There seems to be a widespread perception today that, primarily based on his record of national titles, Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of the modern era and perhaps the greatest of all time.
But, I think a strong case can be made that Urban Meyer’s accomplishments are on a par with those of Saban—especially when you use the criteria from the famous quote about Bear Bryant that went something like “He can take his and beat yours, or he can take yours and beat his.”
First, on overall winning percentage, Urban has better stats than Nick: .853 vs .791.
Second, on bowl games W-L record, Urban has better stats than Nick: 11-3 vs 13-9.
Third, on turning around a college program in the first year of coaching at that school, Urban has better stats:
2001 Bowling Green 8-3 (prior year 2-9)
2003 Utah 10-2 (prior year 5-6)
2005 Florida 9-3 (prior year 7-5)
2012 Ohio State 12-0 (prior year 6-7)
Nick Saban’s turnaround record:
1990 Toledo 9-2 (prior year 6-5)
1995 Michigan State 6-5-1 (prior year 5-6)
2000 LSU 8-4 (prior year 3-8)
2007 Alabama 7-6 (prior year 6-7)
Fourth, in head-to-head matchups in championship competition, Urban’s teams are 2-1 against Nick’s squads—with a split in SEC title games between Florida and Alabama and, of course, Ohio State’s upset victory over top-ranked Alabama in the CFP Sugar Bowl.
And, let’s not forget, the man now widely hailed as the greatest college football coach of the modern era saw his team surrender a 15-point lead against an Ohio State squad with a third-string quarterback starting only his second game.
I’m not saying Urban Meyer deserves to be recognized as a greater coach in football history than Nick Saban. But, at this point, I’m not convinced Nick Saban should be recognized as a greater coach than Urban Meyer.
They are both legendary coaches (in stark contrast to Jim Harbaugh).