It’s that time of the year again when we are regularly reminded that Alabama head coach Nick Saban has never lost to an assistant coach during his coaching career. That perfect streak will once again be put on the line this weekend when the top-ranked Crimson Tide make their way to College Station, Texas to face the No. 24 Texas A&M Aggies. Texas A&M, of course, is coached by Jimbo Fisher. You guessed it. Fisher is a former assistant to Saban.
Fisher has gone 0-2 against his former boss, including last season’s loss in SEC play. Last season marked the first time Fisher faced Saban as a coach of an SEC West Division foe. His previous loss to Saban came while coaching at Florida State when the No. 3 Seminoles opened the 2017 season with a 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama in the season opener in Atlanta, Georgia. The most-hyped Week 1 game in quite some time ended up being far from able to match the preseason hype. Florida State hasn’t exactly been the same since and may still be trying to recover from that game.
The odds always seem to be in Saban’s favor, as he generally has the best team in every matchup against his former assistants, and that should once again be the case this weekend. Is Saban due for a loss against an assistant? Perhaps. It’s hard to win so many games before taking a mild hit somewhere along the way, even if by a fluke. Fisher may have Texas A&M working to be a viable threat to Alabama, and maybe playing at home helps, but the Aggies have already lost one game at home to Auburn so it doesn’t seem like this may be a difficult destination for Alabama.
Brett McMurphy of Stadium notes Saban has lost to just nine active coaches. Active coaches with victories against Saban are Les Miles (Kansas; 3), Hugh Freeze (Liberty; 2), Gus Malzahn (Auburn; 2), Dabo Swinney (Clemson; 2), Mack Brown (UNC; 2), David Cutcliffe (Duke; 1), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa; 1), Kevin Sumlin (Arizona; 1) and Kyle Whittingham (1; Utah). Only four of those coaches (Malzahn, Swinney, Ferentz, Whittingham) are at the same program today as they were when they topped Saban. Swinney and Brown, of course, have victories against Saban in the national championship game (Brown in the BCS and Swinney twice in the College Football Playoff).
Is Fisher going to be the first former Saban assistant to beat his old boss? We’ll find out this week. If not, we may be waiting for Kirby Smart to get another crack in the SEC Championship Game.
Over the course of a 20-game winning streak, there are bound to be some close calls. On Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, No. 1 Clemson (5-0, 3-0 ACC) had one of the closest calls of their current 20-game winning streak as the Tigers held on to escape an upset bid by North Carolina (2-3, 1-1 ACC), 21-20. Clemson came up with a stop on a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute of the game and prevented UNC from coming up with an onside kick to grab the win.
North Carolina did a good job of keeping Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence off his mark for most of the night (Lawrence was 18-of-30 for 206 yards and a touchdown), but he delivered a perfect pass to give Clemson its first lead of the game in the fourth quarter with a pass to Tee Higgins.
UNC had an answer, however. Freshman quarterback Sam Howell led the Tar Heels on a 16-play drive and 75 yards to get on the doorstep of the end zone in the final minutes of the game. Javonte Williams pushed the ball in for a touchdown to cut the Clemson lead to one. Head coach Mack Brown didn’t hesitate and was ready to go for two and the win. But Clemson was ready for the play and was all over Howell on the run.
After the win, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney praised the effort by the Tar Heels and admitted to being out-coached by Brown. Swinney also said his team is not entitled to win and still has to go out and earn their wins just like everybody else.
Clemson now continues to extend its winning streak to 20 games, a school record. After getting next week off, the Tigers will host Florida State. North Carolina will visit Georgia Tech next week. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 24-2 loss at Temple.
It’s been a long time coming for UNC head coach Mack Brown. In his first game on the sidelines since the 2013 season, Brown coached his Tar Heels to rally past South Carolina in the Belk College Football Kickoff Game in Charlotte, 24-20. It is the first time Brown has won a game since a Thanksgiving game between Brown’s Texas Longhorns and Texas Tech in 2013. On top of that, Brown got the win against his former assistant Will Muschamp, who was once named the head coach in waiting at Texas under Brown.
