The Top 30 seasons in Alabama Football History

Charlie MillsonCorrespondent IDecember 6, 2010

The Top 30 seasons in Alabama Football History

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    Sometimes, even God borrows Alabama crimson.
    Sometimes, even God borrows Alabama crimson.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The sports world remains divided between winners and losers.

    Count the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football program among the former.

    Starting in 1892 with a 56-0 victory, the program has gone on to hold the collegiate record for most bowl games played, most bowl game victories and proudly points to 13 national championships as well as 26 conference crowns.

    One-hundred-thirteen-times times a player wearing Alabama Crimson has been named a first team All American. Twenty-three players and coaches with a 'Bama affiliation find their names enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

    Boasting over 800 victories spanning the history of the program, the Tide also has 29 seasons in which at least 10 games were won.

    Choosing the best 30 seasons from over 110 years of the storied program might seem simple at first, but with so many stellar seasons to choose from, picking the Top 30 may not be enough. 

    Here they are, in no particular order.

1920 Season: 10-1 Record

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    Xen Scott's 'Bama teams were 29-9-3.
    Xen Scott's 'Bama teams were 29-9-3.

    What can you say about a team that allows only two offensive touchdowns an entire season? That's what Xen Scott's 1920 Alabama team did.

    The 1919 Tide squad finished 8-1 under Scott, and the momentum from that season carried over to the next year. The team would go on to win the SIAA conference title.

    Yes, the defense was stellar; it didn't give up a single point in the first six games and didn't even give up a first down in the season opener.

    The sole loss was to an opportunistic Georgia squad that turned three 'Bama turnovers into points as the Tide lost to the Bulldogs, 21-14. 

    Setting records at the time for consecutive wins and most wins in a season, the 1920 Alabama team is one for the ages.

1971 Season: 11-1 Record

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    John Mitchell didn't just play, he excelled.  He now coaches in the NFL.
    John Mitchell didn't just play, he excelled. He now coaches in the NFL.

    The 1971 Alabama team had two immediately noticeable and notable changes. First, black players were now found on the roster. Secondly, the team had changed offenses; it now ran the wishbone.

    The pounding the Tide and coach Bear Bryant had received the year before at the hands of USC forced one if not both of the changes.  

    Alabama sprang the new offense on USC in the rubber match and won the contest, 17-10 to exact some measure of revenge. The wishbone then became the staple of Bryant's teams of the 1970s, which were some of the Tide's most successful years.

    The inclusion of black players not only elevated the level of play for the Tide. Much of the south still struggled with integration, but the fact that the team itself was now integrated helped much of the next generation of Tide fans to accept the changes and see them as good.

    Alabama had little trouble that season, finishing the regular season at 11-0. The final matchup against rival Auburn was the first time both teams entered the contest with perfect records. However, the Tide won this one easily, pulling away for a 31-7 victory.

    The only thing keeping this version of the Tide from another national title was the devastating loss to eventual national champ Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. 

    But because it was a sign of things to come both on and off the field, the 1971 edition of the Tide football team deserves to be in the Top 30.

1945 Season : 10-0 Record

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    The Rose Bowl has been the site of many of Alabama's great moments.
    The Rose Bowl has been the site of many of Alabama's great moments.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The fall of 1945 saw great rejoicing by Tide fans. First of all, World War II ended that spring in Europe and that late summer in the Pacific. Secondly, Alabama had one of its best football seasons in history.

    The Tide posted 430 points and gave up only 80 that year. Three shutouts paved the way, but the offense, too, held its own, putting up at least 50 points in five of the 10 wins that year.

    Harry Gilmer was the star of that team; against the Wildcats of Kentucky, Gilmer rushed only six times, but he ran for 216 yards on the day.

    In nine of the 10 games, Alabama scored a touchdown on the opening drive.

    Once again, and for the sixth time in the past 20 years, the Tide made the trek to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl where the team faced USC. It was no contest; at the half, 'Bama led 20-0 and had held the Trojans to -24 yards on offense. 

    The game ended a 34-14 blowout, causing USC's head coach to remark about Alabama's Frank Thomas, "There's a great coach!"

    Some say that the dominance that year by the Tide caused the Rose Bowl to start, the next season, limiting the participants in the game to the winners of the Pacific Coast Conference and the Big 9, a system that would remain in place until the BCS system was implemented.

