saban

Alabama head coach Nick Saban works the sidelines Saturday during his squad's 26-14 loss to host Auburn in the Iron Bowl game. Saban might be the college game's best coach, but the deserves criticism for the way he schedules his nonconference games.

Brynn Anderson, Associated Press

Heard a great take from Colin Cowherd on Monday morning which has changed — a bit — my view of Alabama Coach Nick Saban.

Saban remains the gold standard among college football coaches, but he merits criticism for his schedule. Saban refuses to schedule home-and-home games with Power 5 conference teams. Cowherd noted the trend, and I have expanded on it with a bit more detail below.

In the past six years Saban’s Crimson Tide has played — and beaten — Florida State, USC, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Michigan, all at neutral sites. Three were in Atlanta and three were at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Just this season the two Southeastern Conference rivals Bama is battling with for a College Football Playoff spot, Auburn and Georgia, have, respectively, played road games at defending national champion Clemson and perennial power Notre Dame.

In addition to the Florida State game, Alabama’s nonconference opponents, Fresno State, Colorado State and Mercer, all came to Tuscaloosa and took their lumps by a combined score of 138-33.

Georgia, meanwhile, defeated Appalachian State and Samford by a 73-24 margin. But their other nonleague game was a 38-7 win at Georgia Tech of the ACC, a power 5 matchup that alternates between Atlanta and Athens. And the Bulldogs won 20-19 at Notre Dame.

Auburn thumped road kill Georgia Southern, Mercer and Louisiana-Monroe by a combined 107-31, but also lost 14-6 at Clemson.

And it should also be noted that many of Bama’s SEC pals play in-state rivalry Power 5 games outside of league play. Georgia plays Georgia Tech, South Carolina faces Clemson each year, Kentucky plays Louisville and Florida has a home-and-home with Florida State.

Saban, in fact, has lost two nonconference games in his 11 years at Alabama. Both came in his first year, 2007, when he lost 21-14 against Florida State in Jacksonville, Florida, and a stunning 21-14 loss at home against Louisiana-Monroe.

The lone Power 5 road games Saban has played were a 2010 visit to Duke and a 2011 game at Penn State. But because college schedules are set up years in advance those games might have been finalized before Saban came to town.

Speaking of scheduling in advance, Bama is planning to play Louisville in Orlando in 2018, Duke in Atlanta in 2019 and Miami in Atlanta in 2021. Same as it ever was ... same as it ever was.

And speaking of SEC schedules I ran them for the full league (see chart at upper left). Georgis was the lone SEC team with two nonleague away games, although one of them was the GTech rivalry game which will turn next year. Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Missouri and South Carolina joined Bama in not scheduling any nonconference road games, although Florida and South Carolina both played their rivalry games at home this season.

And every team except Mississippi State played at least one Power 5 team in the nonleague. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina each had two Power 5 teams in their nonleague skeds, with all three being rivalry opponents. 

And just to show how deep in the weeks I can get on this stuff there were six non-Power 5 teams that played two SEC foes: Mercer, Southern Miss, BYU, Louisiana-Lafayette, UMass and Louisiana Tech. Combined record? 0-12. Sheep to the slaughter.

One other thing to note is that there are financial issues here as well. Surprise! Bama makes a ton of money on home games and is happy to siphon off a few hundred thousand to the Mercers of the world to come in and take a pounding. And it also makes a ton of money on these "kickoff classic" games in Atlanta and Arlington. But you make less money when you do a home and home.

So what should we do about this? First of all, the poobahs of the playoff committee should take Alabama's schedule into consideration when it picks its final four. And I also agree with Cowherd that if Clemson, Oklahoma and Wisconsin win their conference title games that should end Bama's playoff chances.

A possible solution to all this? Require teams that want to compete for College Football Playoff spots to schedule home-and-homes with Power 5 teams on an ongoing annual basis. Yes, this could lead to teams frantically trying to cut deals with Indiana or Kansas — or Oregon State — but you have to start somewhere.

Saban is too good of a coach to be allowed to get away with this stuff.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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