Is Smart really surpassing Saban? Not for awhile, if ever.
BY WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Peyton Davis
In the dog days of the offseason for both college and professional football, media personalities will find just about any story in trying to fill the void and get clicks. This is especially true for major outlets like ESPN, where the best way to increase attention is amplifying the boldness of sensationalized takes.
Paul Finebaum is a direct example of this, as he continues to write off the Alabama football program, and – in the case of his most recent comments regarding Tide head coach Nick Saban – made arguably his most outlandish claim yet on ESPN’s weekday morning show “First Take.”
When Finebaum has been pressed for his opinion, he tends to gush about Georgia, saying Saban has been passed by his former defensive coordinator Kirby Smart as the best head coach in the country.
Writing off Alabama football is one thing, but questioning Saban’s legacy is a whole new level. In his comments above, he claims if Alabama misses the College Football Playoff for a third time, it would be a “big hit” on his legacy. What does that mean?
Saban has won six national championships at the University of Alabama since 2009 — that’s six of the last 13 — and he won one for LSU in 2003. With seven national titles, Saban has the most championships won by a coach at the college level.
Georgia winning back to back national championships has put the country’s best football program up for debate after Alabama dominated that conversation for over a decade.
Finebaum is a major spokesman for the Georgia side, but Saban’s program is still a gold standard for college football.
Kirby Smart grew up as a coach under Saban, meaning his success at Georgia is a testament to Saban’s greatness.
During Smart’s tenure at Georgia, he’s matched up against Saban five times; in those games he’s come out 1-4 against his mentor (1-2 this decade). Smart’s lone victory was the 2022 National Championship.
Saban has also out-recruited Smart every year he’s been at Georgia, except in 2020, according to 247 Sports. Most recently, Saban landed two of the top three players in Georgia: safety Caleb Downs and tailback Justice Haynes.
Smart and Georgia have accomplished a whole lot over the past several years, but suggesting Georgia is surpassing Alabama or that Smart has overtaken Saban is shortsighted.
No matter what happens in the 2023 football season, Saban’s legacy is by no means in danger.