The debate is truly over: Why Nick Saban is the greatest coach of all time

While we experience the Dawgs' longing, Alabama's rejuvenated defense and Atlanta's party, we must also pay homage to the central figure of the College Football Playoff weekend.

No, not President No. 45. Rather, Head Coach No. 1. Wait, you forgot? We're (once again) watching the best college football coach of all time.

I wrote it two years ago.

It's time to write it again now that we're at the Altar of Six.

That would be a sixth championship for Nick Saban. That would tie "Bear" Bryant's major-college record. And it's almost like we've become immune to a mark that's up there with Babe Ruth's 714 home runs.

This is Saban's second attempt at tying the all-time record. Only a last-second Clemson win last year in Tampa keeps this column from being about Saban breaking Bryant's record.

But that's probably coming, too.

What makes this run so special is that this isn't Saban's best team. The defense, specifically, might be the third-best unit he's had at Alabama. The injuries at linebacker have made the Tide look more than vulnerable at times.

The offense hasn't averaged less than 34.8 or more than 38.8 points per game since 2010. In other words, it is consistent no matter who is calling signals.

Auburn physically dominated the Tide on Nov. 25, but the selection committee had already seen enough. Nine days later, for the third time since 2011, the Tide were allowed to play for a championship despite losing in November.

Just in case you forgot, UCF, brand names do matter.

But that would be drifting from the main point. Two years ago, I suggested it may be time to consider Saban the best team coach of all time. Better than Red Auerbach (NBA) and Scott Bowman (NHL). Yes, better than John Wooden.

None of those guys accomplished greatness when their competition was at its most intense. Alabama has made this run of four titles in eight years when the SEC has been at its toughest.

If you want to go back to the first title in 2003 at LSU, no college football coach has been this good when the competition has been this tough over a 15-year period.  

In the last two years, Saban has gone 26-2. The only teams to beat him are Clemson and Auburn. Alabama got its revenge on the Tigers last week.

Meanwhile, Gus Malzahn got paid. The 26-14 win in the Iron Bowl pretty much earned Malzahn a new seven-year, $49 million contract. We know this because an Auburn loss might have gotten him a one-way ticket to Fayetteville.

It used to be that Saban got coaches fired. Now, just beating him has the opposite effect. Dabo Swinney was the toast of the college football world, until he wasn't. Still, he owns a win over Saban -- one of only four active coaches to beat him.

But this is what humility looks like: Clemson went from scoring 45 points on Alabama to six. Saban went from suggestions his dynasty was slipping to, well, making it stronger.

Jimbo Fisher is latest former Saban assistant to challenge his old boss. He failed miserably in the season opener with Florida State in September.

The worst FSU season in nine years coincided with Fisher getting a record deal from Texas A&M. Obviously, Saban had to be in mind when the spendthrift administration at Texas A&M gave Fisher $75 million over 10 years.

The thought being that Saban can't possibly be around in a decade, can he?

Until Saban's departure -- and maybe after -- A&M remains the fourth-best program in the SEC West alone, behind Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

Georgia's Kirby Smart may become the first former Saban assistant to beat his old boss (the others are 0-11), but has he ever gotten 400 write-in votes for U.S. Senate? (His old boss has.)

There are legions of Alabama fans who know "Bear" only from his image plastered on book covers, websites and coffee mugs.

They don't get to argue my point. They don't know that Bear had virtually no recruiting constraints. They don't know he could land  Auburn's best recruit just so he wouldn't play against the Tide.

They should know they'll be watching history as the greatest coach in team sports wins another title. If he doesn't, well, there's always next year.

I'll write this column again. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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