Candid Coaches: Will Alabama actually be the nation's best team in 2018?

Our CBS Sports college football writers spoke with one-fifth of the 129 active coaches leading FBS teams entering the 2018 season. They asked for their honest opinions on everything from NCAA rules to social issues to their peers in the profession. We will be sharing their candid thoughts over a two-week period leading into the season.


The Alabama football dynasty restarted by Nick Saban has been chugging along at a record pace. The Crimson Tide have won two of the last three national championships (and been finalists all three years), captured five national titles overall since 2009 and posted a 132-20 (72-13 SEC) record under Saban since his arrival in 2007. (Consider that eight of those losses came in Saban's first two seasons, making him 113-12 over the last nine years.) Alabama is also routinely bringing in the nation's top recruiting classes and devastating opponents on the field.

Granted the condition of anonymity, we asked coaches to honestly assess whether the Tide are once again the nation's best team entering the 2018 campaign.

Who will be the best college football team in 2018?

Nation's best teamResponses

Alabama

92 percent

Clemson

4 percent

Michigan State

4 percent

trophy-v4.png
Graphic illustration by Michael Meredith

Explain yourselves

  • "Alabama. They're there every year. They have the best coach in the country. They have all the resources, and they're a machine right now. "
  • "Alabama. They have the best personnel in the country -- by far. You could put together an all-star team of 22 guys with the rest of college football, and it would be comparable to Alabama's starting 22. They have two of the top five quarterbacks in the country."
  • "Alabama, hands down. They do a great job of ushering -- counseling -- people out of the program and replacing them with way better talent. Alvin Kamara, right? He was there. That's crazy. They have a process with more people who are just better at it. Everybody says it's recruiting, and everybody says it's selection. But what they do is create a real process -- and they're the best at it."
  • "Of course it's Alabama. The program they've setup and the processes that are in place [work], even though there's been a huge turnover on the coaching staff. I think, in some ways, that's a good thing. It brings fresh ideas and fresh energy into an established process and methodology. It's a program that is built for longevity."
  • "[Alabama. This is] a pretty easy answer, isn't it? I'm interested to see what Oklahoma does this year. To me, in the Big 12, the one that's going to sneak up on everybody is West Virginia. OU is going to be interesting early playing Army and FAU. Those are two teams, if I'm Oklahoma, I don't want to play."       
  • "[Clemson.] The D-line is back. The quarterback with the long blond hair [Trevor Lawrence], he's a freshman and he's out there, 'Whoosh!'"

Breaking it down

While Alabama's place atop the preseason power rankings and top 25 polls comes as little surprise -- defending champions with returning quarterbacks are usually a surefire lock to start at No. 1 in the modern era -- the fact that our survey of coaches matches that sentiment shows the lasting impact of Saban's dominance over the last decade.

"Alabama or the field" is the kind of prop bet that traditionally is limited to casual conversation among fans and media, but too many seasons have passed recently to beat our shared optimism down into acceptance of inevitability that, yes, college football in 2018 comes down to whether or not Alabama will go and do the damned thing. 

This is a program that has won the national championship twice in this decade without winning its own division and the only program to be in the College Football Playoff every year since its inception in 2014. Now we enter 2018 with that program possessing not just one but two national title-caliber quarterbacks leading potentially the most explosive offensive personnel we've seen under Saban. It's an easy pick for our anonymous coaches, but I do not think it's a lazy one: The best team in the country heading into 2018 is the Tide. 

CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories