Alabama Football: The 800 and 900 clubs of all-time CFB winners

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

As in all things, there are no guarantees in college football. Nonetheless, Nick Saban will drive Alabama football to the most wins in CFB history, catching Michigan.

The college football offseason is an excellent time for reminiscing and future-gazing. As Alabama football fans, looking back and forward can be great fun. Despite what other fanbases contend, we know Alabama football is the all-time greatest program in college football.

Alabama football already has the most SEC championships with 26 of those lofty titles. The next two schools (Tennessee and Georgia), both tied with 13, are so far behind the Tide will at least hold this record for decades.

Counting national championships frequently leads to contentious debate. When to start counting is imprecise by any standard. Consensus over which national championship selectors should be used is unattainable. The NCAA helps – sort of – by listing the ‘major selectors’ every year. Going back very far, before the poll-era, leads to murky results. Trying to give all current Power Five schools fair representation takes a list back to 1900.

Based on the measure defined above, Alabama football leads with 17 claimed national championships. Perhaps 1941 is not justifiable, so being fair, let’s say the number is 16. That still beats all other teams.

Michigan, Notre Dame and USC each claim 11 national championships. Again, for the sake of fairness, we admit Notre Dame could justifiably claim two more. So, tweak the numbers to least advantage of Alabama football and the most advantage to the Irish and the Crimson Tide remains No. 1. in national championships.

What about the most wins of all-time?

Again the question of whom to count, and how far back, is contentious. The Ivy League schools, Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Penn were once powerhouse, major programs. Counting all their wins going back to the 19th century gives Yale, for example, 902 wins. But Yale has not played an upper division college football team since it beat Army in 1955.

Not counting the now Ivy League teams, there are only 11 major college football programs who have won 800 or more games. Michigan leads the list with 943 wins. While Alabama football began play in 1892, the Wolverines go back to 1879.

Then there is the question of whether to count all wins or adjust the on-field results downward due to NCAA vacated and forfeited games. Among the 11 teams, Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC have had wins taken away by NCAA action.

Ignoring the NCAA penalties, and counting all the games actually won on the field, provides this list.

  1. Michigan 943 wins
  2. Alabama 920 wins
  3. Ohio State 910 wins
  4. Notre Dame 906 wins
  5. Texas 898 wins
  6. Nebraska 893
  7. Oklahoma 884 wins
  8. Penn State 878 wins
  9. USC 847 wins
  10. Tennessee 833
  11. Georgia 808

Nick Saban and Alabama football will catch Michigan

Yes, we are making a BOLD claim. But our prediction is reinforced by past performance of the two programs. We presume Nick Saban will coach at least through his current contract which means seven more seasons. Over his past 10 seasons at Alabama, the teams have averaged 12.5 wins each season.

Over the past 10 seasons of Michigan football, the Wolverines have averaged 7.4 wins. Seeking to again be fair, let’s presume that Jim Harbaugh’s three-year win average represents what Michigan will achieve over the next seven seasons. Casting aside those bad Hoke and Rich Rod years takes Michigan to a 9.3 win average.

Based on those adjustments, the record for Alabama football and Michigan, after the 2024 season, will be 1008 wins for each program.

Fooling around with numbers can be great fun. Particularly when the result comes out unfavorable to the most over-rated coach in college football.

Next: On Dabo - Never Say Never

While we are throwing out predictions, here is another. The odds that Dabo Swinney will be the Alabama football, head coach in 2025, should be greater than Harbaugh lasting at Michigan until 2024.