Alabama Football: Expectation and reality for undefeated seasons

Alabama football and an undefeated season is the latest offseason buzz. Let’s look at the Tide history and the 2018 probability the Tide could run the table.

Within days of the 2017 Alabama football national championship, college football pundits began dispensing rat poison about 2018. Not only were some media members predicting a 2018 championship repeat for the Crimson Tide – a few went so far as to predict a perfect season.

The fact perfect seasons are a rarity in college football may not be being fully considered. Alabama football has only accomplished nine undefeated and untied seasons in 123 seasons of college football. Ten if Coach Allen McCants’ 1897 team is counted. For those interested,  a quick summary of the ten seasons is provided at the end of this post.

Back to expectations. It takes little to nothing to ramp up expectations of many Alabama football fans. Speaking on the Paul Finebaum Show, reporter, now radio personality, Aaron Suttles said,

I have been told behind-the scenes there’s a growing frustration with a lack of appreciation. If the team doesn’t go perfect the fan base gets a little upset.

Do we fans expect too much?

Suttles was suggesting among those frustrated is Nick Saban. Actually, that is old news, Terry Saban talked about it more than four years ago. And she was not wrong. Alabama football is a program that is measured by national championships. Expectations are irrationally high but it was that way before Nick Saban came to Alabama and it will be that way after he is gone.

Given every season, national championship pressure on the players and the coaches, predictions of perfect seasons are neither needed or even welcomed.

Back in January Saturday Down South editor Chris Wright got the 2018 perfect season talk started.

It’s risky business any time you predict somebody will go undefeated. But it’d easier to envision the Tide going 15-0 than somebody actually knocking them off next season.

This week Vegas expert, Brian Edwards told SEC Country the Crimson Tide will be favored by double-digit points in every regular season game except at LSU (-8) and added “Alabama is going to go 12-0” in the regular season.

Let’s look at the Alabama football history of perfect seasons

The observations above are some serious rat poison. Alabama football history, even with a string of national championship coaches, shows how small are the odds for perfect seasons. Wallace Wade had two perfect seasons in his 24 season head coaching career, both at Alabama. Frank Thomas had two in his health-shortened 15 season career.

Paul Bryant was a head coach for 38 seasons. He had only three perfect seasons, and like the others, all at Alabama. Gene Stallings in 14 seasons and Nick Saban in 22 seasons have both had one team with a perfect record. Take the 123 seasons of Alabama football and nine perfect seasons and the historical probability for the Crimson Tide is 7.3 percent.

About that 10th perfect season in 1897 – the record was 1-0. The University disallowed any away games in 1897, so the Tide competed in just one home contest. The edict stayed in place in 1898 so the football team decided to skip that season entirely. The administration came to its senses and removed the away game ban and the Tide returned to the field in 1899.

The nine perfect seasons are 1925 and 1930 under Wallace Wade; 1934 and 1945 under Frank Thomas; 1961, 1966 and 1979 under Paul Bryant and 1992 and 2009 under Gene Stallings and Nick Saban. There are quite a few more undefeated seasons that a single tie kept from being perfect.

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