CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Ranking College Football Playoff & BCS Era 20 National Champions: No. 17 2011 Alabama
How do the 20 national champions in the College Football Playoff & BCS rank based on how good their seasons were?
CFN, College Football Playoff & BCS Era National Champions Ranking: No. 17, 2011 Alabama
CollegeFootballNews.com is turning 20 this season, coincidentally starting in 1998 when the Bowl Championship Series era kicked off.
With the BCS, no matter how the teams got there, it was finally No. 1 vs. No. 2 for the national title – that wasn’t a given before – and eventually, it all morphed into the College Football Playoff starting in the 2014 season.
Based on the tried, true, tested and tweaked CFN Historical Season Ranking Formula (criteria breakdown at the bottom of all this), welcome to the ranking of all 20 national champions in the era.
This isn’t about who the most talented or the best national champions were since 1998 – that’s debatable. This is about who had the best and most impressive seasons – the more wins over great teams, the higher the score.
2011 Alabama Season
There was a major controversy in 2003, when USC was left out to the BCS Championship despite being No. 1 in both human polls. There was some debate in 2004, when there were five unbeaten teams and only two – USC and Oklahoma – could play for the national title.
2008 was interesting, too, with a Texas vs. Oklahoma argument ending with the Sooners getting to play Florida for it all, even though they lost to the Longhorns.
But 2011 was something different. It wasn’t just a rematch, it was a second go-round between teams from the same division.
Oklahoma started the season No. 1 in both human polls, but after a few weeks, it became apparent that LSU and Alabama were going to be the season’s biggest stars. By the time the first round of BCS rankings were released, Oklahoma was still unbeaten, but LSU was No. 1 and Alabama was No. 2.
And Oklahoma State was fourth.
Everything was setting up for a showdown between the Tigers and Crimson Tide in the first week of November, and that’s exactly what happened.
Both teams were dominant, no one had come close to making a game close against either juggernaut, and to many, the November 5th date in Tuscaloosa was for the national title.
It wasn’t pretty, but LSU managed to get out with a gritty 9-6 road victory to cement its spot up top. Alabama fell to third, and Oklahoma State moved up to No. 2.
In a quirky weeknight game, the Cowboys lost to Iowa State in a controversial finish on the road, and Alabama took over its place again in the second spot. The Crimson Tide won out with ease, and LSU ripped apart the last four teams on the regular season slate – including Georgia in the SEC title game – by a combined score of 177 to 39.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State bounced back, destroying Oklahoma 44-10 to win the Big 12 title and make its case for a spot in the BCS Championship.
It didn’t matter. Alabama stayed No. 2 in the final BCS standings, meaning that for a team that didn’t win its own division – much less the conference – and lost at home to the top team, got its shot at a rematch for the national title.
And the Crimson Tide, took advantage of its shot.
In one of the great defensive performances of all-time, Alabama shut out a team that scored 500 points on the year, holding it to a grand total of just 92 yards of total offense – Odell Beckham Jr. only caught five passes for 38 yards.
Trent Richardson ran for a touchdown and Jeremy Shelley connected on five of his seven field goal attempts as Alabama won ugly, but won anyway. It was Nick Saban’s second national title as the Crimson Tide head man, and third overall.
– How good was the Alabama defense? Out of all of Saban’s Ds, this one might have come up with the best season. It allowed 106 points on the year, giving up more than ten points just four times and over 14 once – to Georgia Southern from the FCS in a 45-21 win. The defense allowed just 42 points in the second half all season.
2011 Miami was close (117), but the 106 points allowed by 2011 Alabama were the fewest among all 20 national champs.
– No, really. How good was the Alabama defense? It gave up 302 rushing yards to that Georgia Southern option attack, and allowed more than 100 – 107 to Penn State and 148 to LSU the first time around – in two other games. In the other ten combined, Bama allowed just 381 rushing yards, total, and just three rushing scores on the season.
– No, really, how good was the Alabama defense? It allowed six first half touchdowns all season long, and two of them were to Georgia Southern. The 9-6 loss to LSU was the only game remotely competitive.
– Not winning the SEC Championship mattered to the overall season score. In all, there were just six Quality Wins – wins over FBS teams that finished with a winning record – compared to 12 that 2015 Alabama generated. And if Bama beat the Tigers the first time around and went on to win the national title? It would’ve finished in the top ten on the list of champs.
– 17 players from the 2011 team were drafted over the next two years, with seven of those coming in the first round. Eight more players were drafted in 2014.
Opponent Final Record in Parentheses
Sept. 3 Alabama 48, Kent State 7 (5-7)
Sept. 10 Alabama 27, at Penn State 11 (9-4)
Sept. 17 Alabama 41, North Texas 0 (5-7)
Sept. 24 Alabama 38, Arkansas 14 (11-2)
Oct. 1 Alabama 38, at Florida 10 (7-6)
Oct. 8 Alabama 34, Vanderbilt 0 (6-7)
Oct. 15 Alabama 52, at Ole Miss 7 (2-10)
Oct. 22 Alabama 37, Tennessee 6 (5-7)
Nov. 5 LSU 9 (13-1), Alabama 6
Nov. 12 Alabama 24, at Mississippi State 7 (7-6)
Nov. 19 Alabama 45, Georgia Southern 21 (11-3)
Nov. 26 Alabama 42, at Auburn 14 (8-5)
Jan. 9 Alabama 21, LSU 0 (13-1)
CFN Historical Season Rankings Breakdown
Wins: 12 (Kent State, at Penn State, North Texas, Arkansas, at Florida, Vanderbilt, at Ole Miss, Tennessee, at Mississippi State, Georgia Southern, at Auburn, BCS Championship vs. LSU)
Losses: 1 (LSU)
Quality Wins: 6 (at Penn State, Arkansas, at Florida, at Mississippi State, at Auburn, BCS Championship vs. LSU)
Elite Wins: 2.5 (Arkansas, BCS Championship vs. LSU)
Bad Wins: 2 (at Ole Miss, Georgia Southern)
Elite Losses: 1 (LSU)
Point Differential: Alabama 453, Opponents 106
Winning %: 0.917
TOTAL SCORE: 23.637
The Season Formula’s Components
If you win, everything else falls into place. Each win counts as 1.
If you lose, everything stinks. Each loss counts as -1.
3. Quality Wins
The number of wins over teams that finished with a winning record. Each Quality Win counts as 1.
4. Elite Wins
The number of wins over teams that finished with two losses or fewer. Each Elite Win counts as 1 with a road win over an Elite team getting an extra 0.5.
Also counting as 1 is a road win over a team that finished with three losses or fewer (but the extra 0.5 isn’t added). A win over a team that finishes with three losses in a bowl game also gets counts as 1.
5. Bad Loss
The number of losses to teams that finished with three wins or fewer, or a loss to an FCS (DI-AA) team. Each loss counts as minus-1. Take away an additional 0.5 for a Bad Loss at home.
6. Bad Win
The number of wins to teams that finished with three wins or fewer, or a win over a an FCS (D-IAA) team. Each win counts as -0.25
7. Elite Loss
The number of losses to teams that finished with two losses or fewer. Each loss counts as 0.25.
8. Point Differential
Points for minus points against divided by 100.
9. Winning Percentage
Created as a sort of tie-breaker, the winning % is added to the total score.
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell
Photo Credit: LSU Athletic Department