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Nick Saban and Ole Miss

With college football’s GOAT finally (FINALLY) hanging it up, we look back on his games against the Rebels.

Ole Miss v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After 22 total seasons of generally making everyone else in the SEC miserable, Nick Saban decided 23 seasons of misery creation was overkill.

On a seemingly random* Wednesday afternoon in January, the best to ever do it announced it was time for him to move on to whatever comes next. While we wait to hear his words, the early prediction for his next job is Alabama defensive analyst Nick Saban.

*With Saban, nothing is random. I look forward to hearing the full story, and I hope it was because retiring at 3:34:52 PM gets Alabama another scholarship due to an obscure rule only he knew.

In Saban’s SEC career, he spent 17 seasons at Alabama where he won 17 national titles (according to state of Alabama mathematics) and five seasons at LSU where he slacked off and only won one title. His college coaching career prior to LSU is a little foggy because all I can think about are those glasses he once wore.

Nick Saban

According to the historical ledgers, he also coached for five seasons at Michigan State and one season at Toledo where he won a MAC title.

brief aside

Kirby Smart, go try to win a MAC title, YOU COWARD.

back to camera

Hilariously, Saban’s first three seasons at Michigan State ended as follows:

  • Loss in the Independence Bowl* (6-5-1)
  • Loss in the Sun Bowl (6-6)
  • Loss in the Aloha Bowl (7-5)

Back-to-back Decembers in Shreveport and El Paso are about as grim as it gets. So it’s not surprising they lost 51-23 in the Aloha Bowl because that was the first December in three years they experienced sunshine and 75+ degrees, and they weren’t there to play Locked in to the Aloha Bowl.

*He and David Cutcliffe are brothers in the Independence Bowl bond.

Saban’s accomplishments with championship frequency and draft picks are unmatched and will likely stay that way forever. But as this thread from the great Chris Brown discusses, his influence on defensive football, down to the terminology, is also staggering.

It’s going to be super weird he’s not involved in college football next year (unless he’s secretly planning to rehab like UTEP), but it is peak college football scriptwriters to send him into retirement the year Alabama and Ole Miss don’t play for the first time in forever.

As your brain probably recalls, Saban’s SEC career involved a SMIDGE of success against Ole Miss. In 22 games, he went 19-3 against an array of Ole Miss coaches, some of which were, at times, equipped to challenge him, while others...not so much.

Here are Saban’s records against all Ole Miss coaches:

  • 4-1 vs. David Cutcliffe
  • 1-0 vs. Ed Orgeron
  • 4-0 vs. Houston Nutt
  • 3-2 vs. Hugh Freeze*
  • 3-0 vs. Matt Luke
  • 4-0 vs. Lane Kiffin

*Would’ve been 4-2 had Freeze not avoided the embarrassment of what was coming for him in the 2017 season.

But simply posting these records is not enough. We need to take a deeper dive into these games.

vs. David Cutcliffe

2000

Ole Miss entered the game 6-2 and, per Cutcliffe November tradition, lost 20-9 in a bumbling offensive performance (averaged 2.1 yards/carry). If I had been interviewed, you could’ve put it in the newspaper that I got mad.

2001

I’ve been to Ole Miss games in Baton Rouge four times and seen four wins (NEVER GOING AGAIN). This 35-24 win was one of them and what an experience it was.

However, all of that is overshadowed by the fact Ole Miss left Baton Rouge 6-1, heading into November. They finished November 6-4 and got to 7 wins with a December 1st win over Vanderbilt (rescheduled game due to September 11th).

No bowl game and wasted the first year of Eli Manning.

2002

Well, at least crushing, freakish red zone turnovers played no role in a 14-13 loss.

True story: I was at a wedding during the game (TVs banned!), and my dad kept going out his car to check the score on the radio. This was obviously in 1882 when phones didn’t do scores or video.

At one point, I figured the game was close to ending, and I waked out to the parking lot because I knew he was there listening. I met him walking in, and the look on his face was the definition of losing like that.

2003

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vs. Ed Orgeron

2007

One of the worst teams in Ole Miss football history lost by three and, when it did in controversial fashion, a sorority warrior threw her shoes on the field (the videos of the last drive to get into position to win were incredible). I should note that Alabama team lost to Louisiana-Monroe 21-14.

vs. Houston Nutt

2008/2009

Nutt’s first two teams, living off Orgeron-recruited talent, were outscored 46-23 (24-20 loss in 2008).

2010/2011

Nutt’s final two teams, mostly devoid of Orgeron-recruited talent, were outscored 75-17.

vs. Hugh Freeze

2012/2013

Outscored 58-14, but Ole Miss was competent and suffered from the ol’ massive talent gap.

2014

According to the mall cops’ official records, this win never happened. To that we say:

It did happen and, if you were there, you know we all levitated when the referee announced the replay booth’s decision on Senquez Golson’s interception:

2015

I was not in attendance, but we all know you can’t win games of that magnitude without elite play-calling.

2016

Ole Miss had a 24-3 lead before Alabama went on a 45-6 run to go in front 48-30 late in the 4th quarter. Incredibly, SWAG Kelly led Ole Miss on a touchdown drive, followed by another touchdown pass after an onside kick recovery to cut the lead to 48-43.

As a tease, Alabama running back Damian Harris fumbled after a failed onside kick, but Alabama recovered and iced the game.

vs. Matt Luke

2017/2018/2019

Buddy.

187-41.

vs. Lane Kiffin

2020

Granted it was the COVID year and things were weird, but this game is one of Kiffin’s play-calling masterpieces.

  • 48 points
  • 647 yards
  • 7.5 yards/play
  • 13 yards per pass attempt
  • 57 rush attempts versus Alabama (4.7 yards/att)
  • Two 100-yard rushers
  • Two 100-yard receivers
  • 13 of 21 on 3rd/4th down (62 percent)

Nick Saban had no answers, other than his offense could shred the Ole Miss defense, which they did. As a result, Kiffin’s offense had to be perfect, and they were not in a 63-48 loss.

2021

Actually, falling behind 42-7 is good.

2022

(DEEPEST OF SIGHS)

It was an Alabama team ripe for getting thrashed, and Ole Miss didn’t knock them out in the first half. A close game broke out, and here was the deciding factor:

  • Ole Miss: 6 red zone possessions for 24 points (4 points/possession)
  • Alabama: 4 red zone possession for 24 points (6 points/possession)

And to further grind your gears, here’s what I wrote after the game:

As Connelly noted above, Ole Miss actually ran 30 (THIRTY) plays in the red zone to Alabama’s 15 and didn’t outscore them. That is a great way to come up short in a one possession game.

2023

After a solid but not great first half, we recall an old friend for the second half:

ALAS.

Before we end the content, I would be remiss if I didn’t draw attention to the finest Saban impression the world has ever seen:

Here’s to Nick Saban (among other things) enjoying sitting on the dock and watching the ducks shit in the yard instead of chalking up another win over Ole Miss.