On the Beat: No one better at topping No. 1-ranked teams than Nick Saban

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama football team hasn’t played a game in which it wasn’t ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 since the 2015 season, a span of 27 games.

It hasn’t been No. 1 that entire time, nor was it in the top spot for the duration of this season’s College Football Playoff rankings, but Alabama has played every game the last two seasons as the AP’s top team.

The last time it didn’t was the national title game at the end of the 2015 season against Clemson, when the Tigers topped the poll. The Crimson Tide were in danger of having their streak of being No. 1 at some point of the season, which dated back to 2008, snapped.

“They’re the No. 1 team in the country right now,” said Alabama junior running back Damien Harris, as the Crimson Tide squeezed into the CFP at No 4. It has the same ranking in the AP and coaches’ polls.

You may remember the suggestion in October that Saban wanted his team to not be atop the polls until the very end, and he now has his team in a situation in which he’s had more success.

Specifically, Saban has more wins against teams ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25 than any coach in history. He’s done it six times, five with Alabama.

Joe Paterno, Lou Holtz, Jimmy Johnson and Jack Mollenkopf all had four. Urban Meyer has three, along with Bear Bryant, Dennis Erickson, Bo Schembechler and Barry Switzer.

If you’re wondering about Auburn’s Gus Malzhan, he only has two, but it’s sort of an asterisk situation. He knocked off Alabama twice, in 2013 and 2017. Georgia was second in the AP Top 25 when the Tigers beat the Bulldogs at home this season.

Saban’s five wins vs. top-ranked teams while at Alabama came against Florida (2009 SEC Championship Game), LSU (BCS title game, 2011 season), Notre Dame (BCS title game, 2012 season), Mississippi State (2014) and Clemson.

The only loss against a No. 1 team during that span was to LSU, 9-6 in overtime in 2011.

His other victory against a No. 1 team was his signature win with Michigan State against No. 1 Ohio State in 1998.

When Alabama defeated Clemson for the national championship at the end of the 2015 season it was the program’s eighth victory over a No. 1 team. Overall, the Crimson Tide are 8-4 in such matchups, with their 66.7 winning percentage the best in college football.

Saban’s also had 19 wins against teams ranked in the top 5 of the AP Top 25, the most ever by a coach. The win this season against then-No. 3 Florida State moved him ahead of Bobby Bowden (18), with Barry Switzer (15), Woody Hayes (15), Steve Spurrier (15) and Lou Holtz (15) rounding out the top five.

The accomplishments are even more impressive considering how often Alabama has been No. 1 over the last 11 seasons. Overall, 123 of Alabama’s 126 regular-season games since 2008 have had national title implications, the three exceptions having all been during the 2010 season.

The post On the Beat: No one better at topping No. 1-ranked teams than Nick Saban appeared first on SEC Country.

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