Saban’s Greatest Hits (And some that will be)

hunter ford

 

 

 

 

How much longer will Nick Saban coach at Alabama, and how much more can he accomplish?  Including his time at LSU, Saban owns four SEC titles and four national championships.  If, or when, Saban decides to do something else full time besides coaching, it is likely that he will end up as an ESPN analyst.

Saban, however, doesn’t seem like the kind of person who could easily step away from the thrill of competition.  He is a youthful 60-something, but has said he is “too damn old” to start over somewhere else.

So, the prospect of him staying several more years at Alabama seems strong.   It won’t be long before we know what the 2014 version of the Saban-era Crimson Tide looks like on the field.  Here’s a look back at Saban’s “greatest hits” as Alabama’s coach.

Nick Saban is 80-15 at Alabama, heading into his eight season.

Nick Saban is 80-15 at Alabama, heading into his eight season.

2007:  Arkansas and Tennessee

A thrilling last-second victory in Tuscaloosa over a solid Razorbacks squad boosted Tide fans’ confidence.  During the wildly inconsistent Mike Shula era, this was the kind of game Alabama lost more often than not.

When Tennessee came to Tuscaloosa in 2007, the Volunteers owned a 10-2 record against Alabama in the previous 12 meetings.   Alabama played its best game of the season and defeated Tennessee 41-17.   Tennessee won the SEC East in 2007, but Saban has helped make the Vols irrelevant.  The Big Orange has been mediocre (at best) ever since, and Saban is 7-0 against them.

2008:  Clemson, Georgia, LSU, and Auburn.

By beating Clemson in Atlanta, Saban started a trend that has defined his tenure:  beating quality non-conference opponents.  Saban lost a meeting with Florida State in Jacksonville in 2007, but has since gone undefeated in neutral site games against Clemson, Virginia Tech (twice) and Michigan.  He also won both games of a home-and- home deal with Penn State.

Saban’s Tide made a statement in the now infamous “black-out” game in Athens in 2008.  Alabama rolled up a 31-point halftime lead before downing the Bulldogs 41-30 in a game that wasn’t that close.

Beating LSU in overtime in Baton Rouge, 27-21, guaranteed the Tide a spot in the SEC Championship game for the first time since 1999.

After years of watching Tommy Tuberville display a kindergartner’s math skills, Saban and Alabama wiped the smirk off the Auburn fans’ pie holes with a 36-0 smack down.  Doing this at Bryant-Denny was extra salve for a wound that had been festering far too long.

2009:  Virginia Tech, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, SEC Championship, BCS National Championship.

Alabama opened the season with a victory over a top-ten Virginia Tech.  The most memorable regular season victory was the Third Saturday in October.  When Alabama plays Tennessee in 2014, it’s a sure bet that Lane Kiffin will be asked to reminisce about this one.  The current Alabama offensive coordinator was the Volunteers head coach in 2009 and his team only needed a field goal to upend the top-ranked Crimson Tide.  It got blocked, famously, by Terrence Cody, and Alabama ended up 14-0.  Who knew field goals could be so important?

Defeating Tim Tebow, Urban Meyer, and the Florida Gators, to claim the SEC Championship also set a trend for Nick Saban at Alabama.  He doesn’t lose to the same team twice in a row.  More on that later.  But making Tebow cry at the Georgia Dome was sweet revenge for a gut-wrenching loss the year before.

Beating Texas for the BCS National Championship at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena was enough to earn Saban a statue next to Bryant, Wade, Thomas and Stallings.   But the hits kept coming, even if it took a season in between to regroup.

2010:  Penn State, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan State

This year will go down in history as one Alabama football’s most disappointing.   Still, Alabama defeated Penn State in a renewal of a historic non-conference rivalry, defeated Florida for a second consecutive year, and continued a winning streak against Tennessee.   Alabama, under Saban, usually plays flat in “consolation” bowls, but the Tide manhandled Michigan State, the Big Ten co-champ, in the Capital One Bowl.  When 10-3 is disappointing, you know the bar is set high.  Even Elvis and the Beatles got knocked out of the Billboard top slot ocassionally.

2011:  Penn State, Florida, Auburn, BCS National Championship

Alabama beat Penn State at Beaver Stadium, and Florida in The Swamp.  Another beat down of Auburn, this time at Jordan-Hare, was nice.  But, this season will forever be defined by two games against LSU.  Alabama lost 9-6 in overtime at Bryant-Denny during the regular season in an epic defensive struggle.  Who knew field goals could be so important?

