Nick Saban strengthens case as college football’s greatest coach

29 Comments

Put together your Mt. Rushmore of college football coaches and who would be in your top four? For years there would be some clear locks. Paul Bear Bryant would be in there. So would Woody Hayes. Knute Rockne would have his supporters and you could go with either Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno for the fourth and final spot, or perhaps even Bo Schembechler. Over the past 25-30 years though, perhaps no college football coach has been as good as Alabama head coach Nick Saban. If it was not already, it is time to make the case Saban is not only the best coach of the BCS and playoff era, and not just the past era, but perhaps of all time.

Saban won his fifth national championship as a head coach Monday night with Alabama’s 45-40 victory over previously undefeated Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. With five national titles to his name, Saban moves into sole possession of second place on college football’s all-time list for coaches and national titles. He trails only one man, another Alabama icon, Bryant. Bryant won six national titles as a head coach, but Saban is not interested in comparing himself to The Bear and he is far from concerned about how his legacy stands up next to Bryant’s.

Saban will hardly get credit for being an innovative coach in this day and age of football. Saban is much more comfortable sticking to basics as much as possible, which has proven to be beneficial during his run as Alabama’s head coach. Alabama had zero Heisman Trophy winners before Saban’s arrival, and now they have two. Those two also tend to go against the grain of the modern Heisman trend of awarding the top quarterbacks, as both of Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winners have been running backs (Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry). For Saban, success is built in the trenches. As a result, Alabama has put together some of the best offensive and defensive lines during his years at Alabama. Alabama is one of two schools to have multiple Rimington Trophy winners (best center) under Saban. This past season saw Alabama’s offensive line collectively be honored with the first Joe Moore Award, honoring the top offensive line in college football. Had the award existed before 2015, odds are Alabama would have picked one or two up under Saban as well. He has had 10 offensive linemen drafted since 2009 after all.

Although Saban may not be given credit for being an innovative coach, he sure as heck has proven to b a solid adaptive coach. When Auburn’s Cam Newton came out on top of Alabama in 2010 and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel ripped through Alabama in 2012, it appeared a crack in Saban’s Alabama empire had been exposed. Mobile quarterbacks and up-tempo offense suddenly became Saban’s kryptonite, as the offensive trends in the game had finally found a weak spot in Saban’s dominant physical approach to the game. The wind had supposedly been taken out of the Alabama program. Perhaps Alabama was proving to be vulnerable against certain types of players. Saban stuck to his blueprint and built the program his way. Eventually, this proved Alabama may take a hit along the way, but it would still be built to win big in the end. The years have now gone by and opposing teams have tried to crack Alabama as much as possible, but Saban’s success in building his dynasty has led to each and every one of Saban’s recruiting classes at Alabama leaving the program with at least one national championship ring.

That is a level of sustained success that is practically unheard of in this sport. Only Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is floating in the same waters as Saban right now. Ironically, a year removed from Meyer staking a claim as the best coach in college football today by knocking out Saban en route to a national championship of his own, Saban strikes right back by learning from what occurred in year one of the playoff system. The 2015 season saw Alabama stick to what traditionally works while also taking some chances and experimenting at times with their own up-tempo offense. An early loss to Ole Miss once again opened the door for critics to tear down Saban’s empire, and once again Saban made those critics look foolish in the end.

In the national championship game, Saban pulled out a rare trick. Tied at 21-21 in the fourth quarter after just tying Clemson, Saban called for an onside kick. It caught Clemson completely off guard and the Crimson Tide executed it to perfection. It was a rare call from Saban, who typically sticks to the basics and is not known to gamble in such a way with so much riding on the outcome. It paid off though. Alabama scored shortly after recovering the well placed onside kick and took control of a wild fourth quarter from there. It even forced the usually stoic Saban to crack a little smile on the sidelines. When that happens, you know something is cooking.

Saban is a mastermind and a master strategist. His job may be considered easy with all of the talent Alabama brings in on an annual basis, but that is because Saban makes it look so easy.It’s not. It’s really not.

It’s not. It’s really not.

Wayne Gretzky voices support for Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard Heisman Trophy campaign

Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Heisman Trophy campaign for Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard is officially on, and it already has the support of The Great One. Hall of Fame hockey icon Wayne Gretzky was featured in a video shared by the Edmonton Oilers lending his support for Canada’s own Hubbard.

