Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Saban and Meyer: Together Again?

Did Nick Saban make Urban Meyer literally ill? We can't say for certain, but we do know that after the last time Saban beat Meyer in a big game, Meyer nearly (and eventually) quit coaching.

That was 2009, and Alabama's 32-13 thrashing of Florida ended the Gators' repeat quest and propelled the Tide to the first of their three BCS national championships over the next four years. Saban went on to become the god of the BCS. Meyer checked himself into a hospital a day later, resigned as Florida's coach, came back, and then quit again for good.

Until he came back again.

After taking it easy in an ESPN booth for a year, Meyer returned to coaching in 2012 at Ohio State. Fifteen games into his tenure as the Buckeyes coach, he has yet to lose a game - and might not anytime soon.

There is a pretty good possibility that Meyer would end his season in Pasadena - and not for the 100th Rose Bowl Game, but that other one five days later. And across the field from him just might be his old nemesis Saban, with his Alabama team looking for its third straight national championship.

Alabama and Ohio State are currently ranked No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the simulated BCS standings. And the paths looks pretty wide open for both teams to reach their January destination.

The Crimson Tide got by the one-man cyclone that is Johnny Manziel on Saturday and likely will face just two ranked teams for the remainder of the regular season (Sept. 28 vs. Ole Miss and Nov. 9 vs. LSU, both at home). The Buckeyes might have to face one more ranked team than Alabama, but the Big Ten is considerably weaker than the SEC, as evidenced by the conference's going 2-5 against BCS competition last weekend.

For the purpose of the BCS, Alabama is in the pole position. It's currently top-ranked in the simulated standings and as long as it keeps winning, it will stay there. The Tide may even be able to afford to lose a game and have the breaks go their way as they did in both 2011 and '12. A one-loss Alabama will have a better chance to get into the BCS title game than any other one-loss team.

As for Ohio State, while its schedule is easier, there's more elements out of its control in terms of getting into the BCS title game. It'll likely stay behind the Oregon-Stanford winner in the BCS standings, unless that team loses a second game. It's also at risk of being jumped by LSU should the Tigers win at Tuscaloosa.

But this much we do know: If the Buckeyes go undefeated again in the regular season, they'll be headed to Pasadena now that they're done with the one-year bowl ban, which kept them out of not just the Rose Bowl but a shot at the BCS title a year ago. This time around, Meyer might get a rematch with Saban with more than just the SEC championship at stake.

Meyer has a score to settle anyway. After beating Saban and Alabama in the 2008 SEC championship game, his Gators lost the rematch in 2009 and then again in a 2010 regular-season game, shortly before Meyer quit Florida for good. The SEC has had a stranglehold on the BCS title since Meyer began the seven-year streak in 2006. He'd love nothing more than being the man to end the SEC reign, and taking down his old nemesis in the process.


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