Okay, this is the one time during his Alabama tenure Saban lost to the same program in consecutive years.  LSU defeated Alabama in both the 2010 and 2011 regular seasons.

The 2011 LSU Tigers were one of the best teams in college football history.  Les Miles and the Bayou Bengals entered the Superdome for the BCS National Championship carrying a 13-0 record.  This time around, Alabama converted five field goals and tacked on a bonus touchdown at the end of the game.  Ironically the PAT was missed.  LSU couldn’t advance past the 50 yard line to save its life.  An all-SEC national championship probably was the straw that broke the back of the old BCS system.

These guys enjoyed victories over Saban, but didn't get the last laugh.

These guys enjoyed victories over Saban, but didn’t get the last laugh.

2012:  Michigan, LSU, Auburn, SEC Championship, BCS National Championship.

Beating Michigan in Dallas, 41-14 started the year off on the right foot.  An emotional 21-17 win over LSU in Baton Rouge may have drained the Tide for a meeting with Johnny Football and Texas A&M. Losing to the Aggies was a mild speed bump.  The Tide regrouped and ended the regular season with a Biblical stoning of Gene Chizik and Auburn.  The 49-0 gore fest murdered Chizik’s carereer.  Remember, he is only the second Auburn coach ever to win a national title and the first since 1957.

Georgia put up a valiant effort in the Georgia Dome, but Alabama held the Bulldogs out of the end zone in the final minute of a classic SEC Championship.

Beating the hated Notre Dame Fighting Irish 41-14 in Miami, for the national championship, was gravy on a feast of Alabama greatness.

2013: Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, LSU

Virginia Tech was no powerhouse, but defeating the Hokies kept Alabama’s non-conference winning streak intact.  The victory over Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel continued Saban’s habit of not losing to the same program in consecutive years, and the 31-17 victory over LSU gave Saban three-in- a -row over Miles and LSU.  The Iron Bowl loss (what is it about field goals?) and the Sugar Bowl loss made the 11-2 season seem like a downer.

2014 and beyond 

So, here we are almost ready to tee it up for 2014.  Alabama has two strong options at the quarterback position.  It has a stable of running backs, a crowd of receivers, including a stud tight end, and as always, a defense loaded with blue-chippers.  Most importantly it has the best head coach in college football.  Any Auburn fans still feeling smug about last year’s fluke of an Iron Bowl should ask Gene Chizik how much one single victory means in the grand scheme of things.

It’s going to be another tough year in the SEC West, and I’m guessing it will be difficult for any team to emerge undefeated.  I envision Auburn losing at least once, maybe twice, before the Iron Bowl.  The Iron Bowl could be the deciding factor in who represents the West in the SEC Championship.

If Saban holds serve on his tendencies, he’s not losing to Auburn for two consecutive years.  My dream for Saban’s next chart toppers would be an Iron Bowl victory, a SEC Championship win against South Carolina, a semi-final over Oklahoma, and a national championship over Florida State.  Saban’s relentless recruiting, coupled with the famous “process” of molding blue-chippers into top NFL draft picks, will guarantee Crimson Tide success for as long as Saban roams the sidelines.

 

They just think they do.  There will be no couch burning in Morgantown August 30.

They just think they do. There will be no couch burning in Morgantown August 30.

 

 

 

 

18 Responses to “Saban’s Greatest Hits (And some that will be)” Subscribe

  1. Hunter Ford August 19, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    For those not familiar with it, here is West Virginia’s answer to tree

    rollihttp://sports.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/blog/dr_saturday/post/in-morgantown-couch-burning-is-now-a-felony?urn=ncaaf,wp5753ng.

  2. Hunter Ford August 19, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Answer to tree rolling….

  3. A Ganger August 19, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    Saban sure did turn things around at Bama and he has never looked back…Roll Tide Y’all…

  4. peachy August 19, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    Two strong options at the QB position? That is laughable. In fact, down right hilarious.

    • Hunter Ford August 19, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

      Peachy:

      He who laughs last….laughs hardest

    • crimson hammah August 20, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

      correct we do not have 2 qb’s who can win big… per saban we have 4 qbs that could win the nc….peachy does not know football or follow football…but a clown clowning

      • nope August 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

        I think peachy actually does know football fairly well, you just wouldn’t necesarily know it by what he writes here. His judgement is often incredibly (if not completely) clouded by his vitreol for Alabama football.

        • crimson hammah August 20, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

          bs like bear said barners do not take their football seriously

          • nope August 20, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

            @crimson hammah

            Exactly right. And I agree that maybe Peachy doesn’t take his football seriously.