    For the fourth time, the Crimson Tide finished with a perfect season. But in the final polls, the Tide finished 3rd behind Army (with Blanchard and Davis) and Navy (with a 7-1-1 record). While some point to the feeling of intense patriotism that may have contributed to some voters putting the service academies ahead of the Tide, 'Bama fans certainly had a lot to cheer about in the fall of 1945.

1924 Season: 8-1 Record

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    Wallace Wade became a legend at two southern schools: Alabama and Duke.
    Wallace Wade became a legend at two southern schools: Alabama and Duke.

    In only his second year at the helm at Tuscaloosa, head coach Wallace Wade brought the Tide back to the type of success Xen Scott had brought a few years before.

    The 1924 version of Alabama football saw six shutouts in the first seven games, including wins over powerhouses Georgia Tech (14-0), Sewanee (14-0 also) and an overwhelming victory (61-0) over Ole Miss.

    The only blemish on the season was too tiny but powerful Centre College, a team that had tied Kentucky. Despite 'Bama beating the Wildcats by over 30, Centre handed the Tide a 17-0 loss.

    The reason this squad is one of our favorites is that the 1924 squad won its first Southern Conference championship with a perfect conference record.

1972 Season: 10-2 Record

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    "Shug, they don't make 'em like they used to." "Nope, Bear; they shore don't."
    "Shug, they don't make 'em like they used to." "Nope, Bear; they shore don't."

    Some may wonder why the 1972 Crimson Tide team is on a list of the top 30 'Bama teams of all time. The three terrible words, "Punt, 'Bama, Punt!" are forever etched in stone on the grave marker of that season.

    But the Tide that year was a Top 10 team from start to finish. And it was as dominant as it was a season earlier except for the Iron Bowl and the close loss to Texas, 17-13, in the Cotton Bowl.

    The season included another SEC championship and wins over No. 10 Tennessee and No. 6 LSU. The highest the Tide climbed that year in the polls was No. 2; the lowest was No. 7 at the beginning of the year. There have been few years when Alabama was a top ten team the entire season.

    And, even though the loss to Auburn should have been a win (a 12-point lead with five minutes left), the loss to the Tigers stung so badly that the Tide didn't lose to their rivals again for a decade.

    All of this makes the 1972 Tide team a memorable one in our history.

1936 Season: 8-0-1 Record

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    The band-aid is kinda small compared to the major facial reconstructive surgery this guy will soon need.
    The band-aid is kinda small compared to the major facial reconstructive surgery this guy will soon need.

    For yet another year, the 1936 version of the Tide went through a football campaign undefeated. While the offense was good early on, it was the defense that won several of the games that year, posting five shut outs. The only caveat to that statement was the way the defense almost lost it against Georgia Tech after going up 20-0 and winning eventually by 20-16.

    The lone tie was against rival Tennessee; 'Bama almost won that game outright, however, but the first half ended with the Tide on the Vol one yard line, and the team never threatened thereafter.

    That year saw the first Associated Press college football poll, and Alabama finished fourth in the final voting.

    That's good enough to give coach Frank Thomas's team for the 1936 season a solid place in the 'Bama top 30.

1964 Season: 10-1 Record

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    Makes your heart glad just to look at 'em, don't it?
    Makes your heart glad just to look at 'em, don't it?

    In 1963, the Tide had what we now call a "down" year; they went 9-2.

    The 1964 team 'returned to prominence' by going 10-1.

    Funny, isn't it?

    But the team was, in many respects, a mirror image of the previous year's squad. Namath's stats were almost identical. There were several close games; Florida and quarterback Steve Spurrier were beaten by three at Denny Stadium, LSU was beaten by 8 at Legion Field.

    While 'Bama won some games handily that year, Bear didn't really care about blowouts; he just won, baby.

    And, at season's end, when the Tide was undefeated going into the bowl games, the voters voted 'Bama National Champs.

    And, once again (and not for the last time), the Tide lost in the bowl game. This time, the loss was to Texas in the Orange Bowl, 21-17.

    But it still counts, right?

1937 Season: 9-1 Record

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    Wow, that giant rose is about to crush those hapless players.
    Wow, that giant rose is about to crush those hapless players.

    It was another undefeated regular season for Coach Thomas's team. In four of those wins that year, the Tide scored a total of 40 points. Likewise, four wins that season were by seven years or less. Nevertheless, the Crimson Tide finished the regular season 9-0 and won the team's third Southeastern Conference Championship.

    For the fifth time in a little more than a decade, the Tide went bowling in Pasadena. This time, the opponent was a Cal team that was likewise undefeated. The game was billed in some quarters as one of several 'games of the century'.

