A majority of Alabama fans believe Nick Saban has been a better coach than Paul “Bear” Bryant, according to an exclusive News 5/Strategy Research poll.
When asked who was the better Alabama coach, 54-percent of those identifying themselves as Alabama fans responded Saban. 46-percent selected Bryant.
Factoring that many consider Bryant the most revered figure in state history, it’s nothing short of miraculous that Saban has surpassed him in just his tenth year of coaching in Tuscaloosa.
Bryant coached Alabama for 25 years and won 13 SEC championships and six national championships. Saban has won four conference titles and his team is the frontrunner to win the SEC this year. His Alabama teams have been crowned national champion four times and are odds-on-favorite to win number five this season. Saban’s current winning percentage at Alabama is .860, compared to Bryant’s .824. Saban also has a slightly better conference record at .842 to Bryant’s .825 mark. Bryant had three undefeated teams at Alabama. Saban has had one, with this year’s team still unbeaten.
Most college football analysts say it’s much harder to win and sustaining winning now than in Bryant’s day. There are scholarship limitations. Teams must play eight conference games instead of six, plus a conference championship game. A national championship team now will play 15 games, not the 11 it took in Bryant’s day.
The News 5/Strategy Research poll also shows people around the state tend to root for the Crimson Tide and expect them to win the Iron Bowl on Saturday.
62-percent say they cheer for Alabama, and 30-percent for Auburn. 8-percent of Alabamians say they root for neither school.
81-percent predict top-ranked Alabama will win Saturday’s game. 58-percent say the Tide will win by 14-points or more. 23-percent predict a Tide win by less than 14-points.15-percent say Auburn will win by less than two touchdowns and four-percent pick a shocking Auburn win by 14-points or more.
Breaking it down by fans base, 98-percent of Bama fans say their team will win the Iron Bowl. Almost three out of four say it will be by two touchdowns or more. Only 2-percent of Alabama fans think Auburn will win.
Auburn fans remain loyal to their team despite the odds. 53-percent say the Tigers will win Saturday. Most of those say by less than 14 points. Still 47-percent of Auburn fans predict an Auburn loss and 26-percent of them say it will be a blow out with Alabama winning by 14 points or more.
Auburn’s fan base remains supportive of fourth year coach Gus Malzahn.
Those previously identifying themselves as Auburn fans were asked about their confidence level in Malzahn. 57-percent said they had confidence in the job he is doing. 19-percent said they had little confidence. 13-percent said Malzahn should be fired. 11-percent said they were undecided about the job Malzahn is doing.
Auburn won the SEC and went to the National Championship Game in Malzahn’s first season on the Plains in 2013. His 2014 squad went 8-5 and last year’s team 7-6, with a 2-6 record in the SEC.
This year Auburn is 8-3 and 5-2 in conference play. The Tigers are ranked 16th in the nation in the Associated Press poll.
The poll was conducted statewide by telephone Nov. 20 with more than 2,500 respondents.