Did you know Ohio State fired Nick Saban? Here's the Alabama coach's record against the Buckeyes
Did you know Alabama head football coach Nick Saban was once fired by Ohio State?
Yes, before he built Alabama into a national champion and way before he leads his team against Ohio State in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game on Jan. 11, Saban was a Buckeye long ago.
Dispatch columnist Rob Oller detailed the events in 2008. Saban was an assistant coach in Columbus for two seasons in 1980 and 1981 under head coach Earle Bruce. Saban was fired following the 1981 Liberty Bowl.
Saban, who was working for his fourth program at that point, was the defensive backs coach. Ohio State beat Navy 31-28 in the Liberty Bowl and Saban ironically coached at Navy for the 1982 season.
He came back to beat Ohio State 13-7 as the Michigan State defensive coordinator in 1987 before taking his first of three NFL coaching jobs. NSaban became a head coach for the first time in 1990 at Toledo and became the Michigan State head coach in 1995 after being the Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator from 1991-1994.
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Saban has coached 326 games as college football head coach, including 192 at Alabama since 2007. Only four of those 326 have come against Ohio State.
Here's how he's done against the Buckeyes in his career.
Ohio State 37, Michigan State 13,
Nov. 1, 1997
It was Saban's third season at Michigan State. After 6-5-1 and 6-6 seasons, the Spartans went 7-5 in 1997. But Ohio State led this game 24-6 at halftime and Joe Germaine was 13-of-18 passing with a touchdown to David Boston and one interception. The day belonged to Gary Berry, who picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown and later blocked a punt and scored another touchdown in the first quarter.
Michigan State 28, Ohio State 24,
Nov. 7, 1998
Ohio State fans could argue that this is one of Saban's greatest wins. That is if Buckeye fans haven't spent the last two decades trying to forget it. Ohio State was undefeated, ranked No. 1 and one of the favorites to win the national championship. Michigan State was unranked and 4-4 at the time. Playing in Columbus, Ohio State jumped to a 17-3 lead, but scored just one touchdown the rest of the game as the Spartans chipped away at the lead. Sedrick Irvin, who finished with 52 yards rushing, scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"Maybe there was some feeling of redemption (then)," Saban said in 1998 according to Oller. "But it was so long ago. My thoughts about Ohio State are really positive (now.)"
Michigan State 23, Ohio State 7,
Nov. 6, 1999
Saban's final season in East Lansing was his best. The Spartans went 10-2 and finished No. 7 in the country. Plaxico Burress had seven catches for 81 yards and a touchdown while the Ohio State offense generated zero rushing yards in the game.
Ohio State 42, Alabama 35, Jan. 1, 2015
Saban's two-game winning streak over Ohio State ended in the second College Football Playoff game ever as the No. 1 Crimson Tide lost to the No. 4 Buckeyes in the national semifinals at the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Alabama was a 9-point favorite in the game. The Buckeyes got 230 rushing yards from star running back Ezekiel Elliott and a key 41-yard interception return for a touchdown from linemen Steve Miller. Ohio State withstood a furious rally from Alabama, led by future NFL stars Derrick Henry and Amari Cooper, but hung on to win. Ohio State beat Oregon later that month to win the National Championship