    Unfortunately, Alabama suffered defeat for the first time in the Rose Bowl. Eight turnovers, four fumbles and four interceptions would do in any team.

    Despite this, the Tide only lost 13-0. One of the fumbles was at the Cal one and another was at the Golden Bear six.

    The final AP poll, for the second year in a row, had the Tide in at No. 4.

    We have the 1937 team as one of the Tide's greatest.

1977 Season: 11-1 Record

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    Rutledge and the Tide wuz robbed in the final rankings that year.
    Rutledge and the Tide wuz robbed in the final rankings that year.

    The 1977 Alabama Crimson Tide won a national championship on the field. Where they did not win it was in the final polls. We clearly remember the sense of outrage when No. 3 Alabama won its Sugar Bowl in spectacular fashion against Ohio State, 35-6 but saw No. 5 Notre Dame leap frog them for the national championship.

    In 1977 Alabama returned to its rightful stop at the head of the SEC standings, going 11-1 on the year. The only blemish was a 31-24 loss to Nebraska in Week 2, a game that saw Jeff Rutledge throw five picks.

    But that loss was more than made up for a few weeks later when the Tide beat No. 1 USC by two points in Los Angeles. The rest of the season saw few surprises, except that the final before the bowl polls inexplicably shoved the Tide from No. 2 to No. 3. That set up the travesty of the Notre Dame stolen national crown.

    Yet, we're not bitter.

    We'd much rather be Alabama than Notre Dame, especially these days. But we digress. The 1977 team, which arguably could be one of 'Bama's greatest, could easily be one of the team's top 20 of all time.

1962 Season: 10-1 Record

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    Were Joe Willie and the world ever this young? Apparently, yes.
    Were Joe Willie and the world ever this young? Apparently, yes.

    One point. One point. One point in a 7-6 loss against Georgia Tech in November, when the Tide was ranked No. 1 in the nation, dropped the team to fifth nationally, and the team could climb no higher with only two games to go in the season.

    Coming off the 1961 national championship team, Alabama had to break in a new quarterback by the name of Joe Willie Namath. The kid did good, leading the team to nine wins, and he made it look easy. Five wins that season saw the team score at least 35 points. 

    The team even beat Oklahoma, 17-0, in the Orange Bowl.

    But the day of the Georgia Tech loss, Namath looked like a rookie, throwing four INTs.

    The loss to Tech no only cost the team a chance at repeating as national champs, but it also cost the team an SEC crown.

    But that one point isn't enough to make the 1962 Tide team go away in our minds.

1926 Season: 9-0-1 Record

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    Somebody's gonna be hurt on this play, I guarantee.
    Somebody's gonna be hurt on this play, I guarantee.

    The 1926 team is hard to figure out. On one hand, the defense shut out opponents six times and allowed only seven points or fewer the other four games. And, yes; the offense blew out rivals Georgia, Florida, LSU and Georgia Tech.

    On the other hand, few stars were on the team. The Pooley Huberts and Johnny Mack Browns from recent successful seasons were now graduated and gone. So this no-name team had great defense and good offense. Ending the season 9-0, the Tide was, once again, invited to the Rose Bowl to take on another undefeated west coast team.

    This year, it was Stanford that the Tide faced. Stanford came in at 10-0, led by head coaching legend Pop Warner. According to some sources, the game was the first broadcast nationally via the relatively new medium of radio.

    The 'Bama squad that was fairly dominant in the south during the season must not have come west on this trip; the Cardinal dominated play throughout, eventually winning the yardage battle against the Tide, 305-98. But Stanford had trouble turning those yards into points, and the Tide found themselves with a chance to tie it up late in the fourth quarter.

    Deep in Stanford territory after a blocked punt, Alabama effected what amounted to a quick count that caught Stanford off guard. The ensuing touchdown and extra point made the game a 7-7 tie that would eventually be the basis for a recognized shared national title.

    That championship tie game makes the 1926 version of the Tide one of the top 20 among 'Bama's top 30 seasons.

1975 Season: 11-1 Record

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    RT never lost an SEC game as a starter. Not a bad resume.
    RT never lost an SEC game as a starter. Not a bad resume.

    This 1975 team was supposed to be playing for a national championship. But somebody forgot to tell that to Mizzou in the season opener, for the Tigers beat the Tide, 20-7.

    After that, however, the scenario played out as forecast. The Crimson Tide won the rest of their games each by double digits.