            But he does take OUR football seriously. He’s got a relatively severe case of little brother syndrome, after all.

            For example, he recencly said Alabama’s weakness is inexperience, particularly at o-line
            Yet when you dig a little (or remember), Alabama over the last 5 years or so has had more true freshmen (not redshirt, not JUCO transfers, et al) who earned starting positions than most any other team, and by a large margin. And yet…3 titles in 4 years.

            Look, the bottom line is coaching, experience, talent, game time, even the weather, none of it can predict the outcome of any game, ever. But Alabama is put in the best possible situations for success, and make no mistake, anyone would prefer their team to be in the position Alabama is in now.

          • peachy August 20, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

            Alabama is inexperienced this year. Ever look at Phil Steeles experience charts? They’re not something to go exclusively on but they’re a good tool to use when evaluating a team. For instance, looking at Auburn in 2010 they were one of the most experienced teams in the nation coming into the year. That’s why some people had them as a darkhorse for the SEC and NC. I believe this year Alabama ranks lower than they ever have under Saban. Their o-line has the fewest returning starts in the Saban era. You also have new QBs in which one has never proven anything since he’s been there and the other has very little gametime experience at all, and what little he has came in the ACC. Throw in the fact that you also have a new OC and this offense could struggle, especially early. Luckily for Alabama they play very weak defenses the first few games. The Florida game is going to tell the story. TBH I think Florida’s defense will manhandle Bama’s offense. But on the flip side I think Bamas defense will do the same to Floridas offense. That game will come down to turnovers.

          • nope August 21, 2014 at 7:38 am #

            I think Cam Newton was the outlying reason for the 2010 nod (in the preseason I heard an awful lot of hype about “Cameron” Newton as they were still calling him then), but I hear you that experience counts, especially at Auburn.

            After all, when you’ve had just the one run of back-to-back ten-win seasons, experience seems to be down right determinant. Michigan State, for example, also favors experience over just about anything else and rarely plays freshmen.

            You have to remember though, it’s a little different for Alabama who routinely has many true freshmen play football in their first year at the Capstone, and yet they are often competitive (if not championship-calibur). Talent is one thing, but the process seems to be a better measure of success.

            Process > inexperience

            You see, I was concerned about the o-line, too. I still am a bit, for what it’s worth, so I asked some experts last week. The general answer seems to be that yes, Alabama has inexperience, but the roster also has “the process” and that has seemed to matter most lately.

            Case in point, experience might be the only thing many positions lack on Alabama’s roster—talent is there, size and strength are there, and speed has been a focus more than ever before, not to mention team chemistry such as the o-line rusiming their “Thursday night dinners” sans McCarron.

            For example, Alabama’s left tackle is a true freshman. He has no experience in college football. But he was far and away the top o-line recruit in the nation and the scouts assumed he would start wherever he went, including Alabama.

            And while I’m not trying to outright eliminate the importance of experience, it simply hasn’t been the most determinant factor in Alabama’s recent success. But it is a blemish, peachy, and it sounds like that’s why you are exaggerating it because it may be the only hope for Alabama to fail from the preseason standpoint we’re in now.

            Experience matters, but experience in Saban’s process-oriented system may matter more than in-game experience at other programs. And again, while Sims and Coker have inexperience, they’re both apparently more favorable than McElroy and McCarron when they were inexperienced (and they still went on to win a title or two…or three).

            Everyone expects Alabama to be competitive again this year. As critical as I can be, and although I don’t think Alabama should be ranked #2 in the preseason at all, I think they might do more to surprise everybody this year than football fans have prepared for. Think about it—-what if Alabama is absolutely dominant this year? It’s not that crazy, and while I’m reserving judgment until we actually see some football, it’s hard to be too pessimistic because of inexperience alone.

  5. crimson hammah August 20, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    heck no barn will barn with it’s avg 8-5 at best

  6. Derick August 20, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is valuable and all. Nevertheless think about if
    you added some great photos or video clips too give your posts more, “pop”!
    Your content is excellent but with pics and clips, this blog could certainly be one of the best in its field.
    Great blog!

  7. Hunter Ford August 20, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    Derick:

    I read a great Rolling Stone article. Read it from the magazine not online. About Willie Nelson. This is the most awesome quote ever!!! Willie says:

    “If I hurt you feelings, I am sorry. If I made you mad…fuck you.” I know that is not an answer or is it?

  8. Hunter Ford August 20, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    Derick: Grain of salt…. Thank you for feedback

  9. Big K August 21, 2014 at 5:34 am #

    Shula was the coach in the game at FSU game in Jacksonville, not Saban

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