Saban "Absolutely" Still Bothered By Loss To Clemson

Nick Saban beat Dabo Swinney last year, but the loss to Clemson in the 2017 national championship still weighs on him, says one of his former assistants

Taz and the Moose
January 07, 2019 - 10:25 am

USA Today Images


Billy Napier is unique. Not because he’s the head football coach of the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, but because he’s coached for both Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban. Indeed, the former Furman quarterback was on staff at Clemson from 2006-10 and at Alabama in 2011 and from 2013-16.

As Napier can attest, Swinney and Saban share more similarities than differences.

“I think they’re both very similar in their approach,” Napier said on Taz & The Moose. “I think probably the same demands, just a different approach. Dabo obviously is much more personal, a lot more engaged and out and about kind of with his staff, whereas Nick is a little bit more reserved, much more – I don’t know if you want to say professional or business-like, but certainly the more you work with coach, the more you get to know him and have that type of relationship with him.”

Swinney and Saban will play for the national championship Monday night, squaring off in the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight year.

That isn’t an accident.

“The thing they do, they clearly define the expectations relative to what they’re trying to accomplish, and they hold people accountable – not only the players, but the staff and everyone associated with their organizations,” Napier said. “They’re using similar blueprints. They’ve recruited well, they’ve got an army of people that work for them in all the different areas, and certainly that’s what college football has turned into. 

“What gets overlooked here is how the universities have benefited,” Napier continued. “Clemson and Alabama have dramatically improved from a big-picture standpoint in terms of the student-body applications, admissions, all the attention that gets brought to the university relative to what the football teams have accomplished.”

While Saban holds a 2-1 advantage in the series and beat Clemson last year, Napier said it “absolutely” still bothers Saban that Swinney won the last national-title showdown.

Alabama is favored to win Monday, but as we’ve seen in recent years, nothing is guaranteed.

“The key is going to be early on,” Napier said. “Clemson’s got to hang in there. I think Georgia was the team that’s maybe done that the best this year, you would say, kind of took the fight to Bama early on. Certainly Oklahoma wasn’t able to withstand the early onslaught. (It was) 28-0 pretty quick. I think Clemson’s got to find a way to stay on the field, get some points early, kind of settle in and play, and certainly hope that their defense can keep them in the game. But it’s all fun and games until you’re looking them in the eye. We’ll get to see how far Clemson has come from last year."