Nick Saban record vs. Big Ten: Will Crimson Tide’s dominance continue against Michigan?

No. 4 Alabama might be the betting underdog against No. 1 Michigan in the Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, but Big Ten fans might not see it that way.

They know Nick Saban’s track record, after all. It’s not just about the six national championships with the Crimson Tide or the 6-1 record in College Football Playoff semifinals. 

Saban has an outstanding track record against the Big Ten – and the Wolverines, for that matter. That – as much as anything – is why more pressure might be on the Wolverines heading into a matchup against the SEC’s ultimate superpower. 

A look at Saban’s past experience in the Big Ten – and his track record against it with Alabama.

MORE: TSN experts make CFP semifinals picks

What was Nick Saban’s record at Michigan State? 

Saban is a former Big Ten coach. He had a 34-24-1 record at Michigan State from 1995-99, which followed a one-year stint at Toledo. Saban left the Spartans after the 1999 regular season to take the LSU job. He was 23-16-1 in Big Ten games.

What was Nick Saban’s record vs. Big Ten at LSU?

Saban led LSU to a national championship in 2003 as part of a five-year stint where he compiled a 48-16 record. The Tigers were 1-1 against Big Ten schools in that stretch. 

No. 12 LSU beat No. 7 Illinois 47-34 in the 2002 Sugar Bowl, a game in which Rohan Davey passed for 444 yards and three TDs. No. 11 Iowa beat No. 12 LSU 30-25 in the 2005 Capital One Bowl  on a Hail Mary pass from Drew Tate to Warren Holloway. That was Saban’s final game at LSU before he took the job with the Miami Dolphins. 

What is Nick Saban’s record vs. Big Ten at Alabama? 

Like we said, Big Ten fans know. Saban is 8-1 against the Big Ten since taking over for the Crimson Tide, and that includes a 4-1 record in bowl games. 

The lone loss was on Jan. 1, 2015 in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl. No. 4 Ohio State beat No. 1 Alabama 42-35 in a stunning upset that propelled the Buckeyes to the national championship. 

Alabama has outscored the other eight opponents by a combined score of 301-92 – an average score of 37.7 to 11.5. Saban also has a good track record against Michigan. 

Alabama vs. Big Ten under Nick Saban 

DATE WINNER PF LOSER PA
Sept. 11, 2010 No. 1 Alabama 24 No. 18 Penn State 3
Jan. 1, 2011 No. 15 Alabama 49 No. 7 Michigan State 7
Sept. 10, 2011 No. 3 Alabama 27 No. 23 Penn State 11
Sept. 1, 2012 No. 2 Alabama 41 No. 8 Michigan 14
Jan. 1, 2015 No. 4 Ohio State 42 No. 1 Alabama 35
Sept. 5, 2015 No. 3 Alabama 35 No. 15 Wisconsin 17
Dec. 31, 2015 No. 2 Alabama 38 No. 3 Michigan State 0
Jan. 1, 2020 No. 9 Alabama 35 No. 17 Michigan 16
Jan. 11, 2021 No. 1 Alabama 52 No. 3 Ohio State 24

*Denotes Capital One/Citrus Bowl
**Denotes CFP semifinal 
***Denotes CFP championship game 

What is Nick Saban’s record vs. Michigan? 

Saban is 4-3 against the Wolverines between his stints at Michigan State and Alabama. 

Saban was 2-3 against Michigan during his five-year stint at Michigan State, and that included a memorable 34-31 victory on Oct. 9, 1999 against a Wolverines’ team that featured Tom Brady. 

The Crimson Tide has faced Michigan twice under Saban. On Sept. 1, 2012, No. 2 Alabama crushed No. 8 Michigan 41-14 in the Cowboys Kickoff Classic. The Crimson Tide led 31-7 at halftime and out-rushed Michigan 232-69. 

No. 9 Alabama beat No. 17 Michigan 35-16 in their last meeting in the 2020 Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2020. Mac Jones passed for 327 yards and three TDs, and Jerry Jeudy had six catches for 204 yards and a TD. Najee Harris tacked on a late touchdown with 26 seconds remaining in a convincing victory. This is the only meeting between Saban and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

MORE: Inside the all-time Alabama-Michigan series

Alabama vs. Michigan in 2023 

Michigan has held on as a 1.5-point favorite in the Rose Bowl Game, and Harbaugh has led the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff for the third consecutive season. 

The Wolverines have the top-ranked scoring defense in the FBS at 9.5 points per game, and J.J. McCarthy and Blake Corum are part of a veteran offensive core making their first Rose Bowl appearance. 

Alabama struggled at times this season, but Jalen Milroe led the Crimson Tide to a 27-24 upset of top-ranked Georgia in the SEC championship game. This might not be Saban’s best team at Alabama, but it certainly is capable of winning a national championship. 

It’s on Michigan to change that narrative for the Big Ten once and for all. 

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