Saban Undefeated Against Former Assistants

Eleven have tried. And 11 have failed.

Nick Saban’s former assistants just don’t beat the master. He’s 11-0 against them, with the closest margin of victory being 14 points.

Kirby Smart will try to become the first when his Georgia Bulldogs tackle Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff championship Monday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Alabama is favored to win its seventh national title by five points (odds provided by It’s also the third straight trip to the final game for the Crimson Tide (12-1). The last time Georgia captured the national title was in 1980.


The Bulldogs (13-1) were here in Atlanta just a month ago when they beat the Auburn Tigers for the SEC championship. Now these two SEC powerhouses hook up in the biggest game of 2018.

Ohio State (2014-15), Alabama (2015-16) and Clemson (2016-17) were the first three winners of the CFP.

According to TickPick, the average ticket price in the secondary markets for the final is $2,616. Also, 66 per cent of all ticket orders have come from the state of Georgia while only five per cent have come from the state of Alabama.

The last time these two teams met was in 2015. Georgia was a 1.5-point favorite at home. It was also the last time Alabama happened to be an underdog in a game. Final score: 38-10 Alabama.

The Crimson Tide rode a smothering defense to oust Clemson from the tournament on New Year’s Day 24-6, while the Bulldogs rallied from a 17-point deficit to send Oklahoma home 54-48 in double overtime.

Alabama held the Tigers to just 188 yards of total offense with two interceptions and never trailed in the semifinal. Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts completed 66.7 per cent of his passes — 16-for-24 for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Damien Harris carried the ball 19 times for 77 yards.

Both teams had more than 500 yards of total offense in Georgia’s win over Oklahoma. But the Bulldogs wore the Sooners down on the ground with 317 yards rushing. Sony Michel had 11 carries for 181 yards and three scores, while Nick Chubb had 14 carries for 145 yards and two TDs.

Oklahoma isn’t known for its defense. Alabama is. The gaping holes that Georgia found against the Sooners simply won’t be there against the Crimson Tide.

Some other numbers this season to consider:

  • Defensive ranking — Alabama, 1st; Georgia, 6th
  • Scoring defense — Alabama, 1st; Georgia, 5th
  • Turnover margin — Alabama, +13; Georgia, +7
  • Third-down conversions — Georgia, 9th; Alabama, 45th
  • Only loss to Auburn — Alabama lost 26-14 on Nov. 25; Georgia lost 40-17 on Nov. 11


While the defenses will have a major influence on this game, both teams are counting on two young quarterbacks to carry them to the promised land. In the semifinal losses, Baker Mayfield lived up to the hype for Oklahoma against Georgia, while Clemson’s Kelly Bryant proved he wasn’t ready for the big stage against Alabama.

Hurts knows what to expect after Alabama’s loss in last year’s final. This will all be new for Georgia’s Jake Fromm, who threw for 23 touchdowns and just five interceptions this season. But the freshman has been cool under fire since he took over the starting duties in early September.

It’s tough to go against history and Saban’s impeccable record. Alabama has the blueprint to win championships. Georgia might be overwhelmed by the spotlight — and the Crimson Tide.

VGB’s pickAlabama (5), Under (45)

VGB’s Top 10 College Football Teams

(Current odds, provided by, to win the national championship listed after team record.)

  • Alabama (12-1) -180 — Tide favored to win seventh national title.
  • Georgia (13-1) +160 — Bulldogs trailed by 17 points in semifinal.
  • Oklahoma (12-2) — Sooners put up 531 yards in offense … and lost.
  • Ohio State (12-2) — Big Ten champs destroyed USC in Cotton Bowl.
  • Clemson (12-2) — Young QB apparently not ready for prime time.
  • UCF (13-0) — Knights cap off perfect season with major victory.
  • Wisconsin (13-1) — Winningest season in school history for Badgers.
  • Penn State (11-2) — Nittany Lions run wild in Fiesta Bowl victory.
  • Auburn (10-4) — Tigers had four losses, but beat Georgia, Alabama.
  • Michigan State (10-3) — Spartans 3-1 against ranked teams this year.

My Team's Next MatchAlabama Crimson Tide