Alabama Football: Who Nick Saban most wants to beat

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

An Alabama football bye week is a good time to consider what coach(s) Nick Saban wants most to beat.

We can’t get inside the head of Alabama football, Head Coach, Nick Saban. If we could, there is much college football fans would want to learn. Foremost for Alabama football fans would be exactly how many more seasons does he intend to coach the Alabama Crimson Tide.

There are not many coaching secrets to explore. He willingly shares his coaching philosophy, along with multitudinous details about schemes and tactics. Even those who are not big football fans would love a chance to learn more about his leadership style. Although, that too, he often shares. As we said a couple of years ago, Nick is a rather transparent guy about many things. Saban’s ‘Process’ is highly valued, but the secret to it is no secret. Its foundational principles are life lessons both borrowed from and known to many leaders.

What many Alabama football fans would love to know is which opposing coaches does Saban relish beating. Beating Nick Saban happens infrequently. Going back to his entry to SEC coaching, in the 2000 season, Saban’s teams have lost only 39 games. Sixteen of those losses came in his five LSU seasons. Six of his 23 Alabama football losses came in his first Crimson Tide campaign in the 2007 season.

Sixteen of the 39 losses were against 16 different coaches. The list of coaches having beaten Saban only once since 2000 is the Brown brothers, Watson and Mack, Phillip Fulmer, David Cutcliffe, Frank Beamer, Dennis Franchione, Ron Zook, Kirk Ferentz, Bobby Bowden, Sylvester Croom, Charlie Weatherbie, Kyle Whittingham, Gene Chizik, Kevin Sumlin, Bob Stoops and Ed Orgeron. Only six are still college football head coaches.

The other 23 losses were against nine head coaches who have beaten Nick Saban between two and four times. In the two group are Houston Nutt, Mark Richt, Urban Meyer, Hugh Freeze and Dabo Swinney. Head coaches having prevailed against Nick three times are Steve Spurrier, Les Miles and Gus Malzahn. Running down the list of eight coaches in the two preceding sentences it is not hard to imagine who Saban most enjoys beating. A powerful hunch suggests two names – Urban Meyer and Gus Malzahn.

That leaves one name. Still relying on a hunch, it’s the guy Nick Saban would most want to beat again. Like Urban Meyer, he is not currently coaching. He is attempting another profession. That guy is Tommy Tuberville. He is the one coach who beat Nick Saban four times, three games while Nick was at LSU and the fourth in Saban’s first Alabama football season.

Why so sure Tubs would be at the top of Nick’s list? Think back to the 2008 Iron Bowl. With under three minutes to play, the score was 29-0 in favor of the Crimson Tide. Nick Saban disdains running up scores and no more points were needed. With its last four plays, all runs, the Tide had burned nearly three minutes of clock. Suddenly, the Tide’s intent changed. A go route from Greg McElroy to Marquis Maze resulted in a 36-yard touchdown pass. Symbolically the score was a dagger to Tommy Tuberville’s heart in the 36-0 Crimson Tide victory.

Next. Offense still has room for improvement. dark

Nick Saban was not going to run out the clock that day. Saban can no longer beat Tubs on the field. Instead, don’t expect Nick Saban to be voting for Tuberville on Tuesday.