College Football Preview: Alabama vs. Florida

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2008

Associated Press
ATLANTA ó Nick Saban and Urban Meyer both took a mulligan in their first seasons.
Saban’s debut at Alabama was marred by a four-game losing streak at the end of the regular season. Heck, the Crimson Tide needed a victory in the Independence Bowl just to eke out a winning record.
Meyer’s opening season at Florida was more successful, though the Gators still managed to lose three SEC games, including a bitter defeat to former coach Steve Spurrier that kept them out of the league championship game.
Even with the best of coaches, it usually takes a year to really get things rolling.
But watch out in Year 2.
Meyer won a national championship his second season at the Swamp, and Saban could pull off a similar feat at the helm of the Crimson Tide ó if No. 1 Alabama (12-0) can get by Meyer’s second-ranked Gators (11-1) in the SEC championship game today. Clearly, there are parallels in the way a successful program is constructed.
“Players need to get used to you. You need to get an understanding of the players,” Meyer said.
Saban should know, having been through it before. At LSU, he posted a respectable 8-4 record his first season, but the Tigers lost big to Auburn and Florida and were even beaten by UAB. The following year, they won their first outright SEC championship in 15 years and went on to the Sugar Bowl.
“It’s a tough transition year,” Saban said. “You’re trying to change a culture in terms of the way people do things. It’s more difficult for the older players to probably adjust to and adapt to that, and those guys are probably the guys who provide quite a bit of leadership, and are looked to for leadership. It may be the most difficult group to buy in.”