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.

South Alabama announces home-and-home with Ole Miss

Ole Miss football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Thanks to Ole Miss, we have some football scheduling news you don’t normally see.  An SEC school agreeing to a straight home-and-home with a Group of Five program.

South Alabama Monday confirmed that it has reached an agreement on a home-and-home series with Ole Miss in football.  The Jaguars will travel to Oxford Sept. 2, 2028.  The Rebels will make the five-hour trek to Mobile Sept. 1 of the following season.

The 2029 game will mark the first time an SEC school travels to the Sun Belt Conference program since Mississippi State in 2014.  That was actually the first and only time since USA became an FBS member.

South Alabama and Ole Miss have met once in football. That came back in 2017, with the Rebels claiming a 47-27 win in Oxford.

“We are very excited to sign this home-and-home contract with Ole Miss,” USA head coach Steve Campbell said in a statement. “They have a proud program and tradition, it will be great to have them play in Hancock Whitney Stadium; hopefully they will be the first of many Power Five schools to make that trip to play here in Mobile. Mississippi has been very good for us as far as recruiting, we have brought in a lot of talented student-athletes from the state, I know it will be exciting for those future recruits to play Ole Miss.”

USA’s new stadium, incidentally, is set to open this coming season.  That site will also serve as the new home of the Senior Bowl.

In its history, USA has played six games against SEC schools.  They are 1-5 in those games.  The lone win?  Against Mississippi State in 2016.

Outside of Ole Miss, USA has five future games against members of the SEC.  Those are:

  • Florida (2020)
  • Tennessee (2021)
  • LSU (2024)
  • Auburn (2025)
  • Kentucky (2026).

Northwestern officially adds Indiana transfer QB Peyton Ramsey… and a punter from Kent State

Northwestern football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The quarterback room for Northwestern football has officially received a much-needed infusion of talent.  And experience.

In late January, Peyton Ramsey entered the NCAA transfer database.  Two months later, the erstwhile Indiana quarterback committed to the Northwestern football program.

Monday, Northwestern formally confirmed Ramsey’s addition to its football roster.  Also, former Kent State punter Derek Adams was added as well.

Both players come to the Wildcats as graduate transfers.

“We are thrilled to welcome Peyton and Derek to our football family,” said Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald in a statement. “The graduate education opportunities at Northwestern are unparalleled, as is the opportunity to compete at the highest level of college football. We look forward to welcoming them properly when we all return to Evanston to prepare for the 2020 season.”

Of the 32 games in which he played for the Hoosiers, Ramsey started 23 of those.

During his time in Bloomington, Ramsey completed 66.5% of his career pass attempts for 6,581 yards, 42 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.  The Cincinnati native also ran for 832 yards and another 14 touchdowns. This past season, he earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors after finishing second in the conference in completion percentage (68%), fourth in yards per attempt (8.2) and fifth in passer rating (147.7).

This past season, Northwestern was 126th (out of 130 FBS schools) in passing yards per game (117), 124th in completion percentage (50%) and dead last in passer rating (84.5). NU’s six touchdown passes in 12 games?  129th in the country.

“I would like to thank everyone at Indiana University for allowing me to live out my dream of playing college football,” said Ramsey. “I would especially like to thank my teammates that pushed me, encouraged me, and trusted me. Sometimes the road to realizing your dreams can take you in a different direction than you expected. I am grateful to Coach Fitz and his entire staff for this opportunity. I can’t wait to get started.”

Adams, meanwhile, was a three-year starter for the Golden Flashes.  He averaged 42 yards per punt in that span.  Last season, the average was at 43.1.

Twice, Adams earned All-MAC honors.

“It has been one heck of a journey so far,” said Adams. “I am beyond grateful to Coach Fitz, Coach Genyk and the entire Northwestern Football program for providing an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Second Mississippi State player reportedly set to flip Egg Bowl sides, transfer to Ole Miss

Egg Bowl
Getty Images
1 Comment

Fabien Lovett spent the first portion of the Egg Bowl rivalry on the Mississippi State side.  Now, he’s headed to the other.  Reportedly.

