The man who is arguably the greatest head coach in college football history, Nick Saban, turns 69 years old on Saturday. The coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide leads his team against Mississippi State, with Saban pursuing a seventh national championship. Alabama leads the SEC West and has defeated Georgia. The Tide is likely to make the College Football Playoff and could advance to another national championship game. It would be Alabama’s eighth 12 seasons. Let’s look at portions of Saban’s coaching career and then look at the Mississippi State vs Alabama betting picks for the game.
The LSU Years
The career of Nick Saban took a lot of twists and turns before he found a stable long-term home at Alabama. He was the defensive coordinator for Bill Belichick with the Cleveland Browns in the early 1990s before he got the head coaching job at Michigan State University in 1995. He stayed at Michigan State for five seasons with modest achievements but his final season at MSU in 1999 produced a 9-2 season. That was enough to get the attention of LSU, which hired him before the 2000 season. In his second season at LSU, Saban upset Tennessee in the 2001 SEC Championship Game to win his first of eight SEC championships.
2001 and Beyond
After that crucial 2001 season, in which Saban guided LSU to the top of the SEC and then a Sugar Bowl victory, the Tigers took off. In 2003, a better LSU team won the SEC title and made the BCS National Championship Game in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. LSU knocked off the Sooners to win the program’s first national title since 1958. Saban had begun to build his reputation at a high level. He jumped to the NFL, where he wanted to see if he could make everything work as a head coach, not merely as a coordinator.
The Miami Dolphins
Saban went 15-17 in two seasons with the Dolphins in 2005 and ’06. The second of those seasons was a miserable 6-10 campaign. His Dolphin players simply did not respond to him. This was a significant professional humiliation for Saban, who had risen to a great height in the coaching business and had thought he was ready to do what a former Dolphins coach did; Jimmy Johnson won a championship at Miami with the Hurricanes and then became a Super Bowl-winning coach with the Dallas Cowboys before winning a playoff game with the Dolphins in the 1999 season. Saban fell short. Far short. It became apparent that Saban was at home in the college game. He needed to return to the SEC.
Alabama and a College Football Dynasty
Saban was humbled when he turned to Alabama. The Crimson Tide was optimistic Saban would do a good job, but no one was expecting the dominance Saban would bring back to Tuscaloosa, recalling the days of Bear Bryant in the 1960s and 1970s, when Alabama was at the top tier of the sport nearly every year. Bear Bryant won nine or more games in six consecutive seasons from 1961-66, a time when college football’s regular season was 10 games. After a few difficult years, Bryant then raised his level of performance beginning in 1971. From 1971-80, Alabama – in an 11-game regular season – won at least 10 games every year but one. In that span of 10 seasons, Alabama won 11 games seven times. The Crimson Tide lost a total of 13 games, averaging 1.3 losses per season, a phenomenal record of achievement.
2007 and Beyond
Saban lost six games in his first season at Alabama, in 2007. In the subsequent 12 seasons from 2008-19, Saban lost 17 times. With college football having an expanded season compared to Bryant’s day — 12 games in the regular season plus a conference championship game — Saban has been able to stockpile wins at a rapid rate. He has won 14 games in a season four times at Alabama. And three times in the past five seasons (not counting 2020). Saban has won at least 11 games in a season in 11 of his 13 completed seasons at Alabama. He practically never fails. Last year was an 11-2 season. It felt like a failure because Alabama finally missed the College Football Playoff for the first time since the format began in 2014. But, 11 wins and only two losses is successful for a college football program. That is what a “down year” looks like at Alabama.
A Sixth National Title on the Line
Saban has won five national titles at the school. If he wins a sixth, he ties Bryant. But, he will have done so in an era in which recruiting is harder for coaches and programs, compared to the 1960s. From 2015-18, Alabama appeared in four straight national championship games. The Crimson Tide repeated as national champions in 2011 and ’12. They won three national titles in four seasons from 2009-12. From 2014 -18, Alabama won four SEC championships in five seasons. Saban’s performance at Alabama is extraordinary. He has transcended what so many people thought was possible. He belongs with Bryant at the top of his profession on the Mount Rushmore of college football head coaches.
Mississippi State vs Alabama Betting – Point Spread
Alabama won last year’s game against Mississippi State by 31 points. Interestingly that was the game current Alabama quarterback Mac Jones relieved an injured Tua Tagovailoa midway through. This year, Jones is throwing darts, completing over 70% percent of his passes in most games. Though receiver Jaylen Waddle is out for the season after breaking his ankle against Tennessee, Devonta Smith leads a deep wide receiver room. He is capable of carrying on in Waddle’s absence. Alabama beat Tennessee by 31 on the road in its most recent game. There’s no reason the Tide can’t handle Mississippi State by a similarly large margin. The college football odds show a big number but Alabama should cover it.
Mississippi State vs Alabama Betting – Moneyline
MSU +1500, Alabama -5000
Alabama has won each of the last 12 games in this matchup. Nine of the wins being by 17 points or more and eight of the wins by 20 points or more. Mississippi State looked like a team thatwas capable of making some noise in the SEC when, in Week 1, K.J Costello threw for more than 600 yards against LSU and beat the Tigers on the road. However, LSU has proven to be a weaker team than anyone expected. The Tigers lost to Missouri a few weeks after the Mississippi State loss. Meanwhile, Mississippi State’s offense completely bogged down in a turnover-filled loss to Arkansas (Costello threw three interceptions). The Bulldogs’ offense was shut out by Kentucky. The defense scored a safety, but that was it: MSU lost, 24-2. Mississippi State then managed 14 points against Texas A&M in another defeat. If Mississippi State can’t score against mediocre defenses, it won’t score much against Alabama. Given how loaded Alabama’s offense is, it doesn’t seem possible for this game to be close. That’s why Alabama is favored by -5000 on the sports betting line.
Mississippi State vs Alabama Betting – Over/Under
Taking a look at the total in the sportsbook, the 2019 game between these teams was a 38-7 decision for Alabama. The Tide should be able to score 50 points here. As long as Mississippi State isn’t completely smothered on offense and can manage 14 to 17 points, this game is likely to go over.