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Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Sustaining success in the SEC

By Chris Low

Did you see over the weekend where Bobby Bowden said he thinks the SEC might be too strong for Alabama to sustain its current level of success long term?

Bowden made his comments during the ceremonies to honor Alabama coach Nick Saban with the Bobby Bowden National Collegiate Coach of the Year Award, the second time Saban has won the award in the past three years.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban
History shows that Alabama and coach Nick Saban will have a tough time maintaining the program's current level of success.
"You've got too many good teams," Bowden said. "I don't know how you keep winning in that league. It only takes one slip-up and you're out."

Alabama has won two of the past three national championships, and has also won 10 or more games each of the past four seasons. That's the longest active streak in the SEC.

In fact, nobody else in the league has an active streak longer than two consecutive years when it comes to winning 10 or more games.

Arkansas and LSU have both won 10 or more games each of the past two seasons, and that's it.

So I'd say Bowden is on to something. Anybody who's been around this league long enough knows how quickly it can change, and that's not to say that Alabama is about to hit a down cycle.

But even for some of the best teams over the past 20 years, stringing together 10 wins every year has been rare.

Under Steve Spurrier, Florida won 10 or more games for six straight seasons from 1993-98. That's the longest such streak since the league expanded in 1992 and split into divisions.

Georgia did it for four straight seasons from 2002-05, and Tennessee also won 10 or more games from 1995-98.

Even LSU, with all of its success the past decade or so, has never had more than three straight seasons of 10 wins or more since the 1992 expansion. During Saban's five seasons at LSU, the Tigers never won 10 or more games in back-to-back seasons. They won 11 or more in 2005, 2006 and 2007 under Les Miles and remain the only SEC team to win 11 or more games for three straight seasons since the 1992 expansion.

Florida won 48 games in four seasons under Urban Meyer from 2006-09, but the Gators never went more than two straight seasons under Meyer with 10-plus wins.

The moral of the story is that racking up double-digit wins in this league and doing it year after year is the exception and not the rule.

The Crimson Tide might well continue on their torrid pace, but the odds (and history) are against them.