Vanderbilt football has a better record than Alabama. Yes, it's rare under Nick Saban

Last Saturday, Vanderbilt suffered its first loss of the 2023 college football season in a 36-20 defeat at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Though the Commodores no longer have an unblemished record, there’s at least some consolation for them – in mid-September, they have a better record than Alabama.
It’s an advantage they haven’t been able to claim this deep into a season in some time.
With Vanderbilt at 2-1 and Alabama at 1-1 following the Crimson Tide’s 34-24 loss to then-No. 10 Texas last weekend, the Commodores have a higher win percentage than what has been the SEC’s preeminent program for the better part of the past two decades. It marks the latest point in the season in which Vanderbilt has had a better record than Alabama in 16 years, going back to the week of Sept. 30-Oct. 5, 2007.
Vanderbilt has better record than Alabama — again
Like this year, the Commodores earned that distinction in part because of an unbalanced schedule, as they were 3-1 through four games in 2007 while the Crimson Tide was 3-2 through five. To that point, Vanderbilt had played two SEC games – going 1-2 in them – to Alabama’s three, a stretch in which it went 2-1 under then-first-year coach Nick Saban.
Oddly enough, one of those two wins for the Crimson Tide came against Vanderbilt, a 24-10 victory on Sept. 8, 2007 at the venue then known as Vanderbilt Stadium. The win was the 20th in a row for Alabama in the series, improving its all-time record against the Commodores to 60-19-4.
“We had too many first-half errors to have a chance to win,” Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said after the game. “We can’t help the other team.”
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On Sept. 22, though, the Crimson Tide lost its first game under Saban, a 26-23 defeat against then-No. 21 Georgia, while Vanderbilt was on a bye. The following week, the Commodores rolled to a 30-7 victory against Eastern Michigan behind 93 receiving yards and a touchdown from Earl Bennett while Alabama lost yet again, this time on the road to Florida State 21-14.
That pair of results improved Vanderbilt’s record to 3-1 and dropped Alabama’s to 3-2.
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Was Vanderbilt better than Alabama in 2007?
The Commodores finished that season 5-7 after losing their final four games. Two of those losses – against Kentucky and Tennessee, both top-25 teams at the time of the games – came by a combined eight points. The Crimson Tide endured a similar late-season plummet, getting to 6-2 and rising as high as No. 18 in the coaches poll before dropping its final four regular season games — including, most famously, a 21-14 home loss against Louisiana-Monroe.
The following year, Alabama improved to 12-2 and hasn’t had a season with fewer than 10 wins since, transforming into a juggernaut that has won six national championships under Saban’s watch.
That run coincided with one of the best stretches in Vanderbilt history, when James Franklin guided the Commodores to back-to-back nine-win seasons in 2012 and 2013. In those two seasons, however, Alabama went a combined 24-3. From 2008-22, the Crimson Tide lost just one game in September, giving Vanderbilt precious few opportunities to get an early season upper hand over it.
That is, until now.

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