Alabama football: Is Kirby Smart a threat to the throne?

In 2021, Kirby Smart finally bested Alabama football in the national title game, leading many to wonder how big of a threat Georgia truly is.

Nick Saban’s greatness has remained consistent over the past 15 years of college football. Saban — who took over the reins at Alabama in 2007 — has won six national titles since 2009, most recently in 2020.

In 2021, Kirby Smart finally bested Saban in the national title game, leading many to wonder how big of a threat Georgia truly is.

Nick Saban at Alabama

Saban has seen success throughout his collegiate head coaching positions, dating back to his days with Michigan State. Saban took the struggling Spartans to a 10-2 season before leaving for LSU, where he won his first national title.

In 2007, Saban returned from his short stint in the NFL to take the head coaching job at Alabama. The Crimson Tide had been struggling at the time; Alabama football had not been dominant since the early 1990s. In only two seasons (by 2009), Saban won his second national title (his first came with LSU in 2003).

In 2010 Alabama finished in the top 10 again after defeating Michigan State (49-7) in the Capital One Bowl and ending with a 10-3 record. In 2011 Alabama asserted its dominance again after finishing the season with a 12-1 record and defeating LSU in the national title game.

In 2012, Alabama won its third national title under Saban, finishing the year with a 13-1 record and a massive win over Notre Dame in the national championship game.

Ten years later, Alabama has won six national titles under Nick Saban (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2020) and eight SEC championships. Saban has led Alabama to the most significant 15-year stretch in modern college football history. He is now 70 years old and has coached college football for decades.

As Saban ages and approaches retirement, Kirby Smart has his eyes on Saban’s throne.

Kirby Smart at Georgia

Kirby Smart started his time at Georgia in 2016 and has once defeated his old boss (Saban). Though Georgia is not the powerhouse that Alabama has become, few programs have the respect that the Bulldogs demand.

A forgettable 8-5 season in 2016, Georgia turned around and won its first SEC title since 2005. From 2017-to 2020, the Bulldogs won one SEC championship, three division titles, a Rose Bowl, and a Sugar Bowl.

Smart has led Georgia to five straight top-10 finishes, three NY6 wins, and now a national title in 2021. After starting 2021 12-0, Smart was blown out by Nick Saban and Alabama in the SEC title game. Nonetheless, UGA remained in the playoffs and crushed No. 2 Michigan in the Orange bowl.

With a 13-1 record, the Bulldogs then got over the challenge of Nick Saban, winning the 2021 national title game by a score of 33-18. With Saban losing to a former assistant for the first time in his life in 2021 (first against TAMU and Jimbo Fisher and then against Kirby Smart in the national title game), could the Alabama dynasty be in decline?

One thing is sure, Alabama’s expectation is national titles — an expectation set by Nick Saban himself. With teams like LSU, Texas A&M, and Georgia seemingly narrowing the gap between themselves and Alabama, could Nick Saban’s time on the throne of college football be coming to an end?