Forget Oregon-Alabama, Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer Is the BCS Title Game We Need

Sebastian Lena@SP7988Analyst ISeptember 20, 2013

There's no love lost between these two head coaches.
There's no love lost between these two head coaches.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We’re not even through four weeks of the college football season, yet everyone is talking BCS title matchups.

As of now, Oregon versus Alabama seems to be the general consensus. B/R's Adam Kramer tweeted that has even gone as far as already taking bets on the potential matchup. 

However, what college football really needs is a showdown between Urban Meyer-led Ohio State and the Nick Saban-led Crimson Tide.

With a playoff format set for 2014, it would be the perfect final chapter of the BCS era.

The bout would feature the masterminds behind five of the last seven BCS championship runs and six of the last 10. It would pit the only head coach to win national championships with two different programs against the only head coach to record undefeated seasons with multiple schools. Last year’s BCS champion against last year’s lone undefeated squad.

But most of all, it would settle the biggest question of them all: Who is the greatest head coach of the BCS era?


Better Late than Never

Saban failed in the NFL before he became considered one of the greatest college football coaches of all time.
Saban failed in the NFL before he became considered one of the greatest college football coaches of all time.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

During his first 11 seasons in college football, Saban flew mostly under the radar, compiling a record of 91-42-1 (67.9 win percentage).

Sure, it was a solid run, but other than his BCS triumph with LSU in 2003, there was really nothing else in Saban’s resume to boast about. Certainly not anything to lead us to believe he would eventually be considered one of the greatest coaches in college football history.

And that doesn’t even include his godawful stint with the Miami Dolphins from 2005-06.

So it came as no surprise that, after being laughed out of the NFL, Saban returned to college football in 2007. Surprisingly, it was with the Tigers’ bitter SEC foe, Alabama.

After inheriting a program that had recorded just one winning season in the past four years, Saban certainly had his work cut out for him. Following an up-and-down inaugural campaign (7-6), he delivered the Tide their first 12-win season since 1994.

The rest was simply magical.

From 2009-12, Saban put together one of the finest four-year stretches in college football history. That included running up a 49-5 (90.7 win percentage) record and three BCS titles.

That kind of dominance hadn’t been seen since Nebraska’s Tom Osborne accomplished a similar feat in the mid-'90s—49-2 with three national championships from 1994-97.

In Saban’s case, a lot of that success has to be credited to his mastery when it comes to recruiting.

Before his arrival, Alabama’s recruiting classes hadn’t ranked inside the top 10 in quite some while. However, since his arrival, the program has registered the top class in six of the last seven years. In fact, his last two classes with LSU (2003 and 2004) ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively.

To this date, Saban has produced a school-record 14 first-round draft choices in the NFL. In comparison, legendary Tide head coach Bear Bryant had 13 in 25 seasons.

OK, Saban still has a couple more national championships to go—Bryant had sixbefore he can even be mentioned in the same breath as one of the greatest head coaches in the history of football in general.

Then again, which head coach has even come close to proving they can stop him?


Addicted to Winning

Meyer has a history of winning.
Meyer has a history of winning.Harry How/Getty Images

Coming off a 2-9 mark in 2000, Bowling Green had just completed its sixth straight losing season. Needless to say, expectations were pretty low for Meyer, the Falcons’ first-year head coach at the time.

However, the then-36-year-old led the team to a surprising 17-6 record over the next two seasons. He was named MAC Coach of the Year in 2001 and helped Bowling Green rank as high as No. 20 in the AP Poll in 2002.

From then on, all Meyer did was win.

So much so that, among active head coaches with at least 100 games coached, he ranks No. 1 in win percentage with a record of 119-23 (83.8 percent). That includes an impressive 7-1 in bowl games (5-0 BCS) and undefeated regular seasons in 2004, 2009 and 2012.

