- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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Since returning to the SEC in 2007 as Alabama’s coach, Nick Saban has won 39 of his 48 games against league opponents.
Four of those nine losses came in his first season at Alabama, and three were to the same coach.
He’s the same coach who will be on the home sideline Saturday night in Tiger Stadium when Alabama and LSU resume what has become one of college football’s premier rivalries.
And if Saban is indeed college football’s premier coach, LSU’s Les Miles at least deserves to be in that conversation.
Sure, they’re as different as Anchorage, Alaska and Maui, Hawaii, but Miles is one of the few coaches who’s had some degree of success against the guy he followed on the Bayou.
They’re deadlocked at 3-3. In fact, Miles beat Saban in back-to-back games in 2010 and 2011 (in the regular season). It was the first time Saban had lost to the same coach in consecutive years since his first two years at LSU when Steve Spurrier’s Gators walloped the Tigers 41-9 in 2000 and 44-15 in 2001.
Saban had won 12 straight rematch games until Miles came into Bryant-Denny Stadium last season and guided his Tigers to a 9-6 overtime win against the Crimson Tide in one of the most anticipated regular-season games in recent college football history.
Granted, that game is a mere footnote for a lot of people since Saban came back and prevented what would have been a hat trick for Miles.
What’s more, it was the money game.
Alabama pummeled LSU 21-0 in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans to win its second national title in the last three years and ruin what had otherwise been a dream season for the Tigers.
It made for a long offseason in Baton Rouge despite the fact that LSU won 13 games and its second SEC championship under Miles.
But losing the way the Tigers did in New Orleans, and the fact that it was Saban on the other sideline, made it even more difficult for LSU fans to stomach.
Most of their ire was naturally directed at Miles, who’s probably never going to completely get out of that massive shadow that Saban has created by winning national titles at both LSU and Alabama.
Even when Miles won his national title in 2007, the knock was that he won it with Saban’s players.
To Miles’ credit, he’s handled what would have been an impossible situation for a lot of coaches about as well as anybody could, and he’s kept LSU among the elite in college football.
In seven seasons, Miles has won 11 or more games five times, and despite the huge disappointment in New Orleans in January, he’s beaten Saban two of the last three times they’ve played.
They'll square off for a third time in 12 months Saturday night, and a win this time would probably be Miles’ biggest yet.
For one thing, No. 1 Alabama has steamrolled everybody in sight this season, and more than a few have questioned whether anybody can beat this Crimson Tide team.
But probably most importantly, LSU could vault right back into the national-title picture with a win over the Crimson Tide.
If so, talk about that giant pendulum swinging.
No longer would Miles be peppered with questions about how LSU could look so bad in last season’s national title game.
The questions would shift to Saban and how he could manage to lose three of his last four games to Miles.
It changes quickly in this league. Always has and always will.
Since returning to the SEC in 2007 as Alabama’s coach, Nick Saban has won 39 of his 48 games against league opponents.Four of those nine losses came in his first season at Alabama, and three were to the same coach.