South Carolina had a 13-3 lead in the second quarter and took a 20-9 lead into the fourth quarter. But UNC kept grinding away and the defense rattled Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley. Bentley was intercepted twice in the final minutes of the game, both times by Myles Wolfolk, and he fumbled the football on the final play of the game. That ball was returned for a touchdown, but the game was already cemented in the win column for UNC.
For UNC, it was really the defense that led the way. South Carolina had just three third-down conversions in 13 tries and every possession after going up 20-9 ended with a punt or turnover the rest of the game for South Carolina.
Freshman quarterback Sam Howell got the start for UNC and he was solid in his Tar Heel debut. Howell passed for 245 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Running back Javonte Williams went over the century mark to out-rush his South Carolina counterpart Tavien Feaster.
And here’s a fun little nugget. Brown has now won three consecutive games at UNC. Brown left UNC for Texas after the 1997 season, after UNC had gone 10-1 in the regular season. That season ended on a three-game winning streak with victories for UNC over Clemson, Duke and Virginia Tech (in the Gator Bowl, years before Virginia Tech was an ACC member). However, Brown did not coach the Tar Heels in the Gator Bowl because he left for Texas after accepting an offer from the Longhorns.
Brown will look to score his fourth consecutive win at UNC next week when UNC hosts Miami in an ACC Coastal Division matchup. Miami was off in Week 1 after opening their season against Florida in Week 0 (and losing to the Gators).
South Carolina will hope to get in the win column next week with a home game against Charleston Southern.
North Carolina’s second run under head coach Mack Brown will get rolling with a freshman as the starting quarterback. Brown announced on Sunday he is moving forward with freshman Sam Howell getting the reps with the first-team offense moving forward. That is about as close to naming Howell the starting quarterback as they can get without saying it definitively, but we can read between the lines.
Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder, both redshirt freshmen, will split snaps with the second-team offense, Brown confirmed.
“We’ve been looking at our quarterback situation very closely,” Brown told reporters on Sunday, according to Inside Carolina. “We’re concerned about not having enough true leaders on offense. Sam Howell will now start taking the snaps with the blue team, our first team. Cade and Jace will be working more with the white team. We played four quarterbacks last year. Obviously, we need all three of them.”
It may not be a total shock to see the new head coach in Chapel Hill go with the quarterback he recruited to the program. Howell, a four-star recruit in the Class of 2019, committed to the Tar Heels in Dec. 2018 as one of Brown’s first major recruiting victories shortly into his return as head coach of the program. Howell enrolled at UNC for the spring semester to allow him to get started working out with the team. The early enrollment may have helped Howell get a feel for running the offense, as Brown noted he has been the most consistent option available in the offseason.
For the first time in a number of years, there seems to be a real sense of optimism surrounding the Texas Longhorns football program heading into the 2019 season. An appearance in the Big 12 championship game and a victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl has been the fuel for the suggestion, as quarterback Sam Ehlinger proclaimed in New Orleans, that Texas is back. For the Longhorns, that means Texas fans are gearing up to legitimately think about celebrating a long-awaited national championship once again.
The last national championship celebrated in Austin came at the end of the 2005 season with one of the most memorable endings in Rose Bowl history. After being the No. 2 team in the AP poll all season long behind only the Trojans, Texas quarterback Vince Young turned in one of the best performances you could ask for under the pressure of the national championship spotlight. Young completed 30 of 40 pass attempts for 267 yards and rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns, none more visually memorable as his third, which proved to be the title-winning score to end program’s national title drought that spanned back to the 1970 season (although Texas faithful will argue their case for the 1977 and 1981 titles).
To put things in some perspective, let’s take a stroll down memory lane to see what was going on in 2005, the last time Texas had a national championship season.
Last National Title Season: 2005 (13 years and counting)
Who was President?
That would be none other than George W. Bush. Bush had just been sworn in for his second term in office following a victory in the 2004 election against John Kerry.
Also in 2005, current President Donald J. Trump married his third wife, Melania Knauss.
