Ranking The 23 Quarterbacks To Beat Nick Saban At Alabama

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  • Nick Saban
    Nick Saban
    American football coach
  • Jarrett Lee
    American football player
  • Wesley Carroll
    American football player (born 1988)

Just how good were the quarterbacks who beat Nick Saban during his time at Alabama? Rich Cirminiello ranks the 23 who were able to do it.

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Ranking the QBs Who’ve Beaten Nick Saban at Alabama

This Friday at Jerry’s World, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder hopes to join an elite fraternity – quarterbacks who have defeated Nick Saban at Alabama over the past 15 seasons.

There are just 23 in the group, 24 if you count Jarrett Lee’s contributions to LSU victories in 2010 and 2011.

Some went on to long NFL careers, some faded into obscurity and, despite what you’ve heard, not all were dynamic dual-threats.

From worst to first, here’s a ranking of the 23 Saban slayers, based on their college AND pro careers.

23. Xavier Lee, Florida State (2007)

Lee never panned out after being one of the most decorated recruits of 2004. Replacing a benched Drew Weatherford and beating Alabama was the highlight of a Seminole career marked by unmet expectations and just a handful of forgettable starts.

22. Wesley Carroll, Mississippi State (2007)

Forced into action as a true freshman, Carroll faced the usual ups-and-downs of a rookie. He broke his thumb in the Alabama upset, a win led by the D. Carroll didn’t fit into Dan Mullen’s plans in Starkville and wound up finishing his career with Florida International.

21. Zach Calzada, Texas A&M (2021)

Perhaps the most unlikely quarterback to defeat Saban at Alabama over the last 15 seasons. A backup when 2021 began, he was pressed into duty after Haynes King was injured. And Calzada was playing poorly leading up to the Oct. 9 visit from Alabama. Yet, he rallied the Aggies in gutsy fashion to hand the Tide its only loss of the year. Calzada is now in the transfer portal, taking a 7-4 record to a new school.

20. Kinsmon Lancaster, ULM (2007)

It’s hard to imagine today, but there was a time when a Sun Belt team could just up and beat Saban in Tuscaloosa. That was a very long time ago. Lancaster started three seasons with the Warhawks, accounting for a career-high 22 TDs as a senior in 2008.

19. Stephen Garcia, South Carolina (2010)

Garcia’s tumultuous Gamecock career hit its apex in the 2010 upset of top-ranked Alabama. When he flashed he could be brilliant, but too often he was inconsistent and a distraction. Garcia’s resume included 47 TD passes and 41 picks, and he was eventually booted from the team in 2011.

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18. Brandon Cox, Auburn (2007)

One of just two Tiger quarterbacks to ever go 3-0 versus Alabama, Cox is an Iron Bowl legend. More game manager than game changer during his time on the Plains, he went 29-9 as a three-year starter, throwing for 42 TDs, 6,959 yards and 32 interceptions.

17. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss (2014)

In one of the most memorable Rebel wins this century, Wallace led the 2014 upset of Alabama with two TD passes in the final 5:29 of regulation. It was the highlight of a winding college career marked by improvement and excitement under Hugh Freeze, but also 41 interceptions over the course of three seasons.

16. Cardale Jones, Ohio State {2014)

Jones left behind one of the strangest legacies in Big Ten history. He never lost a game as the Ohio State starter, replacing an injured J.T. Barrett and beating Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon to help win the 2014 national championship. But he failed to build on his auspicious debut in 2015 and completed just six passes in one NFL season.

NEXT: Top 15 Quarterbacks To Beat Nick Saban

Top 15 Quarterbacks To Beat Nick Saban

15. Jordan Jefferson, LSU (2010 & 2011)

Jefferson had a role in back-to-back wins over Alabama, sharing snaps with Jarrett Lee throughout much of his career. Jefferson was 24-8 as a starter in Baton Rouge, with his best year coming in 2010 as a sophomore. A four-star recruit, he never rose to an All-SEC level of play.

14. Bo Nix, Auburn (2019)

Nix, who is now transferring to Oregon, had a decent three-year stay at Auburn, but never got over the hump. He started as a true freshman in 2019, beating Alabama and earning SEC Freshman of the Year in his debut. However, the inconsistent Nix regressed as a sophomore and was injured late in his junior season. Now, he’ll look to ignite his career on a new campus.

13. Trevor Knight, Oklahoma (2013)

As a redshirt freshman, Knight threw for four scores and 348 yards to upset two-time reigning national champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Unfortunately, his career peaked that night in New Orleans. He struggled as a passer the next two seasons in Norman, gave way to Baker Mayfield and finished his career at Texas A&M.

