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We Rate Alabama The Strongest Team In College Football History

The SEC championship game on Saturday saw Alabama beat Florida to win the conference, as well as a spot in the College Football Playoff. Lower down the list of accolades was one we’d been following over the past month or so: The Crimson Tide became the greatest college team of the past 80 years, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo power rating.

’Bama needed to beat Florida by 11 or more points to pass the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers for No. 1. And in actuality, they won by a lot more than that, whipping the Gators by 38. That did the trick, pushing the Crimson Tide ahead of any team since the AP poll era began in 1936.


For many of the teams on the list above, their peak Elo moment also coincided with the end of their schedule (and, usually, a national championship celebration). Alabama, however, still has some hurdles left to clear before it can become the best end-of-season Elo team ever. Specifically, the Tide need to beat both Washington and the Clemson-Ohio State winner to finish the year as national champs — and if they don’t, they’ll have peaked too soon. A loss to Washington, for instance, would instantly drop Alabama to No. 4 on the historical end-of-season Elo list if it comes by a field goal, and No. 10 if by a touchdown. It’s really hard to stay at the pinnacle of the game.

For now, though, Nick Saban can toss another honor on his enormous pile of coaching accomplishments. His 2016 Crimson Tide are the strongest team in modern college football history.

FiveThirtyEight: Previewing the College Football Playoffs semifinals

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.