Furthermore, Meyer has won two BCS titles (2006, 2008) and four conference championships (2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008). He’s also racked up 13 coaching awards including The Sporting News National Coach of the Year (2003), the George Munger Award (2004), the Woody Hayes Trophy Award (2004) and Sports Illustrated Coach of the Decade (2009), among others.

The key to Meyer’s success? Running a unique offensive scheme that relies on short passing routes while adding elements of a traditional run-oriented option offense.

Josh Harris, Alex Smith and Braxton Miller all flourished in the system. Not only were all three capable of beating opposing defenses with their arms, but their ability to take off with their legs gave defensive coordinators nightmares.

However, Meyer’s pride and joy will always be Gators quarterback Tim Tebow.

Over four seasons at The Swamp, Tebow passed for 9,285 yards and 88 touchdowns to just 16 interceptions while running for 2,947 yards and 57 scores on the ground. He brought a different kind of aspect to the quarterback position, eventually winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007.

There’s no doubt Meyer turns good players into great ones.

That’s especially helpful since he has a knack for bringing talented players in, with four of his five recruiting classes at Florida ranking in the top three. Furthermore, his only class with Ohio State ranked No. 2.

Fresh off an undefeated 12-0 season with the Buckeyes, Meyer and his squad will be looking for more.

Good luck to any team that tries to stand in his way.


Rivalry Reborn?

Saban wasn't too pleased with Meyer's comments back in May.
Saban wasn't too pleased with Meyer's comments back in May.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

At a Q&A with CBS Sports on May 24, Meyer didn’t hesitate to make his feelings on Alabama known:

You look at [2012], [Alabama] should have lost three games. Georgia had them beat. LSU, I watched that one, it was over. Obviously they ended up beating them. I thought they’d be really good. I think there are some really good teams in the conference.

It only took Saban four days to respond in a Sporting News article:

How well would [Ohio State] have done had they played the six [SEC] teams that were ranked in the Top 10? Would they beat them all? Would they beat three of them? I don’t know.

But this isn’t anything new.

Meyer and Saban have been longtime rivals. According to The Palm Beach Post, it reportedly goes back as far as 1990, when Saban—then the head man at Toledo—ignored Meyer’s call to see if there were any coaching vacancies. 

More recently, during Meyer’s tenure in Gainesville, the Gators would go neck and neck with Saban’s Tide. In fact, the two schools met in back-to-back SEC title games as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

Many saw the two matchups as the real national championship, with the winner becoming the odds-on favorite to bring home the crystal football. The pair split the meetings, and as expected, each went on to be crowned BCS champion.

It quickly became apparent that these two would battle for SEC glory for many years to come.

However, the day after the team’s second meeting—a 32-13 Alabama victory—Meyer was hospitalized. He suffered from chest pain and dehydration, likely caused by a high level of stress.

Although he would return to coach in 2010, Meyer couldn’t coach at the same high level that he once did. As a result, Florida stumbled to an 8-5 record and Meyer retired at the conclusion of the year.

Meanwhile, Saban only continued building up his repertoire, adding another two BCS titles to his name. In fact, there’s talk that the Tide may be the best team of the BCS era and that Saban is solely responsible.

You’ve got to think Meyer has something to say about that.


Summing It All Up

These two could very well meet again in January.
These two could very well meet again in January.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Sure, these two men stand in each other’s way of reaching the ultimate goal. However, it would be foolish to mistake the subtle jabs for the bitterness and hatred that usually come with most rivalries.

Instead, both Saban and Meyer actually have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. In fact, the two even teamed up to take on the issue of agents a couple years ago.

Regardless, a BCS title matchup between them would surely be a can’t-miss bout.

Between the two, there are six BCS titles, eight conference championships and a total of 25 consensus All-Americans. Furthermore, the duo has combined for an impressive 10-1 record in BCS bowl games.

Back in 2006, it was a Meyer-led Florida team that beat Ohio State to begin a string of seven consecutive SEC national champions. Now, a Meyer-led Buckeyes squad is trying to put an end to that streak.

How could we want anything other than that?


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