DYNASTY by the numbers

(In the words of the author)

Many books have been written about Alabama football over the last dozen years, but this one is unique. It focuses on the dominance of the program under Nick Saban... and does so through data visualization. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s just a fancy way of saying the book uses a lot of graphs and charts to tell stories with numbers. 

 

The main theme is not that the Crimson Tide have been the best in college football since 2008 or 2009 (pick your starting point). That should be obvious. The more interesting story is how much better Bama has been than everyone else. This is where the numbers come in handy.

 

Nothing like this could’ve been written 15 or more years ago, because the wealth of data necessary to tell this story from so many different angles just wasn’t available then. And in this era of advanced statistics and analytics, only two teams in mainstream American sports have sustained excellence long enough to generate so many pages of highlights: Alabama football and the New England Patriots. The NFL, of course, has too much parity for even the Patriots to dominate the regular season the way Bama has. Thus, no other program or franchise is the subject of a book like this.

 

One of the few drawbacks to being dominant for so long is that great players and great moments that were part of championship seasons are somewhat forgotten as new players and moments come along.  That’s why the photographs in this book are so enjoyable. All-Americans and pivotal plays throughout the Saban era are presented in full color by Kent Gidley and the Alabama athletics photography team, inducing memories from years past while also complementing the surrounding data.

 

The book is divided into four sections. The first (and largest) contains many accomplishments and distinctions of the program in general. Next is a compilation of some highlights specific to the offense, followed by a look at how the defense and special teams have excelled. Finally, there’s a section dedicated to the 2020 team, which was, by the numbers, Saban’s best and also among the greatest in the history of the sport – certainly, a frontrunner for best offense of all time.

 

The conclusion offers some perspective on the direction the program seems to be heading. If you’re a fan of a different team or just like to root for the underdog, that’s a page you might want to skip.

 

One final point: even though the book was written with Alabama fans in mind, this isn’t information filtered through crimson-colored glasses. It’s page after page of facts. The numbers are essentially quantifying “the Process” that has led to such unparalleled success. And it’s even more impressive if you understand how changes in the sport made it necessary for Saban to adjust his approaches to offense, defense and recruiting along the way.

 

Much more could’ve been written, but my goal was to restrict the contents of the book to things that should make you say “Wow!” These are numbers that still amaze me, even though I’ve been looking at them for a long time. And many of the stats and streaks mentioned in the book are still active because, as we all know, this run of dominance hasn’t yet ended.

 

But whether Bama wins more national titles under Saban or not, it’s possible (if not probable) that no program will ever experience this level of success again. And in case this is the high point, I wanted to document it thoroughly, so that many fans who have started to take excellence for granted might see just how extraordinary this era has been.

 

College football has always been fertile ground for arguments and controversy, and rarely has greatness been undisputed. In that regard, Saban’s Tide have taken the fun out of the sport for many pundits and opposing fans. As this book will make clear, Alabama’s dominance has become so thorough that it can hardly be debated any longer.