    For the fifth time in a row (a record), the Tide won the SEC crown and their in-conference win streak sat at 22 games by season's end.

    And, for the first time in nine seasons, the Tide won a bowl game. Coach Bryant defeated a young(ish) Joe Paterno in the Sugar Bowl, 13-6. The final ranking for the Crimson Tide that year was No. 3 in both major polls.

    1975 also saw the first time the Tide played in newly-renamed Bryant-Denny Stadium.

    But despite that one early season blight on an otherwise perfect season, this 1975 team deserves to be one of our Top 30 teams of all time.

1991 Season: 11-1 Record

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    In our honest opinion, Palmer ranks as one of the greatest 'Bama players of all time.
    In our honest opinion, Palmer ranks as one of the greatest 'Bama players of all time.

    We can't understand why the 1991 Alabama football team doesn't get more respect.

    Sure, they got their hats handed to them by Florida in the second game of the season. But beyond that, the nucleus of the following year's national championship team found out during this 1991 season what it meant to be a winner.

    It was coach Gene Stallings's second year at the helm at the Capstone, and he put his mark on this team. Jay Barker took over the starting job when Danny Woodson went down and later was disciplined for breaking team rules. Sirhan Stacy and David Palmer emerged as team leaders. Antonio Langham made his presence felt.

    Perhaps it was a series of hard fought, close games in which the Tide emerged victorious that cause us to like this team. Perhaps it was defeats of the Nos. 25, 8 and 15 teams during the year that make us take notice.

    Whatever it is, we like 'em.

    The 1991 season also saw a split national championship, with undefeated Miami and undefeated Washington sharing honors. Other than those two, Alabama had the next best record with only the one loss. Yet the Tide finished fifth in national polls.

    We think enough of this team to make them our No. 19 'Bama team all time.

1934 Season: 10-0 Record

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    Champeens.  Wonder what those westerners thought of Our Boys?
    Champeens. Wonder what those westerners thought of Our Boys?

    It's rare that a team has only one close game in a season. But the 1934 Tide team was just such a team.

    Pesky Tennessee took the Crimson Tide to the wire before succumbing, 13-6. All other regular season games were won by at least 20 points!

    And, again, the Tide was invited to the Rose Bowl to face another Stanford team. The California team was also undefeated (9-0-1), but they were no match for the tenacious Tide. Final score Alabama 29, Stanford 13.

    This year, the Tide won with the pass. Coach Frank Thomas amazed the opponents and the fans alike by using two consensus All Americans. 'Bama's quarterback Dixie Howell threw often and well to receiver Don Hutson, and defenses couldn't stop them.

    In the Rose Bowl, Howell was 9-of-12 passing, and Hutson caught six of those for 164 yards and two scores. Howell also punted for an almost 45-yard average that day.

    After vanquishing all opponents that year, the Crimson Tide was rewarded with another national championship.

1992 Season: 13-0 Record

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    "Teague's got the ball!" still gives us chills when we hear it.
    "Teague's got the ball!" still gives us chills when we hear it.

    It seemed fitting that, in the year marking 100 years of Alabama football, the Crimson Tide would win another national title.

    The team was defense-driven; it led the nation in fewest points allowed (9.2 per game during the regular season). 

    The year also marked the first SEC championship game, and, fittingly, it was won by the team with the most SEC titles.

    This time, the No. 2 ranked Tide had to face a heavily favored No. 1 Miami team and their Heisman Trophy winner, Geno Torretta.  Instead, Torretta's Hurricanes were dominated by the Tide's defense; Alabama won the game and the National Championship going away, 34-13.

    Few who remember the game when it was played and many in the ensuing years watching the video of the game can never forget television announcer Keith Jackson's exclamation, "Teague's got the ball!" when the 'Bama defender stripped a Miami receiver who seemed to be headed for the end zone.

    The play epitomized the season as well as the game, as the Tide came from nowhere under the coaching of Gene Stallings to win it all. 

1930 Season: 10-0 Record

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    Dude!  Break out the striped jerseys next season!  Just be sure to have a Nike Swoop(tm) on 'em.
    Dude! Break out the striped jerseys next season! Just be sure to have a Nike Swoop(tm) on 'em.

    Wallace Wade had what many call his best team during his last season at the Capstone. The 1930 Alabama team was declared National Champs after a perfect season and a 24-0 shellacking of Washington in the Rose Bowl.

    How dominating was this team? Think of this: of the 10 games, eight were shutouts. The other two games, in which opponents scored, saw Tennessee get six points and Vanderbilt accrue seven.

