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Meyer's issues show Saban's greatness

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer talks to on his headset during an NCAA college football game against Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

UNDATED (AP) - Every time Urban Meyer fails at Ohio State, Nick Saban's unmatched consistency at Alabama looks more impressive.

It's not about hating on Meyer or the Buckeyes. Just the opposite. Meyer is a demonstrably great coach, leading one of college football's elite programs. Three national titles, one with the Buckeyes, and a career winning percentage of .847 put Meyer on the short list of best coaches. He has owned his schools' rivalry games and has even split four meetings with Saban.

But Meyer and Ohio State had a puzzling misstep on Saturday against Iowa that dropped the Buckeyes (7-2) eight spots to No. 11 in the AP Top 25. Iowa scored more points than any opponent ever has against one of Meyer's teams and for the second time in less than a calendar year Ohio State lost by 31 points. Buckeyes fans are asking: 'What's wrong with our team? What's up with Urban?"

It is at these moments when it becomes most clear just how remarkable what Saban is doing with No. 1 Alabama. While Meyer has faced a few mini-crises throughout his time with Florida and Ohio State, Saban's machine never malfunctions.

In the last 10 years, along with four national titles, Saban and the Tide are 121-13. In only one season (2010) has Alabama lost more than once in the regular season. Only four of those losses came by more than one score and none has been by more than 14 points.

Put Meyer aside, and think about the other top coaches in college football.

Dabo Swinney has made Clemson he closest thing to Alabama over the last three season, yet still the Tigers have lost a game the last two years to an unranked team. Alabama has won 71 straight to unranked teams.

Jimbo Fisher is the only other active coach to win a national title. He is currently trying to salvage bowl eligibility in a loss season.

Mark Dantonio went 3-9 with Michigan State last season. Gary Patterson's TCU team was 6-7. Brian Kelly and Notre Dame went 4-8. Michigan's Jim Harbaugh has never won a conference title. Chris Petersen and Washington had a baffling loss to Arizona State last month.

These things don't happen at Alabama. There are no bad losses. No season goes off the rails.

That's why in a season when the Crimson Tide have been short on marquee victories AP voters confidently place Alabama No. 1 and why Heat Check has no problem with it.

No. 1 Alabama (9-0)

Injuries at linebacker could test the depth of the nation's deepest roster.

Next: at No. 18 Mississippi State.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 2 Georgia (9-0)

The plan for Bulldogs' opponents is to make freshman QB Jake Fromm win the game. Nobody has been able to do it yet.

Next: at No. 10 Auburn.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 3 Notre Dame (8-1)

The voters have fully embraced the Fighting Irish. Maybe they were swayed the College Football Playoff selection committee, which had them No. 3 last week.

Next: at No. 7 Miami.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 4 Clemson (8-1)

Last two Tigers' opponents with quality quarterbacks have found some holes in an inexperienced secondary.

Next: vs. Florida State.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 5 Oklahoma (8-1)

A second straight monster Big 12 game for the Sooners. Can Baker Mayfield and the offense keep bailing out that defense?

Next: vs. No. 8 TCU.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 6 Wisconsin (9-0)

It wasn't anything the Badgers did to make them drop a couple of spots this week. Voters rightfully reassessed of the teams around them.

Next: vs. No. 25 Iowa.

Heat check: Still a little too hot, though.

No. 7 Miami (8-0)

You wanted a dominate performance from the Hurricanes and they did just that against Virginia Tech.

Next: vs. No. 3 Notre Dame.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 8 TCU (8-1)

Led by linebacker Travin Howard, the Horned Frogs have allowed 20 points total in the last four games.

Next: at No. 5 Oklahoma.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 9 Washington (8-1)

Good defensive teams tend to get a lot of respect from voters. The Huskies have the No. 1 defense in the country and maybe aren't getting quite the credit they deserve.

Next: at Stanford, Friday.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 10 Auburn (7-2)

The Tigers could shake up the SEC and playoff race over the next three weeks. Or end up the best four-loss team in the country.

Next: vs. No. 2 Georgia.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 11 Ohio State (7-2)

Nothing about the Buckeyes allowing 55 points to Iowa makes even a little sense.

Next: vs. No. 13 Michigan State.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 12 Oklahoma State (7-2)

The Cowboys are the epitome of very good but not quite a national championship contender.

Next: at No. 24 Iowa State.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 13 Michigan State (7-2)

The Spartans are living on the edge, average margin of victory in five Big Ten games is five points, and thriving. Maybe Mark Dantonio's most impressive coaching job and that's saying something.

Next: at No. 11 Ohio State.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 14 UCF (8-0)

Could the Knights work their way into playoff contention if they keep winning? Well, no. The lack of a big-time nonconference win means UCF will have to be satisfied with more modest goals.

Next: vs. UConn.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 15 Southern California (8-2)

If the Trojans can take care of business against Colorado and UCLA it's time to stop calling them disappointing.

Next: at Colorado

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 16 Penn State (7-2)

Two straight losses by a combined four points. The difference between a magical season and a disappointment can be a few plays.

Next: vs. Rutgers.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 17 Virginia Tech (7-2)

A notch below Oklahoma State. Good enough to win most games. Not good enough to really challenge the best teams.

Next: at Georgia Tech.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 18 Mississippi State (7-2)

See Virginia Tech. Though the Bulldogs get a chance to disprove that against the Tide.

Next: vs. No. 1 Alabama.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 19 Washington State (8-2)

The Cougars can get to the Apple Cup with a chance to win the Pac-12 North.

Next: at Utah.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 20 Memphis (8-1)

The Tigers have failed to reach 30 points just once in this season.

Next: vs. SMU, Saturday, Nov. 18.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 21 Michigan (7-2)

It was tempting to bury the Wolverines after they were routed by Penn State, but they play Wisconsin and Ohio State the last two weeks of the regular-season and don't be surprised if they beat at least one of them.

Next: at Maryland.

Heat check: Too cold.

No. 22 South Florida (8-1)

The voters jumped back on the Bulls' bandgwagon a little too fast.

Next: vs. Tulsa, Thursday, Nov. 16.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 23 West Virginia (6-3)

Will Grier leads the Big 12 in touchdown passes (30) and interceptions (10) which helps explain a season in which the Mountaineers have been ranked for six weeks but never more than two in a row.

Next: at Kansas State.

Heat check: Too hot.

No. 24 Iowa State (6-3)

Those victories against TCU and Oklahoma are keeping the Cyclones very much alive in the race to the Big 12 title game.

Next: vs. No. 12 Oklahoma State.

Heat check: Just right.

No. 25 Iowa (6-3)

Now everybody knows Josh Jackson is the Big Ten's best cornerback.

Next: at No. 6 Wisconsin.

Heat check: Just right.

Instead of South Florida and West Virginia how about North Carolina State and Northwestern.

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