Lost somewhat this week amidst all the College Football Playoff speculation and news of coaching changes is what Alabama is on the doorstep of accomplishing Saturday afternoon in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Alabama is seeking to become not just the SEC champion, but back-to-back SEC champs.
Last season, Alabama defeated Missouri, 42-13, in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. This year's Crimson Tide squad wrapped up the West Division last weekend and will face East champ Florida for ultimate conference bragging rights.
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Winning a conference title two straight seasons is no easy feat, especially in this day and age of unparalleled parity in the game. In fact, it's been quite a while since any SEC team has finished on top two consecutive seasons. And it's been even longer since Alabama was the team to do that.
So when is the last time an SEC team won back-to-back titles? Here are a few hints. Bill Clinton was President. "Shakespeare in Love" and "Saving Private Ryan" were the top new movie releases. And the Georgia Dome still had green-colored pavement — aka AstroTurf — for its playing surface.
Oh, and Derrick Henry? Yeah, this season's Heisman front-runner was a 4-year-old toddler probably spending most of his free time watching "Blue's Clues."
That's right. You have to go back to 1998. That's when Philip Fulmer-coached Tennessee won its second SEC title in a row. Tee Martin quarterbacked the Volunteers in 1998. A baby-faced college kid named Peyton Manning was Tennessee's signal-caller in '97.
Alabama as back-to-back SEC champs? Surely at some point during the Nick Saban dynasty, right? Nope. The Crimson Tide have come close, but it hasn't happened. Alabama's SEC titles under Saban have come in 2009, '12 and '14. The Tide won back-to-back BCS national titles in 2011 and '12, but for the first one Alabama didn't win the SEC — or even its division. LSU did, not that it mattered in the end when Saban and company shutout the Tigers 21-0 in the Superdome in New Orleans to claim the crystal football as national champs.
And what about the Mike Shula, Dennis Franchione or Mike DuBose years? Only one SEC title during that 10-year span, and it came in 1999. The Gene Stallings era? The Crimson Tide had a pretty good run during those seven years, right? Yes, but just one SEC title — in 1992, when Alabama also won the national championship.
A Bill Curry-coached Alabama team won a share of the SEC title in 1989, and the '81 Alabama team, coached by the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant, won a share of the conference title that season.
But back-to-back SEC titles for Alabama?
You have to go all the way back into the 1970s. Under the Bear, Alabama won the SEC three seasons in a row, 1977-79.
Yeah, go figure. Alabama, in light of all its recent success, is on the cusp of accomplishing something Saturday it hasn't accomplished since 1979. For a little perspective, Saban was a 28-year-old defensive assistant at West Virginia the last time Tuscaloosa was home to the back-to-back SEC champs.
There will be plenty of time to talk Playoff and coaching changes in the coming weeks. For now, though, with the SEC title game set for Saturday, maybe a little spotlight should be directed at the history this Alabama team could make.
Hey, it's not like back-to-back SEC champs come around all the time. In the case of Alabama, should it win Saturday, it's feat that comes around oh, say about once every 36 years.
— Written by Erik Stinnett, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Stinnett is an experienced college football beat writer who has been covering Alabama since 2009.