Is Nick Saban The Most Overrated Coach in College Football?
This is the first installment in an upcoming series of articles regarding the most overrated, and underrated, coaches, players and programs in college football.
I am sure these articles will spark debate. However, in a sport that often lacks a clear cut champion, there's no playoff system, NCAA Division I football thrives on debate.
I will start this series by addressing Nick Saban, who I believe is the most overrated coach in college football.
Before Alabama fans blow a gasket, allow me to elaborate.
Saban is a very good coach, but the idea that he is the nation's top coach seems foolish. The argument for Saban also denies the facts. He is clearly a top-10, if not a top-five, coach.
However, the facts don't lie.
I encourage you to keep an open mind and welcome debate, but let's not make these subjects personal.
Debate is what sets college football apart, but sportsmanship is just as important.
Reason No. 5: Losses to Inferior Teams
Saban is one of the best, if not the best, at getting big performances when his team is the underdog. His magical speeches, chip on the shoulder mentality and clear arrogance make Saban a perfect underdog coach.
Throughout his career, though, Saban has lost, or has come close to losing, many games where his team was heavily favored. Stumbles against UAB (2000), Utah (2009), and Louisiana-Monroe (2007) all come to mind.
Utah was a legitimate national championship contender. However, UAB shouldn't have beaten LSU and Louisiana Monroe shouldn't have beaten Alabama.
I have heard Alabama fans counter with, “It was Mike Shula's fault.”
This argument is foolish.
LA-Monroe has never had more talent than the University of Alabama. With that said, do you think coaches like Urban Meyer or Mack Brown would lose to these teams?
Reason No. 4: Incomplete Resume
A great coach should be measured by his long-term success with a program.
With Saban, there is no long-term record. The coach has never built an extended resume with one program.
The all-time greats, like Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno and Bear Bryant, have a memorable history with one program. If Saban wants the greatness label, he'll need to plant roots in Tuscaloosa.
While it's tough to build a program from the ground up, an accomplishment Saban might be the best at, it may be even harder to maintain that high sucess level.
Saban has been on the build and flee plan his entire career. He stayed at Toledo for one year, Michigan State for five, LSU for five, the Miami Dolphins for two and Alabama for three.
It's time for Saban to prove he can do more than build a house. If he wants to be great, the coach must prove he can keep one up, as well.
Reason No. 3: Team's Final Rankings
This stat might surprise you. In 13 seasons, Saban's teams only finished in the top 10 five times, and in the top five twice.
Those numbers aren't bad. But compared to Urban Meyer (nine years/four top-five rankings), Mark Richt (nine years/six top-10 rankings), and Bob Stoops (11 seasons/five top-five rankings), the stats are lacking.
Some would argue he has not been at one place long enough. However, this would further prove reason No. 4.
Saban has put together good runs, but he has never been able to sustain them long-term.
Reason No. 2: Record Versus Top-25 Teams
Nick Saban's record against top-25 teams is 23-17. That's not a bad stat by any means.
It does, however, pale in comparison to Urban Meyer (17-6) and Mack Brown's (30-17) marks.
Saban is a quality coach, but he is not the flawless legend Alabama fans and the media would have you believe. He has struggled against other top-25 teams.
In 2008, when the Tide finished 12-2, his record was still 2-2 against teams that finished in the top 25. Alabama went 0-2 against top 10 squads.
Does this make him a bad coach? Of course not. But he is not the best coach in the nation.
Reason No. 1: Bowl Record
Saban has a rather pedestrian 5-6 bowl record. His teams are consistently under-prepared come December or January.
The 2009 Utah game provided a perfect example.
Alabama had more talent, they shouldn't have been manhandled like that.
As this year's national championship game got under way, Texas looked much more prepared than Alabama before the McCoy injury.
Nick Saban is a very good coach. However, until he has a winning bowl record and a long-term tenure at one college, let's stop the greatness talk.
At this point, it could be argued he is, at best, only the third greatest coach, behind Bear Bryant and Gene Stallings, to walk the sidelines at Alabama.
Saban is also known for having weak regular season out-of-conference schedules.
In the two years his teams won, or split, mythical national championships (2003 and 2009), Saban scheduled such power players as Tennessee-Chattanooga, Florida International, North Texas, LA-Monroe, Western Illinois and LA Tech.
Two question should be asked: Has he scheduled weak regular season games? And was he exposed in several bowl games?
We'll have to see more from Saban before branding him a legend.