Their allegiances are split between the mentor and mentee, with each former LSU player holding a unique perspective on the Alabama-Florida State clash to come.
During the 2003 season, then-Tigers running back Justin Vincent and then-quarterback Matt Mauck saw Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher work marvelous magic in Baton Rouge. With Fisher serving as Saban’s offensive coordinator, LSU roared to a national title with a 13-1 finish.
Now, Saban’s Alabama team is primed to face Fisher’s Florida State squad on Sept. 2 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta in one of the most anticipated season openers ever. To Mauck and Vincent, Fisher has more than a fighting chance to beat his old boss.
“I’d like to see Jimbo with the upset,” Vincent, who had 2,021 yards rushing at LSU from 2003-06, told SEC Country. “I don’t know exactly the score. It will be low scoring, probably, 17-10. But there will be a lot of fireworks. It should be one of those games for the ages for a lot of fans and especially those coaches.”
“Jimbo used to always say this: ‘X’s and O’s matter. But it comes down to Jimmys and Joes,’ which means you have to have the players,” Mauck, who had 3,831 yards passing at LSU from 2001-03, told SEC Country. “And I think Nick Saban, no matter who he’s going against, has always had the better Jimmys and Joes. Florida State, though, they’ve got some good players, too. So, I think if anybody can kind of potentially unseat him, it would be Jimbo.”
If Fisher tops Saban, the result would be a groundbreaking moment for a former Saban-assistant-turned-head-coach. Saban is 10-0 against his coaching tree. The most recent paddling came when Alabama rolled Jim McElwain’s Florida team, 54-16, last December in the SEC Championship Game.
Still, the Seminoles likely will be no pushover for the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Florida State, led by quarterback Deondre Francois and a stout defense, enters the matchup ranked No. 3 in both the Coaches and Associated Press polls.
The buzz will be big in this matchup between monster programs. The drama, too.
“I think if anybody could break through, I think Jimbo can, just because of what he’s capable of doing offensively,” Vincent said. “He loves the mismatch game and finding ways to get people open. Just systematically, the way he put us in position to score points [was impressive]. He runs the ball well but also takes pride in throwing the ball.”
Pride and major early season progress will be at stake when the mentor meets mentee. Mauck, for one, will enjoy memories from learning under the winner no matter the result.
“It would be a coin flip for me,” Mauck said. “I’m a fan of both teams, and I’m definitely a fan of both guys. And, so to me, just because of the amount of success Coach Saban has had, it would be nice to see Jimbo pull it out. But I definitely wouldn’t be upset if Alabama wins.”
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