    Wade often messed with the other team's head; he would start his scrubs in many games, only to see them hold the opponents scoreless. Then he would put in his 'starters' and see them run up the score.

    In fact, that strategy is precisely what he did in the Rose Bowl. The over matched Huskies were stunned. Johnny Cain was the star of the team (fullback, linebacker, punter), and he was only a sophomore. The rest of the starting 11 were seniors.

    Wade left for Duke (Duke!), but Alabama's fortunes would stay good under new coach Frank Thomas.

2009 Season: 14-0 Record

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    Yep, we took pictures of this just like every other 'Bama fan in the stadium did.
    Yep, we took pictures of this just like every other 'Bama fan in the stadium did.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    What can be said about the 2009 version of the Crimson Tide that has not been said already? Let's just look at some highlights:

    • National Champs
    • Alabama's first Heisman Trophy winner
    • Record for wins in a season
    • Butkus and Broyles award winners
    • Four wins against Top 25 teams in regular season
    • Back-to-back wins against the No.1 and No. 2 teams in the nation
    • Cosgrove and Sagarin ranked the schedule the nation's most difficult
    • Wins over the three previous national champions

    Without a doubt, 2009 was among the greatest seasons for the program.

1966 Season: 11-0 Record

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    Yeah, celebrating a national crown is what should have happened in January, 1967. Too bad.
    Yeah, celebrating a national crown is what should have happened in January, 1967. Too bad.

    Some have argued that the 1966 Tide was Bryant's best team of that decade. The voters in the season's final polls disagreed. They gave the Tide a No. 3 ranking.

    Clearly, the Tide was robbed. Some have also suggested that the reason the team was snubbed was that 'Bama had failed to integrate its team. Some say that the voters wanted to send a message to the state itself that segregation was a thing of the past, beginning with the football program.

    The argument holds water to some degree; the Tide was the two-time defending champs and was the only unbeaten and untied team in the land (Notre Dame and Michigan State both went 9-0-1 when the Notre Dame coach decided to go for the tie rather than the win). Those two teams thus finished 1-2 in the polls, with 'Bama third.

    Here's the resume on the field. The defense gave up a paltry 37 points. For the third straight year, the Tide was the SEC champ. Again, pesky Tennessee was the close game, with 'Bama having to come back from being 10 points down in the fourth quarter.

    Kenny Stabler was among the heroes of the year, and he would lead the Tide to a blowout of No. 6 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, 34-7.

    This year may, indeed, be the year of the Lost Ring.

1925 Season: 10-0 Record

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    Pooley? Why don't we have nicknames like that anymore. And again, I say; bring back the striped jerseys!
    Pooley? Why don't we have nicknames like that anymore. And again, I say; bring back the striped jerseys!

    1925 was the Crimson Tide's first real perfect season. And Wallace Wade's squad ripped new holes in opponents throughout that fall. Only Birmingham Southern (!) managed to score a gimme touchdown on the Tide that year after recovering a 'Bama fumble almost in the red zone and getting two helpful penalties.

    Otherwise, the Crimson Tide dominated both sides of the ball all year.

    Pooley Hubert and Johnny Mack Brown were the team's stars, and kids all over vacant lots in the south took on their nicknames as they played their backyard pickup games.

    That Tide team became the first Southern team invited to the Rose Bowl where they were to meet highly regarded Washington. Almost no one said the boys from 'Bama could win; even comedian Will Rogers referred to the team, according to once source, as "Tusca-losers."

    Sure enough, the Huskies took an early two-touchdown lead behind the play of Washington great, HB George Wilson. Then Wilson got hurt and had to leave the game for a time.

    Up stepped Hubert, and not the better-known Brown, and he brought the Tide back, running for one score and passing for another, as 'Bama scored all of its points in the third quarter. It was enough for the 20-19 upset .

    Despite his leadership (and despite besting Brown in most statistical categories), Hubert lost out on the MVP award to Brown.

    It was the Crimson Tide’s first national championship, and it put the program on the national map (in addition to a "signature" win earlier in the decade against traditional power Penn).

    Crowds waited for the conquering Tide at every train station in the south on the return to Tuscaloosa. According to one source, the Crimson Tide had "won the Rose Bowl for the whole South," along with the school's first national title.

1961 Season: 11-0 Record

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    Fracchia was one of the greats who never got to play up to his potential due to injuries.
    Fracchia was one of the greats who never got to play up to his potential due to injuries.

