St. 1998-00 34-4 (.895) 1 3 17 1-5

* Includes 2003 AP title

Is Alabama's budding dynasty truly over, or is this just a blip on the road? History suggests that when a dominating run is halted suddenly, getting back to the top might be harder than it first looks. The last time Alabama won consecutive AP championships was 1978-79 and it took 13 years and three coaching changes before it claimed the next title.

Recent examples also don't bode well for the Tide to reboot the dynasty, either. After USC's dramatic loss at the Rose Bowl ended its 34-game winning streak, the Trojans had a chance to return to the title game the following season. But they were denied after a stunning upset loss to UCLA in the regular-season finale and haven't been back since.

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The same could be said for the two other programs with dynastic pretensions in the BCS era—neither Miami nor Florida has been back in the title game after a sudden end to their respective runs.

If Alabama's dynasty is truly over, then let's examine just how great of a run that was. Could it really be called the most dominant stretch in the BCS era, or was it more hype than substance?

There are certainly glaring holes on the Tide's resume. During their six-year reign that began in 2008, they've won the SEC just twice. Over the last four years, they've won the division just once. In fact, during those same four years, Auburn took the SEC West more often (twice) than did Alabama (once).

Alabama certainly was an immense beneficiary of the quirky rules of the BCS in 2011—in any other era it would never have had the opportunity to win the national title that season. Getting that mulligan went a long way in weaving together the dynastic narrative, otherwise winning two titles in four seasons would've been commendable, but far from exceptional. 

The 2011 title falls further under scrutiny because the Tide, by virtue of not advancing to play in a conference championship game, faced only nine BCS conference teams in a 12-game schedule when other title contenders had to play at least one, sometimes two more quality opponents. LSU, their opponent in the BCS title game, went 11-0 against BCS conference teams during the regular season while the Tide went only 8-1. That Alabama team also became the only non-independent team in history to claim the national title without winning its conference (or division).

BCS Era Champions Schedule Analysis
Season Team Record vs. Major Conf. Teams* FCS Games
1998 Tennessee 10-0 0
1999 Florida State 10-0 0
2000 Oklahoma 9-0 0
2001 Miami (Fla.) 10-0 0
2002 Ohio State 10-0 0
2003 LSU 9-1 1
2003 USC 9-1 0
2004 USC 10-0 0
2005 Texas 10-0 0
2006 Florida 9-1 1
2007 LSU 8-2 0
2008 Florida 10-1 1
2009 Alabama 10-0 1
2010 Auburn 10-0 1
2011 Alabama 8-1 1
2012 Alabama 9-1 1

*Regular season, including conference championship games

Taken all together, it isn't unreasonable to consider the Tide's recent success one of the better runs in the BCS era, but certainly not its best one—let alone among the all-time greats in history. Nick Saban and Co. can change that assessment, however, by stringing together a couple more titles in the dawn of the College Football Playoff era.

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