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Prior to college football's Bowl Championship Series, the NCAA wasn't able to crown many consensus national champions. Before 1998, national champions were based on results of formulas and polls. Although no one can dispute the dominance of the University of Alabama's football program, its claim of 14 national championships may be a little suspect. Decide for yourself whether Alabama can really claim 14 national championships by checking out the facts below.
(Note: The NCAA actually lists 19 championships for Alabama, but we'll just examine the school's claimed championships.)
- 1925 Championship: Head coach Wallace Wade led Alabama to its "first" national title with a record of 10-0. Although the Tide was the consensus champion among the different polls, Michigan and Dartmouth picked up enough votes to be consider national champs as well.
- 1926 Championship: Did Wade really bring Alabama back-to-back championships? With a record of 9-0-1, Alabama wasn't the only team to claim a national championship in 1926. Michigan, Dartmouth, Navy and Stanford also laid claims to a championship that year.
- 1930 Championship: As we debate who will win the matchup between Alabama and Notre Dame on Jan. 7, 2013, we also question which of the two was the true champion back in 1930. Both Alabama and Notre Dame had 10-0 seasons, but never got to play each other.
- 1934 Championship: Frank Thomas was the second Alabama head coach to lead his team to a national championship. The Helms poll recognized the 10-0 Crimson Tide, but the Associated Press chose the 8-0 Minnesota Gophers as the nation's best team.
- 1941 Championship: 'Bama claimed a share of the national championship title despite a record of 9-2 and losses to SEC rivals Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. However, well before "Johnny Football" came along, the Tide did end up gliding to a Cotton Bowl victory over Texas A&M.
- 1961 Championship: The Tide wouldn't lay claim to another title until 1961. Legend has it that this season fulfilled legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's four-year-old promise to his first freshman recruiting class that they would win a national championship. This title (which came with an 11-0 record) is considered more credible than the previous six, because all of the polls except one—the Football Writers poll (which voted for Ohio State)—crowned the Crimson Tide.
- 1964 Championship: The '64 title isn't as clear-cut as 1961's. Alabama claims it, but they actually lost to Miami in the Orange Bowl to go 10-1. Michigan and Notre Dame also had one-loss season, and Arkansas went 11-0.
- 1965 Championship: Fifth-ranked Alabama lost its season-opener to Georgia and later suffered a tie with Tennessee. However, Bryant and his boys rallied back to win the rest of the season, finishing with a 9-1-1 record and an impressive Orange Bowl win over Nebraska. Top-ranked Michigan (which also claims the championship with a 10-1 record) lost in the Rose Bowl, giving enough polls reason to crown the Tide as champs.
- 1973 Championship: The 1973 season could go down as one of Alabama's most dominating of all time. In the regular season, the Tide won all their games by 14 points or more, scored 35 points or more in eight of 11 games and had a record of 11-0. However, co-champs Notre Dame put a stop to all that in the Sugar Bowl. Shouldn't losing to another undefeated team eliminate a squad from consideration for the national championship? We guess not, since Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma also claim to have been in the championship mix that year.
- 1978 Championship: Alabama didn't allow an early-season loss to USC to derail its season. The team "turned the Tide around" and began an all-time school record winning streak of 28 games. Perhaps the biggest highlight of this season was the "Goal Line Stand," when the Crimson Tide stopped Penn State four times to seal the Sugar Bowl victory. 'Bama's early-season loss to USC turned the national championship into a three-way tie among Alabama, USC and Oklahoma.
- 1979 Championship: During the Tide's seventh perfect season of the 1970s, Bryant's defense recorded five shutouts and allowed only two teams to score in double digits, while the offense scored 30 points or more seven times. A season of performance highs allowed Alabama to be the first team unanimously selected by all polls and, dare we say it, the nation's first true national Champions.
- 1992 Championship: Alabama's 100th season brought another unanimous national championship. Head coach Gene Stalling led the undefeated Tide to an SEC Championship against Florida and a victory against heavily favored Miami. The 1993 Sugar Bowl is marked as the first ever Bowl Coalition national championship game.
Totals: Since the BSC system was officially implemented, there's absolutely no question about Nick Saban's 2009 and 2011 wins, which would bring the total to 14.
Now that you know the specifics, what do you think? Would a win this season mark number 15 for the Tide? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.