When LSU and Alabama square off this weekend, the Tigers will not only be contending with Alabama’s successful tradition in Death Valley, but also the fact that the Tide has the best quarterback in the country.
The most-asked question in college football this year has been, “Can anyone stop Alabama?” and no one has come close thus far. The Tide has outscored opponents 433-127, largely thanks to the Heisman Trophy-favorite quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has yet to play a down in the fourth quarter.
But the biggest criticism of No. 1 Alabama this season has been its lack of challenging opponents. That will change on Saturday. Nick Saban’s Alabama team has not faced a defense as stout as Ed Orgeron’s Tigers. LSU’s only loss this season came on the road to the No. 13 Florida Gators, but the Tigers have since redeