Nick Saban

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Alabama score 21 unanswered for runaway Citrus Bowl victory over Michigan

7 Comments

The first matchup between Jim Harbaugh and Nick Saban went the way of the Crimson Tide. After trailing by two at halftime, No. 13 Alabama (11-2) shut down No. 14 Michigan (9-4) in the second half of a 35-16 victory in the Citrus Bowl.

Mac Jones passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns in place of the injured Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovialoa was on the field with Alabama’s captains for the coin flip but will now address his immediate future with a decision on coming back to taking a shot at the NFL looms while injured.  Alabama’s running game was led by a brilliant effort by Najee Harris, who picked up two touchdowns and 136 yards against the Wolverines. Star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy also presented some highlights among his six catches for 204 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown on Alabama’s first offensive play from scrimmage in the first quarter.

Michigan’s Shea Patterson certainly had his struggles, completing 17 of 37 passes for 233 yards and a pair of interceptions (the second coming on the final play of the game, however). Patterson’s first interception came on the first play after Michigan took over around midfield midway through the fourth quarter, with Alabama leading 28-16. Alabama finished off the drive with a soul-crushing touchdown in the final minute of the game.

This is the 9th consecutive season Alabama has recorded 11 wins in a season. This was obviously not where Alabama wanted to end the season, but the Crimson Tide remain as strong a threat for the playoff as ever going into the new season. Saban improved his postseason bowl season record to 15-10, including a 12-5 mark with Alabama. Harbaugh has fallen to just 1-4 in bowl games since his arrival in Ann Arbor, which will surely not help to turn back any narratives heading into next season.

Michigan and Alabama will each begin the 2020 season against an opponent from the Pac-12. Michigan will play a true road game when they head to Seattle to face the Washington Huskies on Sept. 5. On the same day, Alabama will take on USC in Arlington, TX.

Nick Saban confirms absence of two Alabama defensive players for Citrus Bowl

Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
2 Comments

With Alabama not playing in the College Football Playoff for the first time in the playoff era, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are no longer one of the few programs where players would opt out of playing bowl games this bowl season. On Monday, Saban confirmed his team will head to the Citrus Bowl without at least two players.

Linebacker Terrell Lewis and defensive back Trevon Diggs will not participate in Citrus Bowl preparations or the postseason bowl game this year, Saban has confirmed after some speculation regarding their absence from practice earlier in the day.

That official word did come a couple of hours later when Saban met with the media.

Lewis appeared in 11 games for Alabama this season after missing the 2018 season with an ACL injury. After recording  31 tackles with 11.5 TFL and six sacks, Lewis was named Second Team All-SEC. His decision to sit out of the bowl game comes as little surprise given his injury history with an NFL future potentially on the horizon. Although Lewis still has a year of eligibility available to him, he has earned his degree from Alabama and may have a chance to improve his NFL draft value in upcoming workouts and combine opportunities.

Diggs also made it on to the Second Team All-SEC this season. The senior defensive back played in 12 games for Alabama this season and intercepted three passes, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Lewis also contributed on special teams with six kickoff returns for 117 yards.

Alabama will face Michigan in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2020.

Nick Saban on Auburn: Probably the best team we’ve played this year

Getty Images
18 Comments

Alabama may have plenty of concerns with its strength of schedule argument, but the Crimson Tide did play arguably the nation’s best team in the country just earlier this month. But according to Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the best is still to come for the Crimson Tide this weekend when Alabama faces rival Auburn in the latest iteration of the Iron Bowl. As coaches tend to do, Saban was hyping up the strength and quality of his upcoming opponent, although he may have gone just a tad too far with his praise of his upcoming opponent.

Sure, a throwaway line form a coach leading up to the next game may be just that, a throwaway line. It doesn’t really require any real in-depth analysis to prove or disprove the meaning behind the words. Saban is simply just keeping the focus for his team on the task at hand. Alabama needs to beat Auburn to remain in contention for the College Football Playoff, as an 11-1 Alabama will most certainly remain in the mix even if it may need just a little bit of help from outside the SEC (and maybe some help within the SEC in the SEC Championship Game) to keep its perfect streak of playoff appearances going.

BUT…

… Auburn is clearly not the best team Alabama has faced this season. Second best, sure. But best? Nope. That would be the other Tigers residing in the SEC West, the ones from Baton Rouge.

LSU is the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff (although we will see Tuesday night if they remain No. 1 in the next-to-last batch of playoff rankings for the season before the ultimate decisions are made). LSU not only dispatched of Auburn in late October, 23-20, but traveled to Tuscaloosa and left town with a 46-41 victory to take a firm grip on the SEC West race before officially clinching the division crown this past weekend.

A reminder Nick Saban is a perfect 17-0 against former assistants as No. 1 Alabama heads to No. 24 Texas A&M

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
7 Comments

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.

Troy lets Nick Saban know they would still like to play Alabama

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
2 Comments

Alabama head coach Nick Saban went on a familiar rant about Alabama’s schedule after last weekend’s blowout victory over New Mexico State. Although Alabama has pioneered the art of playing a good (or at least an above-average) opponent form a power conference on a neutral field and are about to embark on some fun home-and-home series in the coming years, sometimes Alabama gets picked on for some of the lesser opponents they face on the football field (as do many other power conference programs).

After drubbing New Mexico State by 52 points in Week 2, Saban was asked after the game how playing a team like New Mexico State helps prepare his team for the SEC schedule.

“We’re playing the best teams that we can get to play us,” replied Saban in his signature style anytime someone challenges him on the schedule. Saban then asked the reporter to “start calling around and see you can get somebody else to play us?”

“We’ll play anybody you can get to play us,” Saban proclaimed.

Anybody, you say? While many teams may shy away from facing Alabama, there is one school in the same state ready and willing to reserve a date. It’s Troy.

Troy has never faced Alabama or Auburn. They are not alone in being snubbed by Alabama and Auburn. Alabama has not played an in-state opponent in non-conference play since 1944. Auburn has been a bit more open to in-state opponents in recent years, but not quite to the degree where a team like Troy enters the mix. Auburn will host Samford later this season and hosted Alabama State in 2018, Alabama A&M in 2017, and Jacksonville State in 2015. Auburn played Samford previously in 2014. These have all been games against FCS opponents, while schools like Troy, UAB, and South Alabama can’t get a call back.

“I think we have a very good model that’s worked well for us and I don’t see that changing,” Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne said at the SEC meetings in 2017.

Troy has made an effort to start a scheduling dialogue though, although it has come up empty for years.

“Nothing would please us more than to be able to go play,” former Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said in 2013. “Take our program and take our people to Bryant-Denny or Jordan-Hare. I think it would be good for college football. It certainly will be good for the conferences and all the schools involved, would probably make more and spend less. I don’t think either coach at either place now or before is worried about losing, maybe it will happen one day. Maybe it will happen. I hope it will. I don’t know that it will happen in my tenure.”

Well, it didn’t happen in his tenure, obviously. But it didn’t happen in Neal Brown‘s tenure either, and Chip Lindsey‘s tenure is off on the same trend with Alabama and Auburn not getting Troy on the schedule.

Saban doesn’t make the schedules, and he has said repeatedly the decisions about that are not in his hands despite his comments about his desire to play tougher schedules (credit him for that at least). But until Alabama actually will play anyone who wants to play them, maybe Saban should scale back that response a bit.