Below are the NCAA rankings for 2000-2011. I'll let you decide and make your own inferences. Also note I've taken the liberty of reducing the scope of this to SEC ranking rather than national ranking to narrow the context. Fewest Penalties Per Game (NCAA.org)
Year / SEC Rank / Notes
2011 / 1
2010 / 1
2009 / 2 / UT #1 but played 2 less games (63 vs 69) / SECCG (SEC refs) - 1 penalty / MNC (Big East refs) - 5 Penalties
2008 / 1
2007 / 1
2006 / 6 / Miami Dolphins #12
2005 / 5 / Miami Dolphins #26
2004 / 3 / LSU #5
2003 / 4 / LSU #7
2002 / 12 / LSU #6
2001 / 9 / LSU #2
2000 / 9 / LSU #8
I've included the LSU ranking above for transparency to show the common denominator of Nick Saban as head coach. LSU's average ranking (rounding up) was #6 under Nick Saban, not bad, but not great either. Alabama's average ranking under the same coach is #1.
Now for my tinfoil hattery:
Did the NFL suddenly turn Nick Saban into a master of discipline to where all of his teams are now just amazingly well coached to never hold, interfere, jump off-sides, etc? Or...is there some other more nefarious bias at work here?
Naturally, it gets even worse at the SEC HQ (BDS), through 3 games at BDS there have a total of 6 flags thrown on Bama for a total of 39 yards versus 12 for the opponents at 78 yards. As a comparison, in Alabama's opener, Big 12 officials flagged Bama 7 times for 55 yards eclipsing the totals at BDS over 3 full games thus far this year.
Let me also say that I do not think nor believe any Alabama booster, coach, or other university official has paid any of these officials...that's for Auburn.
ETA: While not completely relevant, since the majority seem to point to coaching (which is the logical explanation, I've included Saban's Dolphin's teams to show the disparity between his previous stops and his time with Alabama.)
This post was edited on 10/2 at 1:19 pm