Alabama's run at one of college football's most recognized records for consistent success could be undone in upcoming months by continuing coronavirus concerns.
From 1987 to 2000, Bobby Bowden's Florida State Seminoles reeled off 14 consecutive 10-win seasons, a dominating stretch highlighted by national championships in 1993 and 1999. Nick Saban's Crimson Tide notched a 12th straight 10-win season last year with an 11-2 record, which actually qualified as a modest year given that they sustained multiple Southeastern Conference losses (to LSU and Auburn) for the first time since 2010.
"I'm proud of this team and the adversity they had to overcome this year and all the perseverance that they showed," Saban said after a 35-16 thumping of Michigan in the Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day. "This is our ninth straight year of 11 or more wins, which I'm very proud of."
The SEC in upcoming days is expected to discuss when to start its 2020 season and what that season could look like. The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences already have implemented league-only schedules this season, and the SEC could choose to do the same or decide on a "plus-one" model that would allow for a one nonconference opponent in addition to the league slate.
A "plus-one" format would enable the state rivalries of Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Kentucky-Louisville and South Carolina-Clemson to continue, with Clemson and South Carolina having played annually since 1909.
An eight- or nine-game regular season coupled with the uncertainty of what the postseason may look like could derail Alabama's drive for double-digit victories, a quest that was scheduled to begin Sept. 5 against Southern California. That contest was scratched earlier this month when the Pac-12 announced its league-only format.
A 10-win season in college football can be a benchmark similar to players hitting .300 in baseball, and it happened with regularity in the SEC during the past decade. Here is a ranking of conference programs and the number of 10-win seasons each compiled as an SEC member during the 2010s.
ALABAMA (10): Amazingly, the only close call occurred in 2010, when losses to South Carolina, LSU and Auburn resulted in a 9-3 mark heading into the Capital One Bowl against Michigan State. Alabama shredded the Spartans 49-7. The Tide won at least 12 games seven times last decade, including 14-win seasons in 2015, 2016 and 2018.
GEORGIA (7): The Bulldogs opened with a 6-7 season that culminated with a loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl, but they wound up producing four seasons of at least 12 wins. Georgia came within a whisker of playing for the national championship in 2012 and within a whisker of winning the national title in 2017, with Alabama serving as the roadblock on each occasion.
LSU (6): The Tigers capped the decade by becoming the first SEC program ever to assemble a 15-0 record. LSU started the decade strong with an 11-2 mark and was 13-0 in 2011 before losing an all-SEC Bowl Championship Series title game 21-0 to Alabama. The four seasons in which LSU failed to win 10 games occurred consecutively from 2014-17, which coincided with the coaching transition from Les Miles to Ed Orgeron.
FLORIDA (4): The Gators produced seven 10-win seasons during the 1990s and five during the 2000s but were far more inconsistent in the 2010s, sustaining losing records under Will Muschamp in 2013 and Jim McElwain in 2017. In Dan Mullen's first two seasons, Florida assembled 10-3 and 11-2 records.
AUBURN (3): When the Tigers were good, they were really good, winning the BCS title game in 2010 and losing it in 2013. Auburn also was No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings after the 2017 regular season before losing the SEC title game to Georgia. The Tigers had one losing season and went 8-5 four times.
SOUTH CAROLINA (3): The Gamecocks entered last decade with one 10-win season in program history, with coach Joe Morrison and his "Black Magic" team of 1984 going 10-2. Steve Spurrier took South Carolina to unprecedented heights with three straight 11-2 seasons (2011-13), but the Gamecocks have won just 36 games in the six seasons since.
ARKANSAS (2): Though it seems like a lifetime ago, last decade began with Bobby Petrino taking the Razorbacks to the Sugar and Cotton bowls. Then came the motorcycle accident and Petrino covering up an extramarital affair that eventually was exposed. Bret Bielema had an 8-5 season and two 7-6 seasons, but Arkansas is a league-worst 1-23 in conference contests the past three years.
MISSOURI (2): Gary Pinkel's Tigers went 5-7 in their SEC debut in 2012 before posting 12-2 and 11-3 seasons that included East Division championships. Mizzou has a 30-32 record in the five seasons since. The Tigers did have three 10-win seasons overall last decade, going 10-3 during their next-to-last year as a Big 12 member in 2010.
KENTUCKY (1): The Wildcats entered last decade with two 10-win seasons in program history, with Paul "Bear" Bryant going 11-1 in 1950 and Fran Curci going 10-1 in 1977. Kentucky notched a third in 2018, when Mark Stoops took a 9-3 team to the Citrus Bowl and surprised Penn State 27-24.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (1): Before leaving for Florida, Mullen guided the Bulldogs to three 9-4 seasons and a 10-3 mark in 2014. Mississippi State won its first nine games that season, reaching a No. 1 national ranking for the first time in program history with a win over 2013 SEC champion Auburn and remaining at the top for five weeks before losing at eventual league champ Alabama.
OLE MISS (1): The Rebels entered last decade coming off consecutive 9-4 seasons under Houston Nutt, but the Nutt regime quickly plummeted. Ole Miss then began an ascension under Hugh Freeze that included a 10-3 record in 2015, when the Rebels routed Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl, but NCAA sanctions have ravaged the program since.
TEXAS A&M (1): The Aggies made an incredible SEC debut in 2012, producing an 11-win season that included a shocking triumph at Alabama and a 41-13 demolishing of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. They also produced Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. There have been multiple 9-4 and 8-5 seasons that have followed. Texas A&M, like Missouri, had a 10-win season in 2010 as a Big 12 member.
TENNESSEE (0): The Volunteers produced five 10-win seasons during the 1990s and four more in the 2000s before coming up empty last decade. Tennessee went 9-4 in both 2015 and 2016 under Butch Jones.
VANDERBILT (0): The Commodores have never won 10 games in a season but went 9-4 twice under James Franklin in 2012-13, which marked their first nine-win seasons since Dan McGugin's 1915 team went 9-1.