By J.M. Comer
Nick Saban in blissful times. The cat that ate the canary.
Much has been made of Nick Saban’s loss to UAB his first year at LSU in 2000. It followed a road loss to #24 Auburn, 34-17, on Sept. 16. But the loss to UAB on Sept. 23 was his ONLY loss to an out-of-conference minor school in his years in Baton Rouge. Do you know what Saban’s follow-up performance was after the embarrassing slip up? His unranked LSU Tigers beat an #11 Tennessee Volunteer team, 38-31, the next week.
Saban coached at Michigan St. and Toledo before his job at LSU, but I can’t really tell you what is an embarrassing loss during his years at the helm of the Toledo Rockets. I mean, who is the underdog in the matchup of Toledo and Bowling Green or Western Michigan. I can’t tell you, and what’s more, I don’t want to know.
What I do know is that Nick Saban never lost three games in a row at LSU. But he did have a little stretch of winning only two games out of six to finish the 2002 season.
So once again Saban, enters his first year at a traditional SEC powerhouse and loses to a much-lesser team. This time it is to the University of Louisiana at Monroe. In Tuscaloosa. In an embarrassing fashion. 24-17.
His career in the SEC is entering uncharted territory while at Alabama. Can Auburn make it four losses in a row?
Maybe. Saban has also never won at Jordan-Hare Stadium. He is 0-2 when visiting Auburn.
How does Alabama handle humbling losses?
“Hero of little boys and their dads,” sings Roger Hallmark in the country-synth stylings of the song, “Bear.” What happened to Bama in 1982?
What can we make of the University of Alabama’s loss this past weekend? Does Bama bounce back from these games?
It’s unbelievable to me, but since 1982 the University of Alabama (and this is counting Bear Bryant’s last year) has almost always lost (ONE EXCEPTION IN 1999) the following game after being embarrassed by a little school from Louisiana, Mississippi or Illinois. And they don’t fare very well in the Iron Bowl when they lose the game before it.
Please note: It’s a couple of trends for Bama since 1982. I don’t have the energy to look earlier. And losing a game before the Iron Bowl doesn’t always mean that Bama loses to Auburn. But over the past 25 years when they lose the game leading up to the Iron Bowl, Bama also loses to Auburn more often than not.
Take a look!
1982 — (Bryant’s last year) — On Nov. 13 Bama loses to Southern Mississippi and then falls the next week to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Two losses to end the season.
1983 — Alabama loses to Boston College, 13-20, and then loses to Auburn the next week 20-23. Two losses to end the season.
1984 — Alabama at home loses to Vanderbilt 21-30 and then loses to Georgia in Birmingham the next week 14-24. Three losses in a row.
1987 — Alabama loses to Notre Dame 6-37. The next week Bama loses in the Iron Bowl 0-10. Then, loses to Michigan in their bowl game. Three losses in a row.
1990 — Alabama loses at home to Southern Mississippi, 24-27, to start the season. Then they lose the next two games to Florida and Georgia. Three losses in a row, snowballing from the USM loss.
1996 — An exception to the “losing before the Iron Bowl” theory. Bama loses to Mississippi State on Nov. 16, but then wins the Iron Bowl the next week. A split for the last two games.
1997 — Alabama drops the game against Louisiana Tech 20-26. The Crimson Tide then loses the next three games. Also, Alabama loses to Mississippi St. in the week before the Iron Bowl and then loses in the Iron Bowl to Auburn, 17-18. Four losses to end the season.
1998 — Alabama loses to Mississippi State and then in the following week beats Auburn in the Iron Bowl. A split for the last two games of the year. Another exception to the “losing before the Iron Bowl” theory.
1999 — The “LITTLE SCHOOL RULE” exception: Bama loses to Louisiana Tech on Sept. 18 by a score of 28-29. The next week they beat Arkansas in Tuscaloosa 35-28.
2000 — On Sept. 16, Alabama loses to Southern Mississippi, 0-21, at home. Embarrassing indeed. The next game they lose to Arkansas 21-28. Later in the season, Bama loses five straight, ending the year with a 0-9 loss to Auburn. Both trends are upheld in the same year. Huzzah!
2003 — After the Sept. 20 loss to Northern Illinois, 16-19, Bama loses to Arkansas the following week, 31-34. Alabama ends the year with three losses to LSU, Auburn and then Hawaii. Another loser two-fer!
2004 — Alabama loses to LSU in the week leading up to the Iron Bowl. This game takes place in the Shula years, what do you think happens next? They also lose their bowl game. Boo effin’ hoo.
2005 — Just like 2004, Bama loses to LSU before the Iron Bowl, loses the Iron Bowl but slips by Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl.* (Thank you Dr. Blake.)
2006 — Bama loses four in a row to end the season. Three regular season and the bowl game. Losses are to Mississippi State, LSU, Auburn and then Oklahoma State.
2007 — Bama loses to LSU, then Mississippi State and then the University of Louisiana at Monroe. What will happen this year at the Iron Bowl?
Do you see the trends?
Nine out of eleven times in the past 25 years, if the University of Alabama loses in the game leading up to the Iron Bowl, then they fall to Auburn the next week.
Only one time in seven seasons over a span of 25 years after dropping a game to Southern Mississippi, Northern Illinois or Louisiana Tech has the Crimson Tide bounced back to win the next game. It happened that one time in 1999.
So, looking at the way Bama handles these losses and the way Saban handles these flubs — I think it is pretty much a push. I’d have to lean more toward JCCW‘s way of thinking than Track ’em Tigers’.
This is Nick Saban’s University of Alabama team. Saban’s Tiger squads, it seems, bounced back pretty well.
On the other hand, the enthusiasm and pride that followed Bama’s A-Day Game 2007 is in tatters. And when the prideful and arrogant fall, they fall hard.
Also, the two trends for Bama cover 25 years with eight different coaches (I think I’m remembering all of them, not counting Mike Price). Does it matter who is the head coach? Do these problems flow deeper, bubbling from the collective, tar-pit psyche of a post-Bear Bama Nation?
Hell if I know.
War Damn Eagle!