Nick Saban, Urban Meyer Ready To Meet Again

Two college football powers led by two college football titans. That's the matchup as Urban Meyer and Nick Saban -- err, Ohio State and Alabama -- get set to meet in the Sugar Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff. BSB takes a look at the historical rivalry between the two coaches, who each have multiple national titles.

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Urban Meyer has a lot on his mind.

As a college football coach, his brain works at 100 mph at all times as he runs one of the most complex organizations in the world, as Meyer puts it. He must be responsible for more than 100 18-to-23-year-old males at all times while also trying to traverse the country to recruit more high school prospects.

So he’s forgotten a lot of details over the years, but he remembers some, including his three previous matchups with Nick Saban that occurred when Meyer was at Florida and Saban coaching Alabama.

“I can't remember my address or phone number but I could tell you probably every play in those games,” Meyer said Sunday. “The 2008 game was just one of the great games in college football history, in my opinion, where evenly matched teams were going back and forth, back and forth. And obviously we scored right at the end to take a two score lead.

“The second year, that was one of the best teams I've ever coached, against Alabama, and they handled us pretty good. (Mark) Ingram was a tailback and they dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides. So a lot of respect for Alabama and their coaching staff.”

The story of college football and the rise of the SEC couldn’t be told without the two, who are the most polarizing yet incredibly successful mentors in the sport.

And now the two will get to battle in a game that will serve as another referendum on one of the hottest topics in college football, the ongoing battle between Eurasia and Oceania, the SEC vs. the Big Ten, when Meyer’s Ohio State team and Saban’s Crimson Tide meet Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl as part of the first-ever College Football Playoff.

The chance to make history will be on the line but so will bragging rights, and the men who lead each team will draw as much attention as and perhaps more than Cardale Jones or Amari Cooper.

They have met thrice before, with Meyer winning the first as his Florida team beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in 2009 before going on to win the national championship. Saban turned the tables and beat the unblemished Gators in Atlanta a year later on the way to winning his first crown in Alabama, and the only regular-season meeting between the two a year later in Tuscaloosa was an Alabama blowout.

Between them, they piloted five of the seven national championship teams in the SEC’s streak from 2006-12, and their superstar status helped cement the league as the rock star conference in college football.

And now they meet again. Here’s a quick breakdown of their careers and recaps of the three games they’ve coached against one another previously.

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Urban Meyer
Age: 50 Hometown: Ashtabula, Ohio
National Championships: Two (Florida, 2006 and 2008)
Career Record: 140-26 (13 seasons)
Record at School: 36-3 (three seasons)
Bowl Record: 7-2
Conference Championships: Five (two at Utah, two at Florida, one at Ohio State)
Saban on Meyer: “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Urban. We've done some things, the ESPN games and stuff together, and 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. And I know that we haven't had much of an opportunity to look at Ohio State yet, but we certainly have a tremendous amount of respect for what their team has accomplished this year and know that they'll be a very, very well coached team.

Nick Saban
Age: 63 Hometown: Fairmont, W.Va.
National Championships: Four (LSU, 2003; Alabama, 2009, 2011, 2012)
Career Record: 177-58-1 (19 seasons)
Record at School: 86-16 (eight seasons)
Bowl Record: 8-7
Conference Championships: 6 (one at LSU, five at Alabama)
Meyer on Saban: “I know exactly what I’m going to see when I flip on film. I know who they recruit, I know the way they coach, they don’t have much transition in coaching staff. A little bit different dynamic on offense with Lane Kiffin now, who’s opened it up a little. I keep hearing that, but I was there when Julio Jones was there and they flipped it around then, too. I know exactly what we are going to see, excellent special teams and we have to be on point. … The one thing I think both of us – I don't think, I know – we both committed our entirely livelihood to college football and believe in players. The players are the most important part of this whole institution of college football.

Previous Matchups
2008 SEC Championship Game: Florida won 31-20 in Atlanta, upending the Crimson Tide’s 8-0 campaign and advancing to the national title game. Alabama led twice in the game, including when Leigh Tiffin’s 27-yard field goal late in the third quarter gave the Tide a 20-17 lead. But Florida came back on its next possession and took the lead for good when Jeff Demps ran in from a yard out with 9:21 left to cap an 11-play drive, and Riley Cooper caught a 5-yard TD pass from Tim Tebow with 2:50 left to cement the final score. Tebow threw for 216 yards and three touchdowns to offset a potent Alabama attack that included 112 yards rushing from Glen Coffee and 124 receiving yards from Julio Jones.

2009 SEC Championship Game: Saban and the Crimson Tide got revenge, running away from the Gators in a 32-13 loss after which Meyer had to be taken to the hospital with chest pains. Both teams were unbeaten entering the contest but Alabama opened up a 19-10 second-quarter lead and also scored the only 13 points of the second half while outgaining the Gators 490-335. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram ran for 113 yards and three touchdowns for Alabama while Greg McElroy was an efficient 13-for-19 with 239 yards. Tebow threw for 247 yards and ran for 63 but didn’t get much other help as his running backs combined for 25 rushing yards. Meyer would later step down because of his health problems but returned to lead Florida in the 2010 season.

2010 conference game in Tuscaloosa: Saban and the Tide pulled away from a Florida team still trying to replace Tebow, opening a 24-3 halftime lead and cruising to a 31-6 victory in a battle of teams that were each 4-0 entering the game. The Gators actually won the yardage battle 281-273 but turned the ball over four times, including a jump-pass interception thrown on fourth down near the goal line by Trey Burton on Florida’s opening drive. Ingram also ran for two touchdowns while Florida QB John Brantley finished 16 for 31 for 202 yards with three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown by C.J. Mosley in the third quarter that served as the dagger.

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