What was on TV?
Just a couple of weeks after Texas celebrated their national championship victory, “American Idol” was entering its fifth season as the nation’s top-rated television program. This was the season that would eventually lead to Carrie Underwood, a native of Oklahoma, to be named the winner of the singing competition. You may have heard of her. She’s the woman who would go on to sing the theme song for Sunday Night Football on NBC later on in her musical career.
If you were watching NBC, then odds are pretty decent you were watching “Deal or No Deal,” hosted by none other than Howie Mandel.
What movies were hot?
The final chapter in the Star Wars prequel, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith had come out earlier in the spring and was probably making its way to DVD by the time Texas started their championship season. But the final movie directed by George Lucas in his Star Wars saga would not be the top movie at the box office in 2005. That honor belonged to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth installment in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which came out in November of 2005. It took a wizard to take down a Jedi in 2005.
Still in an age before Marvel movies took over the superhero genre and the box office ticket sales, the first installment in Christopher Nolan‘s Batman trilogy hit theaters as well with Batman Begins. Amazingly, the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp actually beat Batman at the box office. In hindsight, what were we thinking? Another superhero movie released in 2005 was Fantastic Four, starring Chris Evans, who would later go on to play a much better role in a much better franchise as Captain America.
Also released in 2005? The Adam Sandler-led remake of The Longest Yard. Burt Reynolds made an appearance in the movie as well, of course.
As for the Oscars, Brokeback Mountain Best Film while Crash took Best Original Screenplay.
Who was on the cover of NCAA Football?
NCAA Football 06 was released by EA Sports on July 12, 2005 for the Sony PlayStation 2 and the Microsoft Xbox. Sorry Nintendo Gamecube fans. You were left out of the game this time. This year’s edition of the game introduced the “Race for the Heisman ” mode, which would become a fun feature of the game in some capacity.
Michigan’s Desmond Howard was featured on the cover of the game, striking his signature pose for the cover. This marked the first time in the franchise’s history a player who didn’t play the previous season and had gone on to the NFL appeared on the cover of the game.
What else happened in 2005?
The Chicago White Sox won the 2005 World Series, sweeping the Houston Astros. The White Sox snapped their own championship drought in doing so with their first World Series title since 1917. The year before, in 2004, the Boston Red Sox had snapped their World Series drought.
The San Antonio Spurs won their third NBA championship in seven seasons. North Carolina won their first men’s college basketball national championship under Roy Williams.
Lance Armstrong won his seventh consecutive Tour de France. That wouldn’t come into play down the line, right?
Tiger Woods won his fourth Masters title in 2005. He also won at the British Open.
The NHL had the 2004-2005 season canceled over a labor dispute, so there was no Stanley Cup winner in 2005, although the Carolina Hurricanes would top the Edmonton Oilers in the 2005-2006 season. Cam Ward was the playoff MVP.
The Pittsburgh Steelers would be Super Bowl champions shortly after the Texas national championship run. Ben Roethlisberger and Jerome Bettis topped the Seattle Seahawks years before former UCLA head coach Jim Mora and former USC head coach Pete Carroll would take a run at coaching the NFC West franchise.
Nick Saban was in his first NFL season with the Miami Dolphins. He’d be coming back to the SEC soon enough. At Clemson, Dabo Swinney was a wide receivers coach in his third year on the job. He would be named interim head coach of the Tigers three years later.
Current Texas head coach Tom Herman was in his first season as an offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for Texas State.
Mack Brown today
The head coach of the last national championship for Texas, Mack Brown, is getting back in the coaching game this season. Brown was essentially forced out of his position as head coach at Texas at the end of the 2013 season, amid some possible expectations Texas boosters would be able to lure Nick Saban away from Alabama. Instead, Texas got Charlie Strong from Louisville. Brown went to work for ABC and ESPN as a studio analyst with some work in the booth to go with it, but after five years on TV, Brown is returning to another one of his previous stops to resume his coaching career. Brown is now the head coach at North Carolina, the school that employed him before Texas hired him away from Chapel Hill prior to the 1998 season.