Alabama Football: 6 Coaches Most Afraid of Nick Saban
In just six years as the head coach at Alabama, coach Nick Saban has already built the Tide back into the biggest empire in college football.
The Tide is 60-7 in the last five seasons and is a month away from playing for their third BCS title in the last four years.
With a win over Notre Dame, Alabama would be the first team with three titles in four years since Nebraska in the mid-'90s.
After winning the national crown last season, the Tide lost a ton of talent to the NFL including four first-round draft picks. This year, the Tide was expected to experience somewhat of a rebuilding year.
Depending on which players might leave early after this season, Alabama should be expected to compete for yet another BCS title in 2013. No one has ever won three consecutive undisputed national titles at this level.
It is because of this amazing run that Saban has become quite the intimidating factor. Any coach who wants to reach college football's pinnacle knows he mus first go through Saban and the Tide.
Saban is the benchmark for success in college football. He recruits better. He coaches better. He is better.
Here is a look at the coaches who are likely to see Saban as their biggest threat.
Notre Dame's Brian Kelly
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Brian Kelly has brought the Irish back to national prominence in only three years. After toiling amid the middle of the pack for over a decade, Notre Dame now has a chance to win its first national title since 1988.
Unfortunately, Kelly has to go through Nick Saban do accomplish this feat and forever engrave his name alongside Irish greats like Parseghian, Rockne, Leahy and Holtz.
Notre Dame is the nation's only undefeated team and yet it is a nine-point underdog to Saban's Tide. Much of this is based on Saban and his reputation for winning on the big stage.
Kelly will be facing an offense that is as prolific as any Notre Dame has faced this season and a defense that every bit as good as his.
With a win, Kelly becomes an instant legend and will be considered by many to be one of the premier coaches in the business. With a loss, he goes back to work with something to prove and knowing that he had his shot and missed.
LSU's Les Miles
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Les Miles has been the head coach at LSU for eight years now and has still failed to escape from the shadow left by Nick Saban who preceded him.
Saban won a BCS title at LSU before bolting for NFL to lead the Miami Dolphins before returning to the collegiate ranks at Alabama.
Three years later Miles and his Tigers backed into a title of their own. Since then he has led his team to just one BCS bowl.
In 2011, Miles led his undefeated Tigers into the BCS title game against one Nick Saban and Alabama. After beating the Tide in Tuscaloosa just two months before, the Tide embarrassed LSU 21-0 to win yet another title.
This season, Miles had Saban beat in Baton Rouge, only to let the Tide slip away with a win after a last-minute touchdown drive. Had LSU won, the Tigers might be facing Notre Dame next month.
While Miles has had moderate success over Saban and the Tide (3-4), he came up short on the games greatest stage.
Until he can match Saban title for title, Miles will forever remain in Saban's shadow.
Georgia's Mark Richt
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In 2008, Mark Richt's Georgia Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the nation coming out of September. They lost that appreciation when Nick Saban and Alabama went to Athens and rode a 31-0 halftime lead to a 41-30 victory.
The Dawgs finished the season a disappointing 10-3.
Just less than a week ago, Richt found himself in the BCS title mix again by playing Alabama in pseudo playoff game known as the SEC Championship Game.
Georgia played well and took the Tide to the edge. But Alabama again drove the length of the field in the waning moments and held off a furious rally by the Bulldogs for a 32-28 victory.
Richt now gets to lead his team to the Capital One Bowl while Saban plays for another BCS title.
Richt has had a tremendous career at Georgia but has struggled mightily to get past division rivals South Carolina and Florida. This season he did just that.
His reward? Nick Saban.
For Richt to lead his team to the promised land that the Bulldog nation believes is long overdue, he must work his way through the East knowing that Saban will be waiting on the other side.
Florida's Will Mucshamp
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Will Muschamp led his Florida Gators to an impressive and unexpected 11-1 mark this fall. Unfortunately, the loss to Georgia left his team out of the BCS mix even though the Gators will be rewarded with a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
Muschamp is quickly becoming one of the rising stars of the coaching world.
He was also an assistant to Saban from 2001-2005.
Muschamp knows all too well what Saban is all about and that he is the most intimidating force in the SEC. For the Gators to get back to a BCS championship game, Muschamp too will have to get through his former mentor.
The two have yet to face each other head-to-head but, with the way Muschamp is building his program, that day is not too far away.
Only after he can beat the master will he be considered one of the best.
Auburn's Gus Malzahn
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In the state of Alabama, success is measured in the annual Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn.
Gus Malzahn, recently named as the new head coach at Auburn has some experience with this, as he was formerly the offensive coordinator there.
Malzahn has quite a rebuilding job ahead of him as he takes over an offense that ranked No. 118 in the nation and a defense that came in at No. 82 on the year.
At the end of each season, he will have to face Saban in the previously mentioned Iron Bowl.
If Malzahn wishes to bring his Tigers back to a competitive level in the SEC West, he will have to navigate an intimidating gauntlet only to face Saban at the end of the run.
As Auburn struggles through yet another coaching change and a looming NCAA investigation, Saban and the Tide continue to beef up the reserves with stellar recruiting.
Malzahn only has one year of head coaching experience and Arkansas State is not exactly playing at an SEC level.
Malzahn is going to have his hands full to say the least.
The Tennessee Coach to Be Named Later
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After firing head coach Derek Dooley last month, Tennessee had its sights set on brighter days.
Athletic Director Dave Hart has been rejected by multiple candidates and has still yet to find a replacement for the disappointing Dooley.
Once he names a coach, the rebuilding process will resume.
A part of the rebuilding process at Tennessee is the part where it has to get competitive with Alabama again.
The Third Saturday of October is when the two meet in their annual crossover SEC rivalry. Tennessee and Alabama have one of the game's greatest rivalries.
Unfortunately for the Vols, Alabama under Saban is a perfect 6-0 against them and only one of those games has been competitive.
Much like Richt and Muschamp, the future Vols coach will have to find a way to win the East only to have Saban waiting on the other side in the SEC title game.
What's worse for Tennessee is that it has to face the Tide in the regular season every single year.