Question #1 – Can the Tide Three-Peat?

In case you haven’t heard, Alabama is the Associated Press’ top-ranked team headed into the 2013 season and, for sure, it’s a familiar spot for the Tide.  Under Nick Saban, ‘Bama has held the top ranking at some point in each of the last six seasons.

But as the A.P. reminds us, achieving the ranking isn’t the hard part:

Now Saban’s Tide is trying to accomplish something Bear’s boys never could. Twice Alabama won back-to-back championships under Bryant, but couldn’t get the third.

Ultimately, this is the final question as we study this year’s team:  Can the Tide win three national championships in a row?

According to my crack research, only 30 college football teams have won a national championship (A.P. or coaches poll).  Of those 30, only 18 have won twice and just 11 have won three or more.

The opportunity for a three-peat rarely comes along**:

  • Alabama (1966 and 1980);
  • Notre Dame (1948);
  • Oklahoma (1957 and 1976);
  • Southern Cal (1973 and 2005);
  • Miami (1988 and 1990);
  • Nebraska (1972 and 1996);
  • Minnesota (1942);
  • Texas (1971); and
  • Florida (2007)

[** These are the years, either in the middle or at the end of multiple titles that would have created a three-peat.]

This year’s team has several key things going for it.

First, Alabama is extremely talented.  As has been the case under Nick Saban, each of his teams has been more talented than the previous edition.  That’s the case this year, for sure.  There are a couple of positions that created concern (offensive and defensive line, anyone?), but the concern is not talent; it’s when the players there become stars.

Another advantage is the Tide’s schedule.  Though anything can happen on any give Saturday, Alabama is looking at a 2-and-10 schedule.  That means two pretty tough games and 10 others.  That’s not to say the Tide couldn’t lose any of those, but it should be favored in all 12.  Three of the toughest games – Virginia Tech, Texas A&M and LSU – also have an open week the week before.

So if talent and the schedule line up in the Tide’s favor, what could go wrong?

A lot of things, I guess.  An injury to AJ McCarron would for sure be devastating.  There will always be players doing stupid things.  Or perhaps a team will rise up the way Texas A&M did last year.  But I think the biggest thing to be concerned about is if the team is simply unmotivated.

Winning a national championship is rare.  As I mentioned above, only 30 programs have won either an A.P. or coaches’ poll title.  That’s not many.  And it’s especially difficult to climb the mountain two years in a row.  It’s just human nature for most of us to become satisfied with success.  So how will the program respond to the hunt for a third?

There are three things I think about this:

1) It’s never been done before, and though it is possible, it is statistically very doubtful.  For those teams that win two in a row or two out of three, there’s always something that happens in that third year.

2) On the other hand, I would suspect the motivation for a third title is a bit different than that for the second.  Surely there should be a different mindset with this much history on the line.

3) There’s also the “pressure” of the situation to be handled.  I don’t think the 2010 team handled the pressure well.  There was a winning streak, a fat and happy streak and apparently some suspect leadership.  This year’s team – thanks to the Aggies – doesn’t have a streak to deal with and, in fact, last year’s loss will most certainly motivate this year’s team.

I guess all we have to do now is wait and see if history is made.  I think we’ll know a lot more after week three of the season.