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Texas A&M photo / Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher will test Nick Saban's undefeated record against his former assistants Saturday when the No. 24 Aggies host top-ranked Alabama.

Alabama football coach Nick Saban improved to 17-0 against his former assistants with a 47-23 win last month over Will Muschamp's South Carolina Gamecocks.

Saban has a chance to be 19-0 fairly soon with games the next two weeks against Texas A&M, which is in its second season under Jimbo Fisher, and Tennessee, which is in year two under Jeremy Pruitt. Discussing his perfect mark against former assistants is not Saban's favorite topic, as he commonly points out that his assistants often take over at programs in sizable rebuilding modes.

That was certainly the case when Saban's Crimson Tide routed Derek Dooley's Volunteers by 31 points three straight years (2010-12), and it was more of the same with last year's 58-21 win over Pruitt's Vols.

Fisher could offer a little more resistance Saturday afternoon in College Station. The national championship coach of Florida State in 2013 took the Seminoles to Atlanta for the 2017 season opener, where they lost 24-7 to Alabama, and his first Texas A&M team traveled to Tuscaloosa last season and lost 45-23.

The Aggies went 9-4 in Fisher's debut year and played Alabama closer than any other team during the regular season.

"You would rather play them at home than you would at a neutral site or on the road, that's for sure," Fisher said Wednesday. "Unfortunately, they're still bringing the same really, really good players and really well-coached players. It will be a challenge, but that's what you look forward to, and it's why you come to A&M.

"It's one of the great things about being in the SEC, to have these great teams coming in each and every week, and they definitely have one of those."

Should Alabama win Saturday — Saban has defeated his former assistants by the average score of 41-14 — Fisher would join Dooley, Muschamp and Jim McElwain as having lost three times to their former boss. Michigan State Mark Dantonio and Georgia's Kirby Smart, who is the only former Saban assistant to nearly knock him off, have two losses each.

Saban met with Fisher in East Lansing, Michigan, in December 1999. Saban had announced he was leaving Michigan State for the LSU opening, and he hired Fisher as his quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in Baton Rouge.

LSU had slumped to a 3-8 season in 1999, but Saban and Fisher wound up winning eight games in 2000, captured a Southeastern Conference title in 2001 and won the national championship in 2003.

"I had a lot of respect for Jimbo," Saban said. "We're from the same area, so I had always known who he was. He certainly didn't disappoint, and I always thought he would be a great head coach."

Fisher left LSU after the 2006 season and was Florida State's offensive coordinator for three years before replacing Bobby Bowden as head coach. Wednesday marked Fisher's 54th birthday, but he wasn't expected to spend the night celebrating.

"I'll be trying to make sure we can score points and make sure we can stop them and make sure our special teams are sound," Fisher said. "There is no time for anything else right now."

 

Tide tidbits

Redshirt junior center Chris Owens (knee) hasn't been able to practice much this week, Saban said after Wednesday's practice, so returning next week against Tennessee might be more realistic. Florida State graduate transfer Landon Dickerson has been working as the first-team center this week. Saban said freshman Will Reichard (hip) did some kicking Wednesday but remains day-to-day.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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