On September 1st in Orlando, FL the Louisville Cardinals and Alabama Crimson Tide will face off for the first time since January 1, 1991. The Cards romped that day winning the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl 34-7. That was Howard Schellenberger vs. Gene Stallings.
Fast forward to 2018 and now it’s Bobby Petrino vs. Nick Saban. Petrino has never beaten Nick Saban as a head coach. Nick Saban is .500 vs. Louisville after splitting a 1995/1996 series with the Cards and Ron Cooper (really Ron Cooper beat Nick Saban?). But how do the two coaches match-up in season openers?
Bobby Petrino is 12-1 in season openers. The lone loss was a neutral field defeat to the Auburn Tigers 31-24 in the Georgia Dome for the Chik-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta in 2015. That was Lamar Jackson and a host of Louisville newcomers’ first game. Outside of that loss Petrino has fared well in openers….. 5 of which saw Petrino-led squads get Kentucky started with a season-opening loss. 5 wins vs. UK and 5 other victories vs. FCS schools has Bobby Petrino 2-1 vs. serious competition (Miami, Auburn, Purdue) in his career. Nonetheless let’s take a look at how Bobby’s teams perform when opening a season.
Petrino averaged 453.8 yards per game vs. Power 5 schools and allows just 312.6 yards in each opener outgaining P5 opponents by 141.2 yards on average. Petrino scores 35.38 and allows 21.75 for an average margin of victory vs. Power 5 opponents of 13.63. And he gets an extra turnover on average of every game they play vs. Power 5 schools.
12-1 overall. 7-1 vs. P5. Pretty strong. One loss by 7 points with an untested young team in a neutral site. The Auburn loss opened with a intercepion on play #1 that lead to an easy score. Later in the 1st half a fumble recovery took UofL out of scoring position and was a scoop and score for Auburn. Despite that Louisville nearly made a comeback and fell by just one score.
Petrino in Season Openers
|Score||Yards||Yards Allowed||Penalties||TOs||TOs Gained|
|2003- UofL||Win @ UK||40-24||420||344||4-35||1||2|
|2004-UofL||Win vs. UK||28-0||439||238||8-85||1||3|
|2005-UofL||Win @ UK||31-24||388||325||5-35||0||3|
|2006-UofL||Win vs. UK||59-28||631||260||3-40||1||1|
|2008-Ark||Win vs. Western Illinois||28-24||394||262||4-25||3||0|
|2009-Ark||Win vs. Missouri State||48-10||591||205||8-60||1||2|
|2010-Ark||Win vs. Tennessee Tech||44-3||519||187||9-64||2||0|
|2011-Ark||Win vs. Missouri State||51-7||466||163||8-76||1||1|
|2013-WKU||Win vs. UK||35-26||487||419||5-35||2||1|
|2014-UofL||Win vs. Miami||31-13||336||244||7-57||2||3|
|2015- UofL||Loss vs. Auburn||24-31||405||327||5-35||2||3|
|2016-UofL||Win vs. Charlotte||70-14||663||208||10-49||3||1|
|2017-UofL||Wn vs. Purdue||35-28||524||344||16-110||3||4|
|Total vs. Power 5||283-174||3630||2501||53-432||12||20|
|Average vs. Power 5||35.38-21.75||453.8||312.6||6.6-54||1.5||2.5|
(If anyone has an accurate box score for Toledo’s win over Miami (OH) in 1990 I’ll add stats at that time, but for the purposes of this article the score will stand on the totals, but the yards and averages for penalties and Turnovers are omitted).
Nick Saban’s coaching career in season openers is outstanding at 19-3 with no losses since 2003 and zero losses since joining Alabama in 2007 in Game 1. Saban’s 3 losses in Game 1 of a season are as follows: 1995 vs. Nebraska 50-10 when Nebraska DOMINATED the ground vs. the Spartans in Year 1 of Nick Saban. 1998 vs. Colorado State 23-16 where the Rams dominated defensively. And finally in 2002 where Virginia Tech also dominated a defensive game and pulled out the win 26-8.
Beyond that Saban has been AMAZING in season openers. The Tide outscore P5 opponents an average of 31.31 to 18.62 outscoring those opponents on average of 12.69 per game. The yardage totals are also impressive with Alabama rolling up 385.7 vs. P5 teams and allowing just 300.7 yards per game.
19-3 overall. 13 in a row. The lone blow out was versus an all-time team (1995 Nebraska was 12-0 , #1 consensus National Champion) in Saban’s 1st year at Michigan State. Otherwise, Saban has been as equally or even at times less beatable than Bobby Petrino especially when considering the level of competition recently in the openers.
Saban in Season Openers
|Score||Yards||Yards Allowed||Penalties||TOs||TOs Gained|
|1990-Toledo||Win @ Miami (OH)||20-14|
|1995- Mich St||Loss vs. Nebraska||10-50||335||666||11-91||3||2|
|1996- Mich St||Win vs. Purdue||52-14||472||397||3-20||0||1|
|1997- Mich St||Win vs. West Mich||42-10||310||266||6-45||1||7|
|1998- Mich St||Loss vs. Colorado St||16-23||230||356||5-27||3||2|
|1999- Mich St||Win vs. Michigan State||27-20||364||371||8-65||2||2|
|2000-LSU||Win vs. Western Carolina||58-0||680||167||12-107||0||2|
|2001-LSU||Win vs. Tulane||48-17||494||391||5-34||2||3|
|2002-LSU||Loss vs. Virginia Tech||8-26||214||231||8-61||2||1|
|2003-LSU||Win vs. UL Monroe||49-7||474||240||7-48||1||2|
|2004-LSU||Win vs. Oregon State||22-21 (OT)||302||315||4-24||1||1|
|2007-Alabama||Win vs. Western Carolina||52-6||575||171||5-42||0||2|
|2008-Alabama||Win vs. Clemson||34-10||419||188||6-40||0||2|
|2009-Alabama||Win vs. Virginia Tech||34-24||498||155||10-83||2||2|
|2010-Alabama||Win vs. San Jose St||48-3||591||175||4-40||1||1|
|2011-Alabama||Win vs. Kent State||48-7||482||90||2-10||5||1|
|2012-Alabama||Win vs. Michigan||41-14||431||269||7-55||1||3|
|2013-Alabama||Win vs. Virginia Tech||35-10||206||212||4-25||1||1|
|2014-Alabama||Win vs. West Virginia||33-23||538||393||7-49||0||1|
|2015-Alabama||Win vs. Wisconsin||35-17||502||268||11-120||0||1|
|2016-Alabama||Win vs. USC (So Cal)||52-6||465||194||4-29||2||1|
|2017-Alabama||Win vs. Florida St||24-7||269||250||5-30||0||3|
|Total vs. Power 5||407-242||5015||3909||88-692||14||21|
|Average vs. Power 5||31.31-18.62||385.7692308||300.7||6.8-53.2||1.08||1.62|