Fun with Numbers, Auburn-Style

It must be nice to get paid to be a pot-stirrer.

Under the category of “Auburn has the better head coach because ______________,” Kevin Scarbinsky tries to fill in the blank with Gene Chizik is better coach than Nick Saban because he’s better in close games.  He even has statistics to back it up:

As good as Saban and his staff have been at recruiting and developing players, at developing and installing game plans, there’s something about the way Chizik and his staff perform at crunch time that can’t be denied.

Let’s go to the numbers. In five years at Alabama, Saban is 6-4 in games decided by four points or less. Expand the final margin to eight points or less – which is a one-score game – and he’s 10-9.

It’s not a bad record in nail-biters. It’s just that Chizik’s is much better. In three years at Auburn, he’s 9-0 in games decided by four points or less and 12-3 in games decided by eight points or less.

Yes, Saban is 10-9 in games, decided by eight points or less.  But did you know that 10 of those came in his first year?  The Tide’s record was 4-6 in those games, meaning Saban has gone 6-3 since.  Of those three losses, two have come to LSU – including this year’s “Game of the Century,” and one came to the 2010 national champions.  I think I can live with that record.

Let’s also point out that in 2010, Auburn had perhaps the best college football player in the last 25 years in Cam Newton.  Despite this, five of their fourteen wins were by less than four points.  Before we begin to sing the hallelujah chorus over Chizik, let’s remind ourselves that he would’ve lost several game without Newton.

Scarbinsky also makes this point:

Do the Alabama players tend to tighten up at crunch time because their head coach is wound so tight? Or are they so used to early knockouts that they don’t get enough practice trading punches in the 15th round?

Horrors.  Maybe their coach is just cooler than ours.  To double-check this, why don’t we look at games decided by more than 14 points.  By my math, Alabama is 36-0*, including multiple wins over Arkansas, Tennessee, Penn State and Florida to name a few and includes the 2009 SEC championship game and also the BCS title game win over Texas.  Saban has never lost a game at Alabama by more than 14 points.

Chizik, on the other hand, is 14-5* in games decided by more than 14 points.  Seven of those are Newton aided.  In 2011 alone, the Tigers have been pasted by 38-14, 45-10 and 45-7 scores.

Well, I’ll tell ya what.  Y’all can keep Chizik and we’ll keep Saban and we’ll even let you think you have the better coach.  How does that sound?


* I tallied these records rather quickly and could be off a game or so, but you get the point.