Nick Saban’s Past Could Come Back to Haunt Him in Alabama’s CFP Semifinal Against the Cincinnati Bearcats

Death, taxes, and Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide making the College Football Playoff.

For the seventh time in eight seasons, Bama is in the CFP, as the Tide will take on the Cincinnati Bearcats in the semifinals in what will truly be a David vs. Goliath matchup.

However, while most fans outside of Cincy likely expect Alabama to win big, there’s a chance it could be a close game. In fact, Saban’s past, aka UC running back Jerome Ford, could come back to haunt him.

Jerome Ford played for the Alabama Crimson Tide

Former Alabama Crimson Tide and current Cincinnati Bearcats running back Jerome Ford in 2019.
Jerome Ford runs with the ball for the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Duke Blue Devils on Aug. 31, 2019. | Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Given that it’s one of the top programs in the country, Alabama typically has a ton of talented players on its depth chart. So, some stars end up getting forgotten about because there simply isn’t enough snaps in a game.

It appears that may have been the case with running back Jerome Ford.

Ford was a four-star back out of Florida in 2018 and the 12th-ranked all-purpose back in the country, per 247 Sports. He ended up committing to Nick Saban’s program over various schools, including Cincy, Arizona, Nebraska, Tennessee, and others.

However, after redshirting his freshman season, he saw star running backs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. get the bulk of the carries in 2019. As you likely know, Harris ran for 1,224 yards that season before finishing fifth in the Heisman Trophy race in 2020 with 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns. He then went to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Robinson, on the other hand, leads Bama in rushing this season with 1,064 yards and 14 touchdowns.

So, after only running it 24 times for 114 yards in 2019, Ford entered the transfer portal. He then made his way to the University of Cincinnati.

Jerome Ford has become a star for the Cincinnati Bearcats

Ford played for a talented Bearcats team in 2020 that went undefeated in the regular season and only lost to Georgia by three points in the Peach Bowl. And he was a part of a balanced rushing attack led by Gerrid Doaks, who ran for 673 yards and seven touchdowns on 144 carries. Quarterback Desmond Ridder also gained 592 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, while Ford picked up 483 yards and eight TDs on 73 carries.

This season, however, he has become a star.

Playing for a team that has gone 13-0 and beat a Notre Dame Fighting Irish squad that’s currently ranked No. 5 in the country, Ford has developed into the back he showed he could be during his high school days. He has run for 1,242 yards and 19 touchdowns, and he has racked up these stats while missing one game due to an ankle injury.

Ford has quickly — but quietly — become one of the nation’s best running backs. He has the size to run over linebackers and the speed to get past the secondary. But now he has a chance to give Nick Saban a strong reminder of what he lost.

Nick Saban’s past may come back to haunt him

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban before the 2021 SEC Championship Game.
Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on before the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4, 2021. | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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Some may think there’s no way Ford finds success against Alabama. Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide rank fourth in the country in rushing defense, only allowing 82.8 yards on the ground per game.

However, they haven’t faced a back like Ford.

In fact, Bama has only played three 1,000-yard rushers this year. While the Tide held Auburn’s Tank Bigsby to only 63 yards on 29 carries and Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller to 46 yards on 17 carries, Spiller also had four catches for 43 yards and helped hand them their only loss of the season. 

LSU’s Tyrion Davis-Price, on the other hand, ended up slashing Bama for 104 yards on 4.5 per carry.

Ford, though, is a different type of player than those three. He’s much more polished and finds open lanes with ease. Saban’s staff will have its hands full when figuring out how to slow him down.

Sure, Alabama is the heavy favorite heading into the game against Cincinnati. But don’t be surprised if Jerome Ford helps the Bearcats shock the world.

Stats courtesy of Sports Reference and ESPN