Since 2007, Nick Saban has crafted a legacy at Alabama that cements him as arguably the greatest coach in the history of college football. He’s won seven national titles, ten SEC titles, and a plethora of coach of the year awards.
In the state of Alabama, though, there’s one game that can overshadow all of that other success: the Iron Bowl.
The annual matchup with Auburn is essentially a religious holiday in the state. If you hop in your car and take a drive from Muscle Shoals to Mobile on the day of the game, you’ll probably be able to count the number of other motorists you pass on one hand. Everyone is either in the stadium or in front of a television set.
So, how has Saban fared against the Tigers?
Saban’s Iron Bowl record
In 16 games, Nick Saban is 11-5 in the Iron Bowl.
He suffered a 17-10 defeat in 2007, the final game of Auburn’s six-game win streak in the rivalry under head coach Tommy Tuberville. The next season, Saban put the stamp on Tuberville’s pink slip, shutting out Auburn in a 36-0 blowout.
Under new Auburn coach Gene Chizik, the Tigers gave Alabama a fight in 2009, but a late touchdown drive, capped by a touchdown pass from Greg McElroy to Roy Upchurch, gave the Tide a 26-21 victory. The next season, led by Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, Auburn won the game in Tuscaloosa, on their way to a National Championship. It was the only Iron Bowl Chizik would win, and Alabama won the 2011 and 2012 games by a combined score of 91-14.
Gus Malzahn was hired in 2013, and the first matchup of his tenure ended with the infamous “Kick Six”. Malzahn would beat Alabama three total times from 2013-20, the other two Auburn victories being the 2017 and 2019 games.
While Malzahn had a knack for giving Saban trouble at times, there was one key separator during this time: When Auburn won, the games were close, and when Alabama won, there was a little less suspense. The average margin of victory for Auburn under Malzahn was seven points. When Saban’s teams beat Malzahn’s, it was by an average margin of 21.
Bryan Harsin was hired by Auburn after the 2020 season, and Saban bested him in their sole matchup. After four overtimes, Alabama pulled out a 24-22 victory on the shoulders of Bryce Young’s late-game heroics.
Finally, in last year’s game, Auburn was coached in an interim manner by Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, who had plenty of memorable moments in this rivalry as a tailback during the Tuberville days. As a coach, he had less success, with Alabama winning by a commanding 49-27 score.
At 11-5, Saban has won 69 percent of his games against Auburn. It’s his lowest rate against yearly SEC West foes, with LSU in a close second at 71 percent.
The Jordan-Hare Effect
The Tide are 14.5-point favorites ahead of this year’s game, and the Tide have only gotten better as the year has progressed. The game does take place in Auburn, however, and of Saban’s five Iron Bowl losses, four came in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
It’s likely that Saban will move to 12-5 against Auburn this week, but it’s not a sure thing. When this game takes place on the plains, nothing is ever completely sure.