When Alabama and Ohio State square off in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day, it will feature two of college football’s most colossal figures. Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are directly responsible for five of the last nine national championship teams and six of the last 12. This will hardly mark the first time that Meyer and Saban have met with national title implications on the line.
It’s hard to fathom, but there was a time when Alabama wasn’t at the top of the class in college football. Saban changed that when he took the Alabama head coaching job in 2007. By 2008 he had completely turned the Alabama program around (‘Bama was 7-6 in his first year as head coach). In his second season at the helm, the Crimson Tide headed into the SEC Championship game with a 12-0 record and they were touted as the No. 1 team in the country.
The toast of college football at the time was Meyer and the Florida Gators. The Gators had won the BCS Championship in 2006, and their quarterback Tim Tebow took the Heisman trophy in 2007. The 2008 Florida squad was perhaps the best in the history of the program. The Gators headed into the SEC Title game with an 11-1 record and the No. 2 ranking. The winner played in the BCS Championship Game.
The Gators, led by Tebow’s three touchdown passes, upset the Crimson Tide, 31-20. Florida then defeated Oklahoma in the BCS Championship game, and the Meyer’s Gators were national champions for the second time in three seasons.
The two met again in the SEC Championship the following year under similar circumstances. Both Florida and Alabama were undefeated with the winner to play in the BCS Championship. This time around, No.2 Alabama crushed No.1 Florida, 32-13. The Crimson Tide then beat Texas in the BCS Championship game, and Saban had his first national championship.
Florida had a disappointing 2010 season going 8-5, finishing the season unranked. It was the first time in seven seasons that a Meyer-coached team finished a year outside of the top 25.
Saban, on the other hand, established himself as the premiere coach in college football. While Meyer was in the booth doing commentary, Saban was guiding Alabama to their second national title in three seasons.
Meyer returned to the sidelines in 2012, this time at Ohio State where the program was in disarray when he arrived. The Buckeyes received a one-year bowl ban in 2012 due to the past transgressions of former head coach Jim Tressel and some former Ohio State players.
What did Meyer do in his first year at Ohio State? He led them to an undefeated season. In all reality, the Buckeyes were probably the most dominant team in college football that 2012 season. Ohio State was the only team to finish the season undefeated, and they finished No. 3 in the country in spite of being ineligible for a bowl game.
Saban won his second consecutive national championship in 2012, and his third in four seasons. But, had Ohio State been bowl eligible, it most likely would have been the Buckeyes and not the Crimson Tide that would have played an undefeated Notre Dame team in the BCS Championship … just food for thought.
An old rivalry will be restored when Alabama and Ohio State face off in the Sugar Bowl on January 1
. It’s only fitting that Saban and Meyer would have to go through one another in the inaugural College Football Playoff to play for the national championship.
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