    In his fourth season at Tuscaloosa, Bear Bryant produced a team that was crowned National Champions by both major polls. It was for this Bryant had come from Texas A & M—to restore the legacy of Wade and Thomas.

    Going 11-0, this season's version of the Tide won with a punishing defense (allowing only 25 points all season) and a good offense (Georgia, Tennessee and Auburn lost by a combined score of 100-9). 

    That win over the Volunteers was the first since 1954 and only the second since 1947. 

    The team found leadership on the field in the forms of running back Mike Fracchia (see picture), quarterback Pat Trammell, lineman Billy Neighbors and LB Lee Roy Jordan. 

    The 1961 Tide symbolized what would be the Bryant mantra on the field for the next two decades—Grind it out, beat them up and never quit. Thus, they epitomized the famous Bryant quote, "If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride and never quit, you will be a winner."

    For leading his team to the national title, Bryant was named National Coach of the Year, an award that would eventually bear his name.

1973 Season: 11-1 Record

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    Geez, we hate these guys.  Cried our eyes out that night.
    Geez, we hate these guys. Cried our eyes out that night.

    This season was another instance of the Tide being crowned champs before the bowl games were played. The '73 squad completed the regular season 11–0–0, winning the SEC championship.

    This was a dominating wishbone offensive juggernaut assembled by coach Bryant. Scores that year ranged from 66-0 against Cal in the season opener to 77-6 against Virginia Tech later in the season.

    Even the "Punt, 'Bama, Punt" game of the previous season was wiped out by a 35-0 whipping of rival Auburn; that led many Alabama school children to taunt their Auburn friends for an entire year with the sing-song, "17-16 ain't no more; 35-nothin' is the score."

    Alabama was then invited to play the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. In one of the most exciting games ever played by the Tide, the Irish emerged victorious, 24-23, to hand 'Bama its only loss of the season.

    Because of the controversy after 'Bama's bowl loss, the Coaches' Poll began voting for their champions after the bowl games starting after the next season.

1978 Season: 11-1

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    STILL gives us goose bumps.
    STILL gives us goose bumps.

    One thing an opposing school does not want to do to an Alabama squad is to motivate them. When USC beat the Tide in the 1978 season, 24-14, the team responded by reeling off 28 straight wins.

    The team finished the regular season at 10-1 and were again the SEC champs. These were the days when the 'Bama out of conference schedule included not only USC but also Nebraska and Washington and Missouri.

    But 'Bama beat the rest of them that year, too.

    By early November, the Tide had climbed up to No. 2 in the nation. After dispatching LSU by 21 and Auburn by 18, the Sugar Bowl invited the Tide to take on No. 1 Penn State for the national bragging rights.

    Any school kid 'Bama fan can tell you the story of what happened in that game, how the Tide, leading 14-7, fumbled deep in their own territory with less than six minutes left in the game; how PSU had the ball first and goal and could not get it in; how the Nittany Lion quarterback, Chuck Fusina, was told by Tide defender Marty Lyons, "You better pass," indicating that there was no way the Tide would allow a rushing touchdown.

    And that kid could also tell you that, on 4th-and-goal from inside the one, Lyons and Barry Krauss and the others on the Tide defense rose up and stopped the Nittany Lions, preserving another National Championship and entering Crimson Tide lore forever.

1965 Season: 9-1-1 Record

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    Snake's left thumb is way, way down on his hand; check out his hand print on campus sometime.
    Snake's left thumb is way, way down on his hand; check out his hand print on campus sometime.

    The 1965 Tide wasn't the most dominant team in Alabama history. Several games were hard fought. But sometimes great teams don't have to always be great; they are only great when they have to be, as NFL Films announcer John Facenda once said.

    True enough. Georgia beat the Tide by one in the season opener, and Tennessee's Volunteers tied them in October. They beat Ole Miss by one and Mississippi State by three.

    But then something clicked.  Ken Stabler (see photo) began finding his targets, the defense gelled and the last three opponents in the regular season lost by a combined score of 96-24.

    Going into the bowl games, the Tide sported an 8-1-1 record and was ranked No. 4. They were playing the No. 3 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Orange Bowl. If No. 1 Michigan would lose in the Rose Bowl and No. 2 Arkansas would lose in the Cotton, and if 'Bama could beat Nebraska, then maybe the voters would make the Tide No. 1 when the final polls came out.

    And that's the way it played out.

