No. 1 Alabama visits No. 19 Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon (3:30 ET, CBS). The Tide roll into Oxford as the country’s undisputed best team, just as it’s often been under Nick Saban. But Ole Miss has found vulnerabilities where others haven’t, so the Rebels enter the weekend with a chance to win, somehow, a third Alabama game in a row.
The quick recap, which you already know about: In 2014, Alabama went to Oxford as the No. 3 team in the AP Poll (No. 1 in the Coaches), and No. 11 Ole Miss won, 23-17. Bo Wallace threw for three touchdowns, and everyone went wild. In 2015, in Tuscaloosa, things got weird, and the No. 15 Rebs beat the No. 2 Tide, 43-37.
If Ole Miss does this again, it’ll be a hell of a trick. Here are some things to help all of us understand just how impressive it’d be for the Rebels to score another upset.
1. It's been 17 years since somebody's beaten a Saban team for a third time in a row.
Ole Miss going for 3 vs Bama— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 14, 2016
Last time Saban lost 3 straight to a single foe? Michigan (1996-98) & Purdue (1997-99) pic.twitter.com/4VLkDT6IxT
Saban was Michigan State’s coach, back then. He’s since had five dominant years at LSU and nearly a decade of success at Alabama. The thing about LSU and Alabama: They play lots of good teams every year, and yet nobody’s nicked Saban three times in a row.
This was Joe Tiller's Purdue program, which helped popularize spread offenses and would reach the Rose Bowl in 2000. In 1998 and 1999, its quarterback was Drew Brees.
2. Even beating Saban twice in a row is nearly impossible.
Other than three Big Ten teams who beat him in 1995 and 1996, his first two years at Michigan State, only 2000-2001 Florida (Steve Spurrier's last two teams) and 2010-2011 LSU (the latter of which Saban avenged later that same season in the BCS Championship) had managed consecutive wins against Saban before Hugh Freeze's team did it, Sports On Earth's Matt Brown detailed.
3. Saban doesn't just win revenge games. He dominates them. (Except in 2015 against Ole Miss, pretty much.)
From Jon Solomon at CBS Sports, a chart showing a close Saban loss usually means a two-score Saban win next time:
|SEC career wins leaders in revenge games|
|Career win %||REVENGE GAME win %||Scoring margin change in REVENGE GAMES|
|Nick Saban, LSU/Alabama||.805||.900||+13.6 points|
|Robert Neyland, Tennessee||.829||.750||+8.7 points|
|Vince Dooley, Georgia||.715||.714||+6.5 points|
|Bear Bryant, Kentucky/Alabama||.797||.679||+8.3 points|
|Mark Richt, Georgia||.742||.667||+5.2 points|
Or, in video form:
4. Alabama hasn’t had any three-year losing streaks since Saban ended a bunch of them after his first year.
LSU beat Alabama five times in a row, once a year from 2003 to 2007. Saban coached the first two of those games for LSU. Alabama got back in the win column with a triumph in Baton Rouge in 2008. Alabama's now won seven of nine.
Georgia beat Alabama in three straight crossover games from 2002 to 2007, Saban’s first year helming the Tide. Alabama’s since rebounded and won the last three.
Auburn beat Alabama a bunch from 2002 to 2007, winning all six times. Saban ended that in 2008, his second year at Bama, and has now won six of his last eight against the Tigers.
A few SEC teams were really running things against Alabama, and Saban lost to some of them in his first year there. But then he got his players, and now the Tide reign over all of them.
(Except Ole Miss, at the moment.)
5. If Ole Miss wins, Alabama will have lost four times in the last three seasons, with three of those against Ole Miss.
The only other: Ohio State's 2014 national champion.
6. Ole Miss, until now, had never even won two in a row against Bama.
That’s extraordinary, given that these teams have met 60 times and started playing football against each other literally in 1894.
At the moment, Alabama is 47-11-2 against Ole Miss. A win on Saturday would give Ole Miss 25 percent of its Alabama wins over timeframe equaling 2.5 percent of the schools’ rivalry history.
Ole Miss' previous best run against Bama, before Freeze got going: winning three of seven from 1968 to 1976.