Auburn vs. Alabama: Is Nick Saban Greatest Coach in the History of Iron Bowl?

Randy ChambersAnalyst INovember 20, 2012

Auburn vs. Alabama: Is Nick Saban Greatest Coach in the History of Iron Bowl?

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    The Iron Bowl is one of the more historic rivalries in college football that dates back to 1893. The two programs that have to share the state of Alabama dislike each other to say the least and can't wait to let their feelings be known when they take the field at the end of the year.

    The two rivals will square off for the 77th time this weekend, when the Auburn Tigers travel to Bryant-Denny Stadium to play the No. 2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. This meeting will take place at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

    But while this year’s contest may not have as much hype, as Auburn has had one of the worst seasons in program history, there is an interesting thought when it comes to head coach Nick Saban.

    Although there have been many successful coaches to take part in this rivalry, could he already be the best coach of them all in this meeting?

    This would certainly be seeing a lot, but let's take a look and see where he ranks all-time in this terrific college football matchup.

5. Gene Stallings, Alabama

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    Record in the Iron Bowl: 5-2


    Gene Stallings was able to snap a four-game losing streak to the Auburn Tigers in 1990, which happened to be the head coach's first season on the job. He then went on to coach the Tide to three consecutive victories over the Tigers, including a 17-0 victory in 1992, which led to a 13-0 record and a national championship win.

    In 1994, Stallings was the head coach of one of the more memorable rivalry games, when Auburn was stopped just inches of picking up a first down that would have extended the drive. The No. 3 ranked Crimson Tide went on to defeat the No. 6 ranked Auburn Tigers, which improved the head coach to a 4-1 record against the rival.

    In his final rivalry game between the two teams in 1996, Alabama came back to knock off the Tigers by a score of 24-23 in the final minutes. The victory led Alabama to its fourth SEC Championship game in five seasons.  

    Stallings was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

4. Pat Dye, Auburn

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    Record in the Iron Bowl: 6-6


    In 1982, head Coach Pat Dye helped lead the Auburn Tigers to a victory that ended a nine- game winning streak for the Crimson Tide. Running back Bo Jackson jumped over the pile to score a game-winning touchdown, which happened to be the last Iron Bowl Alabama head coach Bear Bryant was ever involved in.

    The very next season, Auburn ended up winning the rivalry game again, as Jackson set an Iron Bowl record with 256 yards on the ground. The Tigers then went on to win the SEC Championship and was awarded the national championship by Billingsley, The New York Times, Football Research and others.

    Dye was also the head coach that decided to go for a touchdown instead of a field goal in the 1984 game that is forever known as "Wrong way Bo".

    But Dye will always be remembered for the play that took place in 1962, as he told wide receiver Lawyer Tillman to call a timeout with only 32 seconds remaining. However, the referees did not award the Tigers with a timeout, and a reverse play caught Alabama off guard that led to a game-winning touchdown.

    The legendary Auburn head coach ended his career with three straight losses to the Crimson Tide, but was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

3. Nick Saban, Alabama

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    Record in the Iron Bowl: 3-2


    Nick Saban has only been around for five Iron Bowls, but has quickly made his presence felt in this historic rivalry. You have the 2008 game that sent former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville packing with a 36-0 loss. That game also capped off a 12-0 regular season, which was the first for the program in SEC history.

    There was also "The Drive" that was led by Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy. While trailing by one point with a little over eight minutes to play, the Crimson Tide put together a beautiful 15-play drive that gave the Crimson Tide the 26-21 victory,  and eventually led the team to a national championship in 2009.

    In last year’s Iron Bowl, Saban motivated his players by reminding them what happened during 2010 with Cam Newton's comeback. His team went out on the field and won by a score of 42-14, not allowing a single point on the defensive side of the ball. However, allowing Auburn to comeback in the 2010 meeting after being down by 24-points still has to sting a little bit.

    As Saban continues to build a reputation in this rivalry, he will continue to slide up this list.

2. Tommy Tuberville, Auburn

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    Record in the Iron Bowl: 7-3


    The longest winning streak for Auburn in the Iron Bowl is the six games that were generated from 2002 to 2007 under head coach Tommy Tuberville.

    Despite making a comeback in the 2004 season, led by running back Carnell Williams and quarterback Jason Campbell, the highlight under Tuberville was when Auburn created 11 sacks, setting a school and series record.

    Alabama simply could not protect quarterback Brodie Croyle, as seven different players got in on the action. Auburn ended up winning the game by a score of 28-18.

    Auburn won the SEC Championship in 2004 and saw the most consistent progress in this rivalry under Tuberville.

    That was until head coach Nick Saban came along for Alabama,  and Tuberville was later fired after the 2008 season.

1. Bear Bryant, Alabama

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    Record in the Iron Bowl: 19-6


    Did you really expect there to be any other coach on top of this list?

    If you are talking about anything positive that includes Alabama football coaches, there is a great chance Bear Bryant is going to be included in that conversation. Bryant's 76 percent winning percentage is greater than any other coach who has ever participated in this rivalry for at least three games.

    He was involved in the first nationally televised Iron Bowl in 1964, which Alabama won by a score of 21-14. He knocked off an undefeated Tigers team  in 1971 to lead his team to an Orange Bowl matchup against the undefeated Nebraska Cornhuskers.

    Bryant was also involved in the 1972 meeting, where the Tigers blocked two punts and returned both for touchdowns. Due to the special team issues, Auburn went on to squeak by a score of 17-16, and win its third game in the last four meetings.

    In 1981, Bryant become the then all-time winningest coach in FBS history, as the Crimson Tides' 28-17 win gave the head coach 315 victories in his career.

    One of the greatest coaches of all-time would later retire after the 1982 season, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

    It would take an awful lot to replace what Bryant did for this rivalry and the school of Alabama.