    'Bama handed the Cornhuskers a 39-28 loss, while Michigan and the Hogs did their parts by losing their bowl games. For the third time in half a decade, Alabama was crowned National Champions.

1974 Season: 11-1 Record

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    That's Sylvester Croom (#59) and his mentor after a victory.
    That's Sylvester Croom (#59) and his mentor after a victory.

    This is the Alabama team that sticks in the minds of our collective youth, those of us over 45. Croom. Baumhower. DuBose. Lowe. Rutledge and Todd. Newsome. Hannah (Charlie). Washington. Cook. Flanagan. 

    We knew these guys because most of 'em played against our teams in Alabama. This was a home-grown team. We hated them when they beat our teams in the state playoffs and then loved them when they played for the Bear.

    With the exception of an odd game against non-entity Florida State, when the Tide almost let the upstarts pull off an upset (final: 8-7 on two field goals and a safety, of all things), most games were not trouble for Alabama; the rest were mostly laughers.

    As such, this year's team was ranked no lower than fifth in the polls; it sat most of the season at No. 2. A bowl game win would probably secure another championship.

    And January 1st gave the Tide a chance to redeem the defeat of the previous year against the hated Irish of Notre Dame.

    But it was not to be. Again, the football gods gave the win to the Domers, this time in the Orange Bowl, 13-11.

1919 Season: 8-1 Record

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    That's Xen Scott on the top row, left.
    That's Xen Scott on the top row, left.

    In the year following the Great War, Alabama football found itself no where near the cream of the southern football crop.

    The squad had no real winning tradition to point to like, say, Sewanee or Georgia Tech or even (gasp!) Auburn.

    Then, to Tuscaloosa, came head coach Xen Scott.

    Scott turned the Crimson Tide (called such for the first time this season, according to some sources) into winners. The team posted an 8-1 record, with the only loss to powerhouse (at the time, they were; trust us) Vanderbilt by a score of 16-12.

    Vandy was the first team to score on the Tide that season after the team posted six shutouts to start the year.  Even Sewanee lost to Scott's team, 40-0.

    The success of the 1919 team led some sportswriters to dub the 1919 Tide the southern champions. The team's success also led to even greater things in the 1920s.

    That's why today's Tide fans owe a great deal to Xen Scott.

1979 Season: 12-0 Record

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    As much as it pains me to say it, sure; Bear wore polyester. But only hippies wore bell bottoms.
    As much as it pains me to say it, sure; Bear wore polyester. But only hippies wore bell bottoms.

    Steadman Shealy and Major Ogilvie sound more like the names on the marquee of a vaudeville act than of two of the key players on the 1979 Alabama National Championship team. But these two spurred the offense that brought another title to Tuscaloosa.

    That championship, to be Bear Bryant's last (and the team's last until Gene Stallings led the Tide back to the Promised Land in 1992), was produced by a team that ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 all season long. Coming off a championship season in 1978, it's no wonder the Tide was set to repeat as champs.

    True, the Tide was tested against Tennessee, having to overcome a 17-0 deficit before winning, 27-17. True, they had to settle for a 3-0 squeaker against LSU despite overwhelming out gaining the Tigers on offense. True, they beat rival Auburn by one measly touchdown. Otherwise, the team scored 30 points or more seven times while the defense shut out their opponents five times.

    But it was enough to send the Tide to the Sugar Bowl where it faced No. 6 Arkansas. There, the Tide went up 17-3 by half and won, 24-9. In doing so, the team earned its 11th national crown.

1933 Season: 7-1-1

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    That's Don Hutson on the right and some no-account kid from Arkansas on the left.
    That's Don Hutson on the right and some no-account kid from Arkansas on the left.

    Guess which SEC team won the league's first championship?

    Frank Thomas's boys earned the new league's title in 1933. Back Dixie Howell the star. End Don Hutson caught passes.

    1933 saw Alabama beat Tennessee 12-6 in Knoxville-giving the Vols their first home loss in seven seasons. It also witnessed 'Bama fighting to a scoreless draw with Ole Miss.

    This team's only loss was to eastern power Fordham. 'Bama gave up a safety to the Rams and lost 2-0.  It was the 1930s when Fordham featured its Seven Blocks of Granite lines, and the Tide certainly ran into that wall in 1933.

    The team is also notable for the debut on the field of a certain sophomore end who played on the opposite end of the line from Hutson.

    His name was Paul Bryant, but everybody called him "Bear."

