Meyer’s Only Shot to Prove He’s Saban’s Equal

Meyer’s Only Shot to Prove He’s Nick Saban’s Equal

Cosmically Connected Coaches

There may not be two active head football coaches who have touched each other’s lives more than Alabama head football Coach Nick Saban and Ohio State’s Coach Urban Meyer.  The two coaches have a 2 – 2 record against each other in head-to-head match-ups.  So what does Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer need to accomplish to equal the legendary Alabama Coach Nick Saban?

Nick Saban staked his claim in history to many titles, one of them as the first college football coach to win national championships at two different schools.  Saban and the Crimson Tide football team had their chance to be the guardians at the gate to his title, but could not stop the Ohio State Buckeyes from crashing through in the inaugural college football playoff of the 2014 season.  Now Nick Saban shares that title with Buckeyes head football Coach Urban Meyer.

But don’t believe for a minute that the two coaches are now on the same capstone – Urban Meyer stares at Nick Saban through yet another gate.  Only this one is forged of stronger metals and heavier gauge steel.  The opportunity to even lay eyes on this gate is so extraordinarily rare, that 90% of college football teams never get as much as a glimpse.  Ohio State and Urban Meyer are there now, looking in, training, dreaming, and preparing to smash through.

The lives of these two coaches seem cosmically intertwined with match-ups at multiple schools and multiple college football conferences.  Even as early as his first head coaching job at the University of Toledo one Nick Saban was creating his initial staff and an assistant coach who was applying for a job spoke to Miss Terry.  That job applicant was none other than Urban Meyer.  Throughout their coaching careers, they continuously present tipping points in each other’s’ lives.

In Nick Saban’s second year with The Tide, Meyer’s Florida Gators Team won the coaches’ first match-up in the 2008 SEC Championship and went on to give Urban his second National Championship.  With two Trophies, Meyer trumped Saban’s one national championship, but that score would not last very long.  The flip side of that coin occurred the very next year when Nick  Saban’s team beat the Gators in the 2009 SEC Championship and went on to beat the Texas Longhorns in the BCS National Championship making Saban the first coach in college football history to win National Championships at two different schools.

That’s right –  Meyer was the guardian at the gate to keep Saban from making history, but the Tide came crashing through.

It was Alabama’s ball-hogging SEC Championship in 2009 that made Tebo cry followed by the Tide’s 31 – 6 drowning of the Gators in the 2010 regular season game that finished Urban Meyer who hung up the whistle for a leave from coaching.  While on his leave of absence Meyer did what all unemployed coaches do, he got a job with ESPN where he got to cover Alabama’s 2011 National Championship and watch Nick Saban hoist his third BCS crystal ball.

So what does Meyer do next?

Grabs the whistle and returns to coaching, only this time at a conference where he doesn’t have to face Alabama in the regular season or in the GA Dome.  Meyer avoids the SEC taking a job in the Big Ten Conference as the head coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes.  In three short years, he was right back on top and in his fourth face-off with Nick Saban in the 2014 inaugural College Football Playoff.  The Buckeyes’ 42 – 35 victory over the Tide followed by their daring Duck defeat in the National Championship forced Nick Saban to share the stage with Urban Meyer, who now along with Saban, has two national trophies from two different schools.  Saban had the opportunity to stop it and he could not do it.

Of Meyer, Coach Saban said,

“He’s one of the best coaches in the country,” Saban said. “He ranks up there with just about anybody that you’d want to talk about.”

But even a fourth national championship for Meyer, the same number as Nick Saban would not give him the distinction of Nick Saban’s coaching excellence.  Why?

The biggest triumph that any college football coach in history has ever accomplished is the illusive back-to-back national championship.  Nick Saban became only the fifteenth of the elite coaches to accomplish it in the last one hundred years when he trained his Tide all the way winning back-to-back National Championships in 2011 and 2012.  Until he does that, Meyer is on the other side looking in at Nick Saban’s legacy.

The funny thing about back-to-back national championships is that until you have one, you can’t try for two and unless they are back-to-back, you’re not in the club.  There’s only one coach, one team right now with that opportunity and that is Ohio State and Urban Meyer.


Simple Problem – Difficult to Solve

Why are back-to-back national championships in college football so rare?

It’s simple really – the team following a national championship year has a swagger that they did not earn.  In 2010 Nick Saban was so frustrated with his team he announced in a press conference that “this team hasn’t done shit.”  His plea was unsuccessful.  In the weeks that followed the Crimson Tide lost to South Carolina, LSU and Auburn.  Saban’s opportunity to capture the elusive back-to-back national championships was gone for the second time in his coaching career.  Terry Saban, said in an interview on WJOX, “We had the same problem at LSU.”  The year following his 2003 national championship at LSU Nick Saban’s Tigers lost three games including their bowl game.

Following the Tide’s first loss after their undefeated season, Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram said that some of the guys thought they could just show up and get a championship and they were not putting in the work.  Saban, Fifty-eight years old at the time; how many more of these opportunities to win a back-to-back national championship would there be?  Coach Saban had a lot to figure out to finally beat the odds and coach teams to win back-to-back national titles.  Alabama’s back-to-back crystal balls are forever the only ones in the BCS era from 1998 to 2013.  Nick Saban is the only coach to have raised the crystal ball four times and Urban Meyer is the only coach other than Saban to have won two of them.

At 51, Urban Meyer could have a very long coaching career ahead of him, but how many chances to win back-to-back national titles will he get?

Of Meyer, former Florida State head football Coach Bobby Bowden, who won two national championships of his own said,

“If he stays healthy, I don’t see what’s going to prevent him from getting a few more national championships.”


After the 2014 championship, Ohio State running back and offensive MVP, Ezekiel Elliott,  said,

“Coach Meyer is a winner. That’s what he is, and I’d say this won’t be his last one.”


Meyer’s New Hunt Bigger Stake than Last Year

Anyone who watches college football, even Jerry Springer-wannabe and head cheerleader for the SEC Network, Paul Finebaum, will have to admit, Ohio State is in the hunt this year.

Fourteen Buckeye starters returning on offense and defense, four of last year’s five starters returning on the Offensive line, plus Quarterbacks JT Barrett and National Championship QB Cardale Jones; and oh yes, even power-man RB Ezekiel Elliott; all returning.

It’s no wonder they received the first ever unanimous AP pre-season college football number one ranking.  With one of the easiest schedules in college football it looks like Meyer will at least get a shot at the rare record.

There’s a reason only nine coaches accomplished back-to-back national championships since the start of the AP Poll in 1936.  There are intangibles factors, which are out of the coach’s control that have less to do with talent than sheer attitude.  There is a problem that is not cured by bench pressing, running or scrimmages and it lies between the players’ ears.  How the players think about their last championship prevents them from immediately turning around to grab the next one.

If Urban Meyer has solved the entitlement puzzle to overcome that, he may get his third attempt to win back-to-back national championships.  Just like Nick Saban’s back-to-back national championship was his third attempt to do it, this season is Urban Meyers third attempt.

Who was there to stop Meyer from back-to-back national championships on his last attempt in the Florida Gator blue and orange?  You guessed it, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide, which beat the Gators in the SEC Championship and went on to win the 2009 National Championship.  Will Nick Saban and the Tide stop them this year?  Or will another team be the guardians at the gate?

Either way, at 51,even with a lot of coaching years ahead of him, this could be Meyer’s last chance to catch up to Nick Saban’s legacy.