Shutout U: Reviewing Alabama’s Best Shutouts of the Saban Era

Alabama has become the Walter Johnson of college football.

Across 21 seasons in baseball, the man known as “Big Train” threw 110 shutouts, which still stands as a Major League record. Since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007, Alabama’s recipe for championships has been a balanced offensive attack and a smothering D. During this time, Alabama has posted 23 shutouts, 12 of which were against Southeastern Conference opponents. It has shut out the entire SEC West, and its preferred shutout victim has been LSU. Here’s the breakdown of Alabama’s shutouts from the SEC West:

LSU (3)

Auburn (2)

Arkansas (2)

Ole Miss (1)

Texas A&M (1)

Mississippi State (1)

Twice in the Saban era, Alabama has posted consecutive shutouts, the most recent being the November 3, 2018, matchup versus LSU and the Nov. 10 matchup versus Mississippi State. In 2012, Alabama eviscerated Western Carolina 49-0 and doubled down the following week with a 49-0 drubbing of Auburn. Speaking of 2012, the year under Saban that produced the most shutouts (4), the combined score in those contests was an embarrassing 185-0.

Alabama has shut out an opponent in the national championship game (LSU) and a College Football Playoff semifinal (Michigan State). The Tide has shut out two teams (Vandy, Texas A&M) by the score of 59-0, and in both 2012 and ‘13, Alabama preferred to shut out Arkansas by the score of 52-0.

Bama has also shut out opponents in every month, but has reserved its greatest ire for November, a month in which the Tide has pitched 10 shutouts. Second on the list is the month of September, when eight shutouts have been produced.

In becoming Shutout U, Alabama has hosted shutout clinics in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and Tennessee. But some shutouts are more important than others. So without further discussion, here in reverse order are the Top 5 shutouts of the Nick Saban era at Alabama:

5. Alabama vs. Texas A&M – 2014

This 59-0 pasting of Kevin Sumlin’s team did not have national championship implications, but the simple fact that an A&M squad, only a year removed from the Johnny Manziel era, could be throttled to such a degree is impressive enough to make our list. This was a day when the Crimson Tide put it all together, as there was a wide discrepancy in almost every statistical category: Alabama had 602 yards of offense to A&M’s 172; 30 first downs to A&M’s 8; 298 yards rushing to A&M’s 31; 36:31 time of possession to A&M’s 23:29; 304 yards passing to A&M’s 141.

Heck, even the punting was better, as Alabama’s JK Scott averaged 50 yards per punt to Drew Kaser for the Aggies, who averaged 45.

4. Alabama vs. LSU, 2018

Anyone who was present for pregame festivities in Baton Rouge on November 3, 2018, described the scene as pandemonium. As the bourbon was a-flowin’, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron and Odell Beckham Jr were firing up the LSU fans. Breiden Fehoko, a junior defensive end for LSU, led a Haka dance outside the stadium with his father, Vili, who was “Vili the Warrior” at University of Hawaii football games for 11 years. “Hold that Tiger” brought chill bumps to the arms of many a Tiger fan. Actor Vince Vaughn even made an appearance on the LSU sideline, flashing a peace sign to adorning fans.

And then they lost.

It was a 29-0 silencing. Alabama held the LSU offense to 13 total first downs and 196 yards of offense. After the game, Saban told reporters his team wanted to make a statement, and that had nothing to do with talk or pregame hype.

It had everything to do with the number of points LSU left on the scoreboard as the smoke cleared: zero.

3. Alabama vs. Michigan State, CFP semifinal 2015

It was a “flipping” good time for Alabama against Michigan State in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic, held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Leading 31-0, Alabama quarterback Jake Coker handed off to Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, who stiff-armed Shilique Calhoun, the 6-foot-5, 250 pound defensive lineman for the Spartans, who subsequently performed an aerial before thudding on the turf. “It was like they didn’t want to take on any blockers,” said Alabama’s Jarran Reed. “I think they were scared.”

After the Tide dispatched Sparty, it went on to defeat Clemson in the national championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium. 

Michigan State was not the same team the next year, going 3-9 in 2016 before bouncing back to 10-3 the next season. Calhoun, who got posterized by Henry, now plays for the Oakland Raiders.

2. Alabama vs. Auburn, 2008

The 2008 Auburn game was the antidote for six straight years of frustration, as from 2002-07 Alabama failed to post in the win column against its cross-state rival. Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville had even rubbed salt into the wound after four straight wins by cautioning Bama fans to “Fear the Thumb,” meaning number five would be achieved shortly. But in 2008, all of that came to an end, as Alabama running backs Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram combined for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns in the woodshed job. “We don’t have to hear about it anymore,” said a relieved Bama quarterback John Parker Wilson. “We beat them good. We left no doubt. It’s a good way to finish them off.”

1. Alabama vs. LSU, 2012 BCS National Championship Game

As Alabama fans exited Bryant-Denny Stadium on a brisk November evening, they wondered how LSU could steal a 9-6 victory in one of the greatest regular-season games ever played. Saban may not have left LSU for Alabama, but he wasn’t supposed to lose to the program he left anyway. Now twice in two seasons, Alabama fans had walked away from big games on their home turf dejected and disillusioned. The previous season, Alabama led Auburn 24-7 at halftime of the Iron Bowl, only to see that lead evaporate into a 28-27 victory for Cam Newton and the Tigers.

In 2011, Alabama fans were crestfallen once again at a regular season loss to LSU, which they believed eliminated the chance for a 14th national championship in school history. But after a double overtime 37-31 Oklahoma State loss at Iowa State and a Stanford loss to Oregon, Alabama leapt right back up to No. 2 in the BCS polls. When the final tally was reached, it was an Alabama-LSU rematch, this time in New Orleans.

At the very end, Alabama turned in one of the greatest defensive performances in the history of college football. Between the blitz packages, an unflinching line, and the lock-down play of the Bama corners, LSU could eke out only 92 total yards of offense. Tigers quarterback Jordan Jefferson was 11 for 17 for 53 yards, and LSU’s longest play from scrimmage was a 19-yard catch by Beckham Jr.

“The whole defense is the MVP,” said defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw after the game.

It was a game in which class was truly in session at Shutout U. H&A


Cover photo courtesy Alabama Athletics 

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Al Blanton

Al Blanton

Born in Jasper, Alabama, Al is the owner and publisher of Blanton Media Group.
Al Blanton

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