For more than a decade of Alabama Football seasons, Nick Saban has been the college football coach all other coaches most want to beat. That the task has a low percentage of success does not diminish the fervor.
Heading toward the 2023 season, more college football coaches than ever are optimistic about their chances to take down a Nick Saban, Alabama football team. Some of them are outspoken about it, maybe to the point of irritating many Alabama Crimson Tide fans.
Coaching college football certainly requires boldness. Often brashness accompanies bold claims. Pointing to winning against Alabama Football as a measurement of an opponent’s success is not new.
What appears to have changed is the number of opposing coaches who are optimistic about beating Nick Saban. In the past, coaches predicting success against Nick Saban had a rather ‘whistling in a graveyard’ feel. Now, some boasts indicate an absence of fear over possibly being embarrassed by an Alabama football team.
It is apparently transformational when a coach beats a Nick Saban Alabama football team. Just the possibility of it prompts some to make bold claims. In May 2021, Jimbo Fisher shouted “we’re going to beat his (Saban) ass.” Fisher backed up the claim with a win the following fall. It improved his record against Saban to 1-4 and another loss since makes it 1-5 now.
Since LSU’s upset of Alabama last November, Brian Kelly has been quick to proclaim, “I love beatin’ Alabama.” Like Fisher, Kelly has a losing record against Nick Saban, with one LSU win and two Notre Dame losses.
The reality is among active coaches, only one, Kyle Whittingham has a winning record against Saban. Utah beat the 2008 Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
Not Alabama Football Losses
Technically, Saban has lost two more times against active coaches, but those were losses in LSU bowl games. They have nothing to do with Nick Saban’s Goat-Era with Alabama Football.
The next most successful active coach against Saban (after Whittingham) is Dabo Swinney. Dabo and Clemson are 2-2 against Saban and the Crimson Tide. Also, Tennessee’s Josh Heupel has an even split at 1-1.
Gus Malzahn has built his coaching career on three wins over Saban, But the complete record is Malzahn is 3-5 against the GOAT.
Kirby Smart has a big National Championship win over Saban. It is Smart’s only one over his former boss in a 1-4 record.
Then there is Hugh Freeze. Freeze caught lightning in a bottle twice at Ole Miss, beating Alabama in 2014 and 2015. He was quickly anointed with a King-Slayer title. Like most of the others, Freeze has a losing record against Saban, 2-3.
The Freeze vs. Saban record will grow to 2-4 in November.