Leigh Tiffin's 27-yard field goal gave Alabama a three-point lead on Florida with eight seconds remaining in the third quarter of the 2008 SEC Championship. The Crimson Tide were 12-0, ranked No. 1 in the Week 14 BCS Standings and 15 minutes, eight seconds away from playing for their first national championship since 1992.
Four plays into the Gators' ensuing drive, they faced 3rd-and-4 from the Tide's 46-yard-line. Jeffrey Demps was stopped just shy of the marker but the drive was extended thanks to a 15-yard facemask penalty by Alabama linebacker D'Onta Hightower. Demps scored six plays later and Florida eventually won, 31-20, to earn the title shot.
Alabama and second-year head coach Nick Saban lost to Utah in the Sugar Bowl, and while the Tide won the championship the following year and Saban has since become the greatest college football coach of all time with three more titles (five total), the living legend's career could be even better had a few more plays gone his teams' way.
In 2010, Alabama lost three games but they had the ball in a one-score game in the final quarter of each loss. Trailing South Carolina 28-21 early in the final quarter on Oct. 9, 2010, the Greg McElroy-led Tide turned it over on downs deep in Gamecock territory. Four weeks later vs. LSU, midway through the fourth quarter, McElroy was sacked and fumbled near midfield in a seven-point game. And in the Iron Bowl, they twice turned it over on downs in a one-point game.
Three years later, Alabama lost the SEC West and a shot at their third straight national championship when Chris Davis delivered the best play in college football history, the Kick Six.
In 2014, they fell to Ohio State in the national semifinal (Sugar Bowl). Not one single play dramatically altered the game, but there were a handful that could have rewrote history. For example, on Blake Sims' Hail Mary heave at the end of regulation when Alabama trailed 42-35, both Chris Black and DeAndrew White were in near-perfect position at the goal line to catch the game-tying touchdown. The ball, however, sailed a couple inches over their outstretched arms and into the hands of Buckeyes' safety Tyvis Powell.
Yes, that's a lot of plays in a lot of games that even Saban and the mighty Crimson Tide don't get every time. And yes, just as many plays in Saban's five championship seasons could've gone against him and his Hall of Fame résumé wouldn't be as gaudy. However, it remains remarkable that the G.O.A.T. could be approaching — or already have — 10 national championships had 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2016 ended in glory rather than disappointment.