LSU beats Clemson, still doesn’t have as many national championships as Nick Saban
LSU beat Clemson 42-25 in Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship game in New Orleans.
The Bayou Bengals now have four national championships in school history. LSU also finished the 1958, 2003 and 2007 seasons as the nation’s No. 1 team.
LSU’s second national championship, of course, was won by their then-head coach Nick Saban.
Saban, now coaching another team in the SEC West — the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, has himself won a total of five national championships in his storied career.
In addition to the title he won at LSU, Saban led Alabama to national championships in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017. That record ties him with another former Bama head coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, for the most in the modern era of college football.
While this season was the first in the College Football Playoff era that Saban’s Tide were not involved, the famed coach still played a part in the national championship game.
Saban was featured on ESPN’s pregame show and was even seen during the game on the sideline.
Speaking ahead of the matchup, Saban lauded LSU’s explosive offense, led by NFL-bound quarterback Joe Burrow.
“I think it is… one of the most difficult to defend because of the skill players they have and the quarterback they have,” Saban advised. “Most of the time, you play a team that has one good player, maybe two… These guys really have it all.”
He compared the revamped LSU offense to the overhaul Saban allowed at Alabama in recent years with outgoing star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa at the helm.
“I think it’s the whole key to their success, and you’ve got to give Ed [Orgeron] a lot of credit for doing it,” Saban remarked. “We did it at Alabama a few years ago. When you’re a defensive-minded coach and you’ve grown up running the ball, being conservative and playing defense to win games, the game changed. RPOs came, and everybody spread it out. The game changed, and if you don’t join that crowd, you’re never going to be able to make enough explosive plays in a game and score enough points. That’s what they did this year.”
‘I take my hat off to Dabo’
While LSU ultimately came up on top this year, Saban before the big game also had words of praise for Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
“Well, I think the one thing people need to understand is success is not a continuum,” Saban said. “It’s momentary, and people have a difficult time really trying to maintain a standard of excellence once they have success. I take my hat off to Dabo for winning 29 games in a row — the championships they’ve won and being able to bring themselves back here again this year.”
He added, “Complacency creates a blatant disregard for doing the little things right. To be a champion and to repeat as a champion, you have to do the little things right. You have to do it everyday. I think that’s challenging, and that’s one thing I respect about both [Clemson and LSU]. They’ve had a lot of success.”
Swinney was raised in Pelham and attended the University of Alabama, where he joined the football program as a walk-on wide receiver in 1989. He subsequently earned a scholarship and lettered on three teams (1990–1992), including the Tide’s 1992 National Championship team. During his time as an undergraduate, Swinney was twice named an Academic All-SEC and SEC Scholar Athlete Honor Roll member.
While completing work on his MBA, Swinney became a graduate assistant at Alabama under Gene Stallings. Swinney would go on to coach at UA in some capacity for almost a decade.
In December 1995, Swinney received his MBA from Alabama and became a full-time assistant coach for the Tide in charge of wide receivers and tight ends. He retained these posts under Stallings’ successor, Mike DuBose, but was fired with all of DuBose’s staff in early 2001.
At the time, Swinney stayed in the state of Alabama and worked for AIG Baker Real Estate on development projects after his former strength coach at UA, Rich Wingo, became president of the company and offered him a job. Wingo is now a Republican state representative serving parts of Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas.
Swinney was drawn away from the Yellowhammer State in 2003 after Tommy Bowden, his former position coach at Alabama, became Clemson’s head coach. Swinney started with the Tigers as recruiting coordinator and also served as wide receivers coach. He became Clemson’s head coach in 2008, first on an interim basis after Bowden resigned six games into the season.
Swinney has in recent years been named at or near the top of most lists of potential eventual successors to Saban at Alabama.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn