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No one knows when Alabama Coach Nick Saban’s coaching career will end. On Saturday he will be 64 years old, but he is a young 64, healthy and active. It is difficult to imagine him being retired, or even having another job. Many expect him to one day morph into television analyst. That seems more plausible than piloting his boats or playing golf, but it’s not producing championship football teams, and that’s what drives him.
This may seem an unusual time to look at the Saban record, because there are potently big things to go in 2015 and in years beyond, but Alabama has an open week before what may be the biggest game of the year. Alabama, 7-1 overall and 4-1 in Southeastern Conference games, is coming off a tough stretch of games and next plays what may be the most difficult opponent in its next outing. LSU is leading the SEC with a 4-0 record and is 6-0 overall, and also has an open date this weekend before the teams meet Nov. 7 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 7. (LSU has one less game because the season-opener against McNeese State was cancelled due to weather.)
Saban is in his ninth season at Alabama. His Bama teams have won three national championships (2009, 2011, and 2012) and have been in contention a several other seasons. Since the 2008 season – Saban’s second at Alabama – the Crimson Tide has played only three regular season games without national championship implications. Following Bama’s 24-21 loss to LSU in 2010, the Tide was essentially eliminated from the national championship discussion. The final three games of that season are the only ones in which Alabama was not in the national title conversation.
Since his first season, an obvious rebuilding year in which his team went 7-6, Saban’s Alabama teams have gone 91-12. The 91 victories in that period are the most of any college team.
Although Bama has played schedules ranked among the nation’s most difficult, including this year’s slate that is considered the toughest, Saban’s teams have now won 58 consecutive games against unranked teams, which is best in college football.
In that same period, the Tide has a record of 35-13 against teams ranked in the top 25 and 19-7 against top ten teams.
When Bama defeated ninth-ranked Texas A&M, 41-23, in College Station this year, it was Saban’s sixth win against a top ten team on the road. He is 6-1 in such meetings. The six road wins against a top ten team surpassed the previous record of five under Bryant.
Earlier this year, Alabama defeated eighth-ranked Georgia in Athens, 38-10. The 28-point margin of victory matched the greatest spread against a ranked SEC team on the road in the 80-year history of the Associated Press poll. (Florida State defeated No. 6 Auburn 34-6 in 1987 and Tennessee defeated Kentucky 28-0 in 1951.)
Alabama does it primarily with defense under Saban. In his nearly nine seasons the Tide has allowed an opposing running back to reach the 100-yard mark only 11 times. Since 2009, in 88 games, the Tide has surrendered a national best 132 touchdowns since 2009, 40 fewer than second best LSU. Bama has 16 shutouts under Saban, including a national-best 13 in the past five seasons (including this year).
Saban’s overall record in his 20 years as a coach is 184-60-1, a winning percentage of 75.5 that ranks fourth among active coaches and best in the SEC. In addition to his national titles at Alabama, he also won the championship while at LSU.
His contract runs through the 2022 season. The record at the end of his career will be extraordinary. It already is.