Nick Saban and Kirby Smart will meet next Monday for the national championship. While it will be the first meeting between Saban and his top former assistant, it’s far from the first time Saban has squared off against a former assistant.
And it hasn’t gone well for the apprentices when they’ve swung at the king.
Below is a brief run down of the long, horrifying history of Saban facing off against his former assistants.
Jimbo Fisher: The most recent game, and also the most competitive.
Sept. 3, 2017 — Alabama 24, Florida State 7
Derek Dooley: Dooley had no success against Saban during his time as Tennessee’s head coach. But that had as much to do with Dooley as it did Saban. Dooley recently completed his fifth season as the Dallas Cowboys’ wide receivers coach.
Oct. 23, 2010 — Alabama 41, Tennessee 10
Oct. 22, 2011 — Alabama 37, Tennessee 6
Oct. 20, 2012 — Alabama 44, Tennessee 13
Jim McElwain: Until the beginning of next season and Alabama faces Texas A&M, McElwain is the only former assistant to face Saban at two schools. He didn’t have any luck at either.
Sept. 21, 2013 — Alabama 31, Colorado State 6
Dec. 5, 2015 — Alabama 29, Florida 15
Dec. 3, 2016 — Alabama 54, Florida 16
Will Muschamp: Muschamp was Saban’s Kirby Smart before Kirby Smart was Kirby Smart. The pair won a national championship at LSU in 2003 and then coached together with the Miami Dolphins, before Muschamp broke off to coordinate defenses at Auburn and Texas, which led him to the head coaching job at Florida. Which led him to Saban.
Oct. 1, 2011 — Alabama 38, Florida 10
Sept. 20, 2014 — Alabama 42, Florida 21
Mark Dantonio: Along with Fisher — and, now, Smart — Dantonio is by far the most successful of Saban’s former assistants. He’s paid for that success against Saban, though.
Jan. 1, 2011 (Citrus Bowl) — Alabama 49, Michigan State 7
Dec. 31, 2015 (CFP Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl) — Alabama 38, Michigan State 0
Add it all up and you get 11 games, 11 Saban wins, and those 11 wins have come by an average score of 38-10. In showcase games — bowls, the SEC Championship and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff this year, when, in theory, the competition is stiffer — the average score has been slightly worse, a 39-9 Saban win.
Of course, Saban has never faced a coach that has successfully copied his Process blueprint as well as Smart, and none of his former assistants have fielded a team as good as this Georgia team.
But the history is clear, and it’s not a good omen for Georgia.