Nick Saban is not pleased with Alabama’s reported draw with the SEC’s newly-proposed schedule when the league expands in 2024, but LSU football coach Brian Kelly says it’ll come out in the wash when the pair of elite programs continue their annual rivalry in the coming years. LSU is one of Alabama’s three proposed permanent opponents, the others being Auburn and Tennessee.
The Tigers and Crimson Tide have split their last four meetings, and LSU’s overtime victory last fall helped Kelly win the SEC West in his first season at the helm.
“I think everybody has their take on the schedules,” Kelly said in an interview with ESPN. “Nick has never backed down from a challenge. I’m not too worried about whether Nick Saban is going to have his team ready when he plays LSU. He’ll be ready.”
Saban, during his interview with SI, took issue with Alabama’s alleged trio of fixed opponents citing that he wanted more “balance” among schedules in the new SEC scheduling format.
“I’ve always been an advocate for playing more (conference) games,” Saban said. “But if you play more games, I think you have to get the three fixed (opponents) right. They’re giving us Tennessee, Auburn and LSU. I don’t know how they come to that (decision).”
Alabama’s future schedules could seemingly become more favorable since the Crimson Tide won’t face all of the guaranteed SEC West gauntlet every season. However, LSU has won three national title since the turn of the century, Tennessee just enjoyed its winningest season since 2001 en route to 11 wins and Auburn has reached the national title game twice dating back to 2010, winning it all that year and then returning to the championship game in 2013.
Kelly welcomes the competition in the new SEC.
“I want to play the best,” Kelly told Dinich. “I came down here to the SEC because I wanted to play against Alabama. I want to play A&M. I want to play Auburn, the great teams, and in our new scheduling we get to play Alabama every year, Ole Miss every year and A&M.”
Paul Finebaum recently pumped the brakes on the idea that Saban is “concerned” or that the seven-time national champion didn’t expect those permanent opponents.
“I think there was a lot of negativity based on the headline, the tweet, because the impression was that Nick Saban was concerned,” Finebaum said. “But I don’t need to tell you this or anybody listening in the audience that Nick Saban plays these teams anyway. He has six national championships on the schedule with (Auburn), Tennessee and LSU every year. So I think he was just — Nick Saban is an analyst at heart. He loves to morph into the czar of college football, and by the way I think he would be perfect for that role. I think he was just explaining, ‘Here’s the system, would it have been better if they had done it this way?'”
“If you’re Alabama, how could you possibly expect anything but big-time teams (on the schedule)? Saban knows that,” Finebaum added. “He is not only the best coach in college football history, he may also be the smartest.”
The SEC is expected to go from eight conference games to nine games while eliminating divisions. Under the current scheduling model, Tennessee is Alabama’s only non-divisional opponent that it plays every season.