Lovett was one of a handful of individuals offended by a Mike Leach tweet earlier this offseason.  The MSU defensive lineman subsequently became the first of five Bulldogs to enter the NCAA transfer database in the past two months or so.  A couple of weeks later, Lovett tweeted that he would be transferring to Florida State.

Monday, however, it was reported that Lovett Will Likely become the latest MSU player to find a new home as the lineman has flipped to the Ole Miss side of the Egg Bowl rivalry. Whispers have been growing of later the Lovett could be headed to Oxford.

Thus far, none of the schools involved or the player have confirmed anything.

If it comes to fruition, Lovett would be the second MSU player in less than a week to switch Egg Bowl sides.  Friday, defensive back Jarrian Jones announced that he is committed to Ole Miss.

It’s thought that Lovett would have to sit out the 2020 season if he moves to another FBS program. However, he is expected to file an appeal for an immediate eligibility waiver. It’s believed that he will use the Leach tweet as the basis for his appeal.

Lovett was a three-star 2018 signee. He was rated as the No. 7 player regardless of position in the state of Mississippi.

The past two seasons, Lovett appeared in 15 games. 13 of those appearances came in 2019. A year ago, the defensive end was credited with 19 tackles, 2½ tackles for loss and a sack.

Because he appeared in four or fewer games in 2018, Lovett was able to take a redshirt for that season. Depending on how the waiver appeal turns out, Lovett would have either three years of eligibility starting in 2020 or two starting in 2021.

For those keeping score at home?  Leach’s Bulldogs and Lane Kiffin‘s Rebels will next meet Nov. 26.  In Oxford.

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history, including Steve Spurrier predicting Tim Tebow will ‘do super’ in the NFL

college football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The sports world, including college football, has essentially screeched to a halt as countries around the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there’s a dearth of college football news as spring practices have all but been canceled at every level of the sport. And there’s even some concern that the health issue could have an impact on the 2020 college football campaign.

In that vein, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives that stretch back to 2009 and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on May 27, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this college football hiatus, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2019

THE HEADLINE: Report: Bru McCoy re-transferring from Texas back to USC
THE SYNOPSIS: The five-star 2019 prospect signed with USC.  Then transferred to TexasThen moved back to the Trojans.

2018

THE HEADLINE: Proposed California amendment would cap coaches salaries at $200,000
THE SYNOPSIS: LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL…

2017

THE HEADLINE: WATCH: FCS player paralyzed in 2015 game vs. Georgia walks
THE SYNOPSIS: Southern’s Devon Gales is such an inspirational story.

2016

THE HEADLINE: Art Briles’ daughter calls firing ‘outrageous’ and ‘disgusting’ in Facebook post
THE SYNOPSIS: Oddly enough, outrageous and disgusting described the scandal that cost her father his job at Baylor.

2015

THE HEADLINE: Amidst controversy, Dabo Swinney cancels planned appearance
THE SYNOPSIS: The Clemson coach was caught up in an LGBT kerfuffle.

2014

THE HEADLINE: Bill Hancock says CFB Playoff not expanding past four teams
THE SYNOPSIS: Six years later, momentum is building for expansion.

2012

THE HEADLINE: Michigan commit burns Buckeyes recruiting literature
THE SYNOPSIS: The Greatest Rivalry In All Of Sports knows no offseason.

2009

THE HEADLINE: Spurrier On Tebow & The NFL: ‘He’ll Do Super’
THE SYNOPSIS: Was the Ol’ Ball Coach correct?  Let’s go to the Tale of the Statistical Tape:

GAMES: 35
ATTEMPTS: 361
COMPLETIONS: 173
COMPLETION PERCENTAGE: 47.9
PASSING YARDS: 2,422
PASSING TOUCHDOWNS: 17
INTERCEPTIONS: 9
YARDS PER ATTEMPT: 6.7
PASSER RATING: 75.3