When Louisville and Alabama take the field in Orlando in less than three weeks, it will be the first time the two teams have met in 27 years and eight months. As you are well aware, but it never hurts to hear it again, Louisville beat Alabama 34-7 that day in the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl. The Cards led 25-0 after the first quarter. They routed the Crimson Tide. It was...ok ok, sorry. This post is not supposed to be a recap of that game where Browning Nagle shredded the Tide’s defense. It’s not.
A lot has happened with these two programs in the last 27 years and eight months. Both have had their share of success. Both have had down years. Both have had several head coaches. One is clearly thought of as a football powerhouse. The other is coached by Nick Saban. One is consistent and traditional. The other is all over the map and gained popularity by playing on any day of the week just to get exposure. Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences in the two programs since that wonderful day in Tempe, Arizona.
‘Bama clearly has the edge in this one. Louisville sniffed the thought of making a National Championship game in 2006 and had playoff aspirations in 2016, but that’s all. Alabama has won six National Titles just in this time frame, with five of those happening since 2009. Quite impressive.
-Louisville - 0
-Alabama - 6 (‘92, ‘09, ‘11, ‘12, ‘15, ‘17)
Heisman Trophy Winners
Here is something we can come close in. With all of the tradition that Alabama football has, it somehow took until 2009 for them to get their first Heisman Trophy winner when Mark Ingram hoisted the trophy. They would add another in 2015, but Louisville quickly cut into that lead one year later with Lamar Jackson.
-Louisville - 1 (Lamar Jackson, 2016)
-Alabama - 2 (Mark Ingram, 2009; Derrick Henry 2015)
We win this battle big time. Not many out there can compete with how many conferences we have been in. Is this worth bragging about? Sure, why not? Louisville was Independent when they owned ‘Bama in the Fiesta Bowl. Since then, the Cards have found four new homes. Hopefully, this one is going to last a while. Alabama has been in the SEC for quite some time.
-Louisville - 5 (Independent ‘75-’95, Conference USA ‘96-’04, Big East ‘05-’12, AAC ‘13, ACC ‘14-pres)
-Alabama - 1 (SEC 1933)
These speak for themselves. Alabama has clearly been more successful with their regular seasons. Louisville has had to endure Cooper and Kragthorpe years, to be fair.
-Louisville -203-127 (61.5%)
-Alabama - 262-86 (75.3%)
Although these numbers are similar, it is probably for different reasons. When Louisville loses a coach, it is usually because they left for a bigger job, with the two exceptions of course. When Alabama loses a coach, it’s likely because he didn’t win a National Championship. That’s just the way the programs have been. Louisville has been seen as a stepping stone for quite a while, and Alabama is the destination job. They finally found their man in Saban, who went 7-6 in his first season in 2007, and has lost 14 games in the 10 years after that. That seems ridiculous.
-Louisville - 7 (Schnellenberger, Cooper, Smith, Petrino, Kragthorpe, Strong, Petrino)
-Alabama - 6* (Stallings, DuBose, Franchione, Price, Shula, Saban) plus one interim in ‘06.
*Mike Price was hired in December 2002 and fired before ever coaching a game in 2003 after being seen in a strip club in Pensacola, Florida. This was shortly after he had also been reprimanded for late-night drinking outings near campus bars in Tuscaloosa. Joe Kines was the interim head coach for the 2003 season. Hey, we have never had that happen at Louisville, so that’s a plus.
This has nothing to do with anything. I just wanted to see how many times that each team had beaten Kentucky since that bowl game. Of course Louisville has had more chances, but 22 losses have been inflicted on the Cats in this time frame. Always a good thing.
-Louisville - 15 times
-Alabama - 7 times
Alabama was pretty average in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, which was when Louisville started to gain some traction as a football program. UofL kept climbing and climbing and hit a high level in 2006, winning the Orange Bowl. Bobby Petrino left for the 2007 season. What else happened in 2007? Nick Saban took over at Alabama. The two programs went completely opposite directions. Louisville took three years off from playing football and everything that was built up was pretty much destroyed, going 15-21 in three seasons. Alabama went 33-8 and won a National Championship in that time, the same year that Louisville went 4-8.
Since then, Louisville has been trying to build back up to be a nationally respected program and try to get a seat at the big boy’s table. Back-to-back wins over Florida State and having a Heisman winner are steps in the right direction. Beating Clemson while they are the current powerhouse that they are and getting into the College Football Playoff are the next steps to earning those respected stripes. Alabama just continues to roll and do what they do, obliterate teams and win National titles.
Actually, I know something else that could earn the UofL program some respect. A win on September 1 in Orlando should do it. How about 34-7?