“I just want to pass on our congratulations from everyone in Edmonton,” Gretzky said in a short video clip shared by the Edmonton Oilers. “We’re all really proud of you. Keep going.”

Hubbard, a native of Edmonton, was appreciative of the message and words of encouragement from an Edmonton sports hero.

Hubbard is a native of Edmonton. Hubbard rushed for 6,880 yards and 82 touchdowns in high school. Hubbard currently leads the nation in rushing with 182.33 yards per game. As of today, Hubbard is the only running back with 1,000 rushing yards midway through the season. The next closest to Hubbard in rushing yards is Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins (826 yards) and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (825 yards).

Hubbard is hoping to become the second Heisman Trophy winner in Oklahoma State program history. Barry Sanders won the Heisman Trophy in 1988.

WR son of Jerry Rice commits to Colorado over Michigan, Oregon, Arizona State

Getty Images
1 Comment

Next up in the latest installment of “You Know You’re Getting Old”: Jerry Rice.

Or, more to the point, the son of the former San Francisco 49er great and NFL Hall of Famer, with Brenden Rice announcing Tuesday evening on Twitter that he has verbally committed to play his college football at Colorado.  The wide receiver chose Mel Tucker‘s program over three other finalists in Arizona State, Michigan and Oregon.

At one point in the recruiting process, it appeared Rice was ticketed for Oregon; Arizona State then became the front-runner over the summer.  Official visits to Michigan and Colorado further clarified the process, with the trip to the latter, for CU’s come-from-behind win over Nebraska, seemingly sealing the deal.

“Coach Tucker’s enthusiasm really stood out,” Rice told 247Sports.com. “He is only loud when he needs to be and it was great to be able to see him in the locker room at that game against Nebraska. It was just different and it gave me goosebumps. I think I could run through a brick wall for that guy and it definitely makes me feel like that vision is something special.”

The 6-2, 204-pound Rice is a three-star 2020 prospect, rated as the No. 70 receiver in the country and the No. 12 player at any position in the state of Arizona.

West Virginia loses ex-Alabama LB VanDarius Cowan to season-ending injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Suffice to say, VanDarius Cowan‘s second season in Morgantown after leaving Tuscaloosa hasn’t gone as planned.

In late August, it was confirmed that Cowan would have to sit out the first four games of the 2019 season because of unspecified eligibility issues.  After serving that suspension, Cowan made his WVU debut in the Oct. 5 loss to Texas; a week later, the linebacker suffered a knee injury in the loss to Iowa State.

Tuesday, first-year head coach Neal Brown announced that Cowan underwent surgery and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.  The specific nature of the injury wasn’t divulged.

Cowan was originally a four-star member of Alabama’s 2017 recruiting class.  In July of last year, he was dismissed by the Crimson Tide after being charged with misdemeanor assault.  A month later, he landed at West Virginia.

The Florida native sat out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.

In less than two full games this season, Cowan was credited with six tackles and a sack.

Weather postpones Game 4 of Astros-Yankees, pushing Ohio State-Northwestern from FS1 to Big Ten Network

Getty Images
11 Comments

UPDATED 1:21 PM ET: Due to the weather-forced change in schedule for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, Friday night’s Ohio State-Northwestern game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

The game had originally been scheduled to air on FS1.

Kickoff time for the Big Ten clash is still set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

__________

This isn’t exactly optimal.

Due to the forecast of inclement weather, Major League Baseball announced that Game 4 of the American League Championship Series Wednesday night between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees has been moved to Thursday night.  That means Game 5 of the ALCS, originally scheduled for Thursday night, has been pushed to Friday night and will be televised on FS1, with first pitch set for 7:08 p.m. ET.

So, why is news on the postseason of a stick-and-ball sport appearing on a college football website?

Ohio State is scheduled to travel to Evanston to square off with Northwestern Friday.  On FS1. With kickoff set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

The ALCS is airing on FS1 because FOX is televising its newly-acquired WWE Friday Night Smackdown franchise, so a network broadcast won’t be possible for the Big Ten matchup.  More than likely, the game will air on either the Big Ten Network or FOX business.

As of this posting, neither the conference nor FOX has offered up exactly where the game will air.

Regardless of how it ultimately plays out, this will be a huge black eye for a league that shouldn’t be hijacking high school football’s night in the first place, regardless of how few games there are on Fridays (for now).