2008 Season: 12-2 Record

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    John Parker Wilson to Glen Coffee verses LSU in Tuscaloosa.
    John Parker Wilson to Glen Coffee verses LSU in Tuscaloosa.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    It began with the win against Top 10 ranked Clemson.

    Alabama was back.

    The caliber of the opponents made this season memorable; five of them were preseason Top 10 teams (six ranked teams all together). 

    Yep, in only his second season, coach Nick Saban proved that the Alabama brand was once again among college football elites. 

    The regular season saw a record-matching 12 wins against no losses.

    To be sure, no championships were won, not even an SEC crown.

    But for much of the year, the 2008 Alabama Crimson Tide team was the nation's best, boasting a No. 1 ranking going into the SEC championship game.

    Even Florida's Urban Meyer said that his team had to play a perfectly flawless game to beat the Tide, and that's what his team did.

    The let down after the SEC title loss contributed mightily to the whitewash against Utah.

    But in terms of restoring the pride, the hunger and the swagger, the 2008 Crimson Tide season is one to remember. Without it, there would be no 2009.

1994 Season: 12-1 Record

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    Coach Stallings aged visibly during the 1994 season.
    Coach Stallings aged visibly during the 1994 season.Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Gene Stallings had some terrific teams. The 1994 incarnation wasn't necessarily one of them.

    Yet this team won all its regular season games some how. They went on to represent the western division in the SEC title game against Florida. 

    Quarterback Jay Barker passed and handed off to running back Sherman Williams. The defense rose up when it needed to.

    But almost every game that season was a nail biter. 'Bama beat Vandy by 10, Arkansas by seven, Tulane by 10, Georgia by a point, Southern Miss by eight, Tennessee by four, Mississippi State by four and Auburn by a touchdown.

    These 'Cardiac Kids' finally had their magic run out in the SEC title tilt. Florida bested them by only one point, 24-23, which would be the only blemish on their incredibly fortunate season.

    As if to insure its fans wouldn't be bored during the bowl season, this year's version of the Tide beat Ohio State by a touchdown in the Citrus Bowl in January 2nd to end up with a No. 4 ranking on the year.

1931 Season: 9-1 Record

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    Let we forget; we're standing on the shoulders of giants.
    Let we forget; we're standing on the shoulders of giants.

    1931 was coach Frank Thomas's first season in Tuscaloosa. It's not like Wallace Wade had left the cupboard bare, despite losing 10 starters to graduation.

    No, Johnny Cain was still around from the national champion team of 1930, and it was definitely the fullback's team. One of Cain's best weapons was his foot; he was the team's punter, and he won at least two games that season by making opponents have poor field position.

    For his prowess at punting, Cain was named the team's punter on the All-Century Team at Alabama.

    Coach Thomas was a Notre Dame grad who'd played for Knute Rockne: in fact, he'd roomed with a lanky boy named George Gipp.

    The first thing Thomas did at Tuscaloosa was to ditch Wade's single wing attack; thus, it was Rockne's offense that Thomas installed at Tuscaloosa.

    The new offense proved to be potent, for it tallied a whopping 360 points that season compared to only 271 in the championship year the year before.

    The lone loss that year was to a determined Tennessee team; the Vols avenged their only loss the previous season by blanking the Tide, 25-0. That Volunteer team, led by legendary coach Robert Neyland, finished 9-0-1.

30 Seasons of Football Greatness

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    What other stadium can boast this history?
    What other stadium can boast this history?

    Choosing 30 of Alabama's best seasons from the over 110 year history of the program is not easy.

    What we offer here is one opinion.

    Are you looking for what is the best season for the Crimson Tide, the best ever?

    Our picks would have to include 1930, 1945, 1961, 1966, 1979 and 2009 teams. 

    Sorry; we can't choose only one.

    Sometimes, even, it's not about championships.

    Some of the best seasons were ones upon which championships were built in future years; take the first Bryant year when the team's fortunes turned around drastically from the disastrous late 1950s.

    Sure, it wasn't a championship year, but it set the course for championships to come.

    We can also point to similar seasons more recently, such as Nick Saban's first year, or even 2008, as a harbinger of better things to come.

    The legacy of coaching greatness begins with Xen Scott, and it finds a continuous thread through Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul Bryant, Gene Stallings and, now, Nick Saban.

    And we honor the players, the living embodiment of our hopes and dreams and, sometimes to our detriment, even of our identities.

    What we know is that this is a living, thriving legacy because of the coaches and players.

    Soon, it may be that picking only 30 great seasons isn't nearly enough.