12. Matt Flynn, LSU (2007)

Flynn was never the most talented QB in the room, but he always got the most out of his potential. He waited his turn in Baton Rouge before leading the Tigers to the 2007 BCS National Championship as a fifth-year senior. And then he parlayed brief success as a Green Bay backup into a three-year, $26 million deal with Seattle.

11. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn (2017)

After flashing potential as a true freshman in 2015, Stidham left Baylor in the wake of a scandal that eliminated the staff that recruited him. He landed at Auburn, where he had two solid seasons as Gus Malzahn’s quarterback. Stidham threw 18 TD passes in back-to-back years, earning All-SEC in 2017. But leaving school early has yet to work out, and now he’s buried behind former Bama star Mac Jones in New England.

NEXT: Top 10 Quarterbacks To Beat Nick Saban

Top 10 Quarterbacks To Beat Nick Saban

10. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss (2015)

Kelly’s career began by getting dismissed by Clemson and needing a year of character rehab in junior college. So, he deserves credit for turning things around at Ole Miss. Kelly was twice named All-SEC and accounted for 66 touchdowns over those two seasons. In 2015, he spurred the Rebs to 10 wins, including a road upset of Alabama and a Sugar Bowl drubbing of Oklahoma State.

9. Brian Johnson, Utah (2008)

Johnson is the winningest quarterback in Utah history. He helped pave the transition of the Alex Smith/Urban Meyer era to Kyle Whittingham and an eventual invitation to join the Pac-12. Johnson finished his career as the 2008 Mountain West Player of the Year, while guiding the Utes to a perfect season and a Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama.

8. Nick Marshall, Auburn (2013)

Cemented in Auburn lore, Marshall threw the “prayer at Jordan-Hare” to beat Georgia in 2013, one week before the miracle defeat of Bama on a 109-yard return of a missed field goal attempt. He was a good fit for Gus Malzahn’s read-option as a two-year starter, going 19-7 and helping lead the Tigers to the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.

7. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (2012)

The legend of “Johnny Football” became a national phenomenon after the Aggies upset No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Manziel would go on to win the Heisman and be named consensus All-American, but 2012 would be the apex of his career. In and out of trouble, he was a first-round bust in two seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

6. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (2018)

Lawrence arrived out of high school as a can’t-miss blue-chipper, and did not disappoint. He took over after just four games, going 11-0 as the starter and handing Alabama the worst loss of the Nick Saban era in the national championship game. Lawrence would go 34-2 as the Tiger starter before being the top overall pick of Jacksonville this past spring.

NEXT: Top 5 Quarterbacks To Beat Nick Saban

Top 5 Quarterbacks To Beat Nick Saban

5. Joe Burrow, LSU (2019)

In 2019, Burrow delivered one of the most improbably incredible seasons in college football history. One year after performing like a garden variety journeyman, he erupted into a superstar with a then-FBS record 60 TD passes that resulted in a perfect season, a national title and a Heisman Trophy. Burrow has recovered from a serious knee injury in his Cincinnati debut, and is one of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks.

4. Tim Tebow, Florida (2008)

Tebow has been a cultural phenomenon and one of the most celebrated quarterbacks in college football history. As a Gator, he was a part of two national championship teams, accounted for 145 total touchdowns and raked in a slew of records and individual honors, including the 2007 Heisman Trophy.

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3. Matthew Stafford, Georgia (2007)

Freakish arm talent helped Stafford start as a true freshman and eventually get chosen No. 1 overall in 2009 by Detroit. But he’s yet to win the big one and his penchant for throwing too many picks began in Athens. Stafford is still going strong, now in LA, and he owns a slew of Lions passing records.

2. Cam Newton, Auburn (2010)

After stops at Florida and Blinn College, Newton spent just one season at Auburn. But it was one of the best seasons ever by a college quarterback. Newton carried the Tigers to the national championship, collecting the Heisman Trophy and a slew of records along the way. The top overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft has been named to the Pro Bowl three times and owns the league mark for career rushing touchdowns by a QB.

1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson (2016)

A two-time All-American and Heisman finalist, Watson is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the ACC. He was 32-3 as the starter, with the final win coming in the waning seconds of the national championship game to dethrone Alabama. And while off-field issues have grounded his NFL career, Watson is already a three-time Pro Bowler, with 104 TD passes in a little over three seasons of work.

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