Alabama-Ohio State CFP semifinal adds another chapter to Saban-Meyer rivalry
Success breeds rivalry and you probably can’t find two more coaches in college football that have had as much success as Nick Saban and Urban Meyer.
This year’s Sugar Bowl and CFP semifinal matchup will mark the fourth-time these two head coaches will face off against each other. Saban holds a small advantage with a 2-1 record over Meyer.
Unfortunately for SEC fans, this is a rivalry that they haven’t seen in four years.
Both coaches were at the top of their profession in 2008 when they first met. In the 2008 SEC Championship, Meyer’s Gators and Saban’s Crimson Tide were No. 2 and No. 1 in the nation, respectively.
Led by quarterback Tim Tebow, the Gators executed a fourth-quarter comeback against the Tide and scored two touchdowns in the final quarter to give the Gators a 31-20 win, en route to their second national championship in three seasons.
The next year, Saban got his revenge. When Alabama and Florida met again in the SEC Championship in 2009 as the nation’s top two teams for the second straight year, Saban’s tide steamrolled the Gators to a 32-13 win.
Perhaps what’s most remembered about that game was Meyer’s health issues the following morning. Meyer was sent to the hospital later that night, complaining of chest pains. That kickstarted Meyer’s eventual back-and-forth retirement decision.
Although Meyer decided to come back for the 2010 season, it was the 2009 SEC Championship and the loss to Saban that everyone points to as the beginning of the end not only for Meyer’s coaching career at Florida (he later stepped away after the 2010 season), but also the reign of Florida as college football’s top program.
And that’s where this infamous coaching rivalry ended. Yes, Saban defeated Meyer for a second time in 2010, but all anyone remembers are those SEC Championship classics.
It took four years for the two to meet up again, and how fitting for it to be in a matchup between two of the top programs in the country. The two have always been cordial with one another so this doesn’t have the same makeup as a Steve Spurrier-Dabo Swinney rivalry where the two coaches take jabs at one another in the media.
“I consider him a good friend and certainly have a tremendous amount of personal respect for the kind of professional he is and the kind of coach he is and the kind of programs he’s had, the great teams that he’s had at Florida,” Saban told NCAA.com.
But with how high the stakes are when these two meet up, it should be no surprise that when the game starts, those feelings of respect and admiration are out the door.
Meyer certainly hasn’t forgotten about their prior meetings.
“I probably can’t remember my address or phone number,” Meyer said, “but I could tell you probably every play in those games.”
So when Jan. 1 rolls around, college football fans will be treated to one of the best coaching rivalries in collegiate athletics and if history is any indication, this CFP semifinal is sure to be a classic.