Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are two of the country’s best college football coaches. Each man does it in his own way. Urban Meyer is calm, cool and collected and gets his players to do their best by keeping it loose and fun. Nick Saban is an old-fashioned coach who does things the hard way. Pure grit and toughness are keys to Nick Saban’s success. Saban is also a very energetic coach who sometimes lets his ego and big mouth get in the way of coaching. As a result of this egotistical attitude, Nick Saban will never be able to defeat Urban Meyer in games that matter.
Saban’s a control freak who won’t let his coaches do their jobs. This makes Urban Meyer a better administrative coach. Why is this important in a big game situation? Meyer’s mellow attitude allows his coaches to make real-time decisions without fear of getting their heads chopped off if they make a mistake. This allows Florida to take more chances without fear of the repercussions. When teams take more chances, they make more big plays in the clutch. Those big plays make a difference in big games.
Meyer is also consistently a better prepared coach than Saban. The Utah Debacle in the 2008 Sugar Bowl best describes this fact more than anything else. After the Sugar Bowl rout by the Utes, Saban himself said after the game , “I don’t think we were ready to play today” against the Utes. It was true. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham had his team motivated and prepared his Utes better than any other head coach I’ve seen coach against Alabama. It seemed like Whittingham knew what Saban was going to do before Nick himself knew. In addition, Alabama seemed to never be on the same page offensively as the coaching staff. There were times where Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson looked confused and out of it. All of these instances in the 2009 Sugar Bowl make me wonder if Saban could beat Urban Meyer because Meyer’s teams are always on the same page and always seem to know what it takes to win.
If you don’t believe me, look at Urban Meyer’s coaching performance against Oklahoma in the 2009 BCS title game. Florida was the only team all year who shut down Sam Bradford and the amazing Sooner offense because Meyer had his defense well-prepared for the Sooners’ offense. Furthermore, when the Sooners tried to make adjustments, it seemed as though the Gators had an answer for anything the Sooners tried. This tells me that Meyer and his coaching staff had the Gators better prepared for that game than Bob Stoops’ staff had the Sooners. That’s why Meyer has two national titles and Nick Saban only has half of one.
Finally, Urban Meyer is better at adjusting his finesse offense to his talent than Nick Saban is at adjusting his smash-mouth style offense to his talent. Meyer’s two national title wins with two very different quarterbacks are good examples of this. When Urban Meyer won the 2006 national title, he had a very efficient quarterback named Chris Leak who was not a great passer but instead a good game manager. Meyer used a great running game and Leak’s solid management skills to beat Ohio State. On the other hand, Meyer won the 2008 title with a quarterback who can do it all. Meyer installed more option-style plays on offense to take advantage of Tebow’s multi-dimensionality.
This is in stark contrast to Nick Saban who only knows how to play full steam ahead. While smash-mouth football wins you games, it can’t compete every year for national titles because the college game sees players come and go all the time. Because players come and go all the time, coaches have to be able to tweak their offense and defense to meet current talent levels. Since Saban only knows one way to play, he will never be able to compete with a coach like Urban Meyer because Saban can’t adjust quickly enough on or off the field his schemes to meet current needs as they happen.
Don’t get me wrong. Nick Saban is a phenomenal coach who is the best recruiter in the country. Last season, his Tide were voted the Number One Recruiter in America by Rivals.com. The problem is even though he is great at getting top talent, Saban doesn’t use his talent to its fullest potential. That’s the key difference between Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. It’s also the reason why Urban Meyer would be a hands-on favorite to beat Nick Saban in a head-to-head match-up.
Additional source used:
Burke, Monte. “The Most Powerful Coach in Sports.” Orginally published in Forbes Magazine September 1st, 2008. Retrieved online on September 2nd, 2009. from www.forbes.com/.