The New 'Ten-Year War' in College Football: LSU and Alabama

William DeightonCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2010

Bo Schembechler was an assistant under Ohio State's former head coach, Woody Hayes for six seasons. In 1963, Schembechler left his position with the Buckeyes for the head coaching position at Miami of Ohio. A few years later he found himself as the head man of Michigan, Ohio State's hated rival.

In Schembechler's first season in Ann Arbor, Woody Hayes would bring his Buckeyes into Michigan Stadium with a 22-game winning streak and the number one ranking in the country.

Schembechler and the Michigan Wolverines stunned Hayes' Buckeyes with a 24-12 victory that afternoon. The 1969 Michigan vs. Ohio State game would go down as one of the greatest upsets in college football history, and triggered what became known as "The Ten Year War."

During the next nine years, Michigan and Ohio State's legendary head coaches would field some of the best teams in the country. Four times between 1970 and 1975, Ohio State and Michigan were both ranked in the top five of the AP Poll before their annual match-up at the end of the regular season. 

The roots of the rivalry between Nick Saban and Les Miles were planted in the Michigan and Ohio State rivalry and its "Ten Year War." 

Les Miles, who grew up in Ohio, actually played for Michigan in two of the vicious battles against Ohio State in 1974 and 1975. Miles would later coach under Schembechler as an assistant for Michigan, from 1980-82.  

Nick Saban, who attended college at Kent State in Ohio, was an assistant at Ohio State during the same time Miles was an assistant at Michigan, 1980-81.

In January of 2005, Les Miles was hired as the head coach of the LSU Tigers replacing former head coach Nick Saban who had bolted for the NFL. Two years later, Saban was hired as the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide—LSU's hated rival. 

With the hiring, many members of the media dubbed the 2007 LSU vs. Alabama game as the "Saban Bowl." Les Miles would take his "damn strong football team" to Bryant-Denny Stadium to face off against Nick Saban's Crimson Tide for the first time. 

With a late fumble by Alabama, LSU would capitalize and Miles would win the game 41-34. The Tigers would then go on to win the 2007 National Championship. But, Miles would be criticized for winning it with a roster full of Nick Saban's recruits. 

All three match-ups between Nick Saban and Les Miles have been full of ferocious hits and wild endings. 

We have seen a late fourth quarter win by LSU in 2007. 

We've seen an overtime victory in Baton Rouge by Alabama in 2008.

And we've seen a controversial call against LSU that led Alabama to a victory in 2009.

The games played between Saban's Crimson Tide and Miles' Tigers may be even more important than the ones played in Michigan and Ohio State's "Ten Year War" because the team that wins in each game has gone to the SEC title, and twice to the National Title. 

Ever since Nick Saban has come to Tuscaloosa, things have heated up not only on the field, but in the media side of college football. 

Woody Hayes was very outspoken about his hate for Michigan. According to Ohio State legend, Hayes refused to buy gas on an empty tank while riding through Michigan en route to Ohio. He said, "We'll coast and push this goddamn car to the Ohio line before I give this state a nickel of my money!" He would refer to Michigan as "that state up north" or "that team up north" on many occasions.  

Did Woody Hayes hate Michigan because Schembechler left Ohio State for Michigan? Yes, along with many other reasons, but that was the core. 

Could you say the same about Saban's departure from LSU having to do with Miles' hate for Alabama? You bet.  

When Saban was hired in 2007, Les Miles was quoted at an alumni gathering saying that "LSU has a new rival in f****n' Alabama." 

Before the 2008 season, Miles cautioned LSU fans “not to make too much of that game, as it seems like a lot of teams in Louisiana beat that team." Miles was referring to the upcoming game with Alabama and was poking fun at Nick Saban's embarrassing loss to Louisiana-Monroe in the season before. 

Bo Schembechler was never very outspoken about any hate he had for the state of Ohio. He was a former coach of Ohio State just like Saban was at LSU. So there wasn't very much room to talk for Schembechler nor is there for Saban.

Outside of Saban's "coon asses" comments, he has remained quiet about Les Miles, LSU and the state of Louisiana.  

Though the trash talking between the coaches is evident, there is a common respect between Saban and Miles, much like there was between Schembechler and Hayes. But don't count on Saban and Miles being friends off the field like Bo and Woody were. 

The dissension that exists between LSU and Alabama has evolved from its 2007 moniker, "The Saban Bowl." There is now a special rivalry between the teams, schools, fans and even states that is fueled directly by the head coaches of Alabama and LSU.

In the old days of war, the winning army pretty much got to loot the countryside and take what they wanted—wealth, harvest, whatever. Much is the same in rivalries like Alabama vs LSU, where to the victor go the spoils. 

All the pieces are there for the Crimson Tide and the Tigers to have a new "Ten Year War" and this one looks to be even better than the first.   




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