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Greatest Non-Alabama Saban-Era Games That Most Benefited the Tide

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“That is why they play ALL the games” ~ Unknown

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Iowa
“Hmm, what kind of fake illness can I come up with this time?”
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

“...I get by with a little help from my friends.”

~ Sir Ringo Starr

Telling the history of Alabama Crimson Tide football would take years. To tell the tale of the Nick Saban era would take a substantial time in itself, and the story continues. Unless you just came out of a ten-year coma, you know that the Tide has won five National Championships in the last nine years. There are many stories that have been regaled regarding this epoch. The players, the coaches, and the big plays are held in such high regards to Tide fans, like it is almost as if they are a part of the family photo album. But Bama didn’t always pull off these championships without a little help from their friends.

November 18, 2011: FREAKY FRIDAY!

Iowa State 37 Oklahoma State 31 (2 OT)

The 10-0 Cowboys sauntered their way into Ames, Iowa for a Friday night spotlight game and slinked away with crushed dreams. The Cyclones would lose the rest of their games and finish the season 6-7.

Key Play: Although they were a bit sloppy, the Cowpokes held a 24-7 lead in the 3rd quarter. Ahhh, time to relax and put it in cruise control... After the Cyclones scored a touchdown, OSU would turn the ball over two times and have two three-and-outs on their next five possessions. Meanwhile, ISU chipped away at the lead and tied it up. Late in the game, Iowa State would throw an interception in their own territory. With the addition of a 15 yard personal foul penalty, the Cowboys took the ball at the 29 yard line. After some sad attempts to gain yardage, OSU would miss a 37-yard field goal to send the game into OT where the Cyclones would prevail.

Bama Effect: Second-ranked Okie State was ranked just ahead of 9-1 Alabama and seemingly on their way to a showdown with #14 Oklahoma (who they would throttle 44-10) before heading to the National Championship Game. The Tide, having lost “The Game of the Century” to LSU 9-6 two weeks prior, were starting to look like a bridesmaid. This stunner propelled Alabama back to the #2 spot where they would remain until January 9, 2012.

November 17, 2012: DOUBLE-WHAMMY!

Baylor 52 Kansas State 24, EXPOSED!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: 10-0 Wildcats sashayed their way into Waco, Texas for a nationally televised game and limped away with squashed aspirations. Baylor was 4-5 and 1-5 in the conference coming into the game. It’s laughable to think at one time K-State QB Collin Klein was a Heisman contender. The guy was not drafted nor was he even offered an NFL contract.

Key Play: The big difference in this game and the 2011 ISU-OSU game was that the Bears dominated the overconfident Wildcats from the beginning. Baylor scored on their opening 82-yard drive and jumped out to a 24-7 lead. 24 unanswered third quarter points put this one away early.

Bama Effect: This devastating upset sent Tide Nation into convulsions of joy. Yet, this outcome would not be enough to put Bama back in the driver’s seat.

Stanford 17 Oregon 14 CLANG!

Simultaneously on the west coast, came another gift from the football gods in a Pac-12 defensive gem. Chip Kelly had his strongest Ducks team at the dreaded 10-0 record heading into Silicon Valley against an 8-2 Stanford team with hopes of winning the Pac-12 North. The Cardinal would take the division and later the conference championship and Rose Bowl.

Key Play: Oregon clung to a 14-7 lead for 35 minutes until yielding the tying score with 1:35 remaining in regulation. In the first overtime, Marcus Mariota and company could only muster a single yard, which was followed by a missed 41-yard field goal. The Cardinal played conservative before connecting from 37 yards to clinch the upset in overtime.

Bama Effect: Alabama had been the number one ranked team for most of the year until magnificent Texas A&M WR Mike Evans and some lucky-ass QB upset the Tide in Tuscaloosa the week before. This loss dropped Saban’s team all the way to No. 4 behind K-State, Oregon, and Notre Dame. These pair of upsets were like the parting of the Red Sea, allowing the Tide and Irish to stroll across the ocean floor to the safety of the top two spots on the other shore. Bama would go on to thump Auburn 49-0 followed by a classic SEC Championship win over UGA that ended at the fingertips of CJ Mosley. I am sure you know what came next.

November 7, 2015: THE LATERAL

Arkansas 53 Ole Miss 52 (OT)

Having already defeated Alabama, Texas A&M and Auburn, the Rebels were in the driver’s seat for the SEC West crown. The Hogs began the season 2-4 but started to get some mojo working after beating Auburn in overtime in Game 7.

Key Play: Down by seven in overtime against Ole Miss on 4th-and-25, tight end Hunter Henry caught a pass from Brandon Allen that was nowhere close to being a first down. Upon seeing that he was going to be tackled short of the first down marker, Henry blindly flung the ball backwards as a lateral in hopes of keeping the play alive. Remarkably, slippery running back Alex Collins scooped the ball up on a bounce and ran it 31 yards for a first down. This set up an eventual touchdown and successful two-point conversion to win the game.

Bama Effect: This plot twist coupled with an earlier loss to Florida put the Rebs in second place behind the Tide in the SEC West. Alabama would win out and take NC #16.

November 4, 2017, THE BLOWOUT:

Iowa 55 Ohio State 24

The Buckeyes arrived in Iowa City, IA with a single loss to Oklahoma but only a week removed from toppling then-No. 2 Penn State. Iowa was 5-3 (2-3) and impressing nobody.

Key Play: Iowa went up 7-0 on the game’s first play - a pick-six of J.T. Barrett by Amani Hooker - and raced out to a 31-17 halftime lead that OSU could not overcome. Iowa DB Josh Jackson picked off three more Barrett passes including an athletic one-hander.

Bama Effect: It was bad enough to lose to unranked 5-3 Iowa, but getting blown out by 31 points ruined the Buckeyes chances for a slot in the playoffs. It did not help that the Hawkeyes would lose their next two including a home loss to lowly Purdue. The Crimson Tide would lose the Iron Bowl and denied a spot at the SEC Championship Game, but it did not keep them from claiming the fourth playoff spot. Of course Alabama would proceed to win National Championship numero 17.