It wasn’t so long ago that Alabama-LSU was just another good SEC rivalry. It had had its moments, yes, but it wasn’t the game in the league. But then Nick Saban happened… at both schools. LSU rose under Saban in the early 2000s and Les Miles has kept the Tiger train a rollin’ right along since taking over in 2005. Alabama returned to the pinnacle of college football soon after Saban landed in Tuscaloosa.
Now what was once a good SEC game is the top annual fistfight in college football. And a fistfight it is. Take it from Alabama center Barrett Jones:
“It’ll definitely be the most physical game we play all year, without a doubt. The most physical games I’ve played in my life have been against them.
We really respect the way they play football. They’re not really going to try to trick us. They’re going to line up and play their defense and we’re going to line up and play our offense. That’s why we like playing them and that’s why they like playing us. We both respect each other and both really are kind of founded on toughness.”
What’s truly amazing is just how closely Alabama and LSU stack up statistically.
In the SEC, Alabama ranks #2 in rushing offense, LSU #3. Alabama ranks #1 in scoring defense, LSU #3. Alabama is #1 in rushing defense, LSU is #2. Alabama is #1 in passing defense, LSU #2. Bama is #1 in total defense with LSU again #2.
The teams rank #1 (Alabama) and #2 (LSU) in first downs allowed. The Tide ranks first in turnover margin while LSU is third. Time of possession: Bama second, LSU fourth. LSU has recorded 23 sacks on the year, Alabama has registered 20.
In terms of both style of play and overall strength, the Crimson Tide and Tigers are cut from the same cloth. Since Saban’s move to Tuscaloosa, the two teams have split their six meetings. Five of those games have been decided by nine points or less. Four have been decided by seven points or less. And twice the game has been decided in overtime. In the last four meetings, the winner hasn’t scored more than 24 points.
So it’s probable that the rest of America will have to yawn it’s way through yet another defensive slugfest between these teams on Saturday night. Alabama/LSU isn’t likely to offer the type of offensive fireworks that Oregon/Southern Cal is expected to provide. That’s just fine with the folks Down South. They know that brand of run-first, defense-first football played by the Tide and the Tigers has helped the SEC to capture six straight BCS titles over teams with high-flying, flashy offenses.
Oh, many fans outside the South might be dreading this one, but at MrSEC.com… we’re drooling over the thought of it.