Consensus national titles: 7

Best team: The 1979 team, the last national champion Bear Bryant coached, went 12-0, had five shutouts and outscored opponents 383-67.

Decline: Mike Shula's 10-15 record to start his coaching career in 2003 and 2004 was the worst of any Alabama coach since J.B. "Ears" Whitworth went 2-17-1 in 1955 and 1956.

Low point: Consider the period from December 2002 through May 2003. In that span, Dennis Franchione abruptly left to take the Texas A&M head coaching job. Mike Price was hired at Alabama and then fired after visiting a Florida strip club. Oh yeah, and Alabama was on probation for violations that occurred under former coach Mike DuBose.

Why they're for real: Alabama ranks seventh nationally in total defense. Quarterback Brodie Croyle, who has been hampered by injury in the past, is healthy and needs just two touchdown passes to match the Tide record of 35. Also, the schedule sets up nicely as the Crimson Tide hosts Florida, Tennessee and Louisiana State.

Why they're a pretender: Alabama has not beaten a top 10 team since beating Florida in 1999.

Dissenting opinion: www.firemikeshula.com The Web site wants the third-year Alabama coach gone. Its mission statement: "Two decades of mediocrity since Bear Bryant is enough. Mike Shula is NOT the Head Coach to lead Alabama back to prominence."

Today: vs. Florida (4-0, 2-0 SEC), 3:30.

Brodie Croyle needs two touchdown passes to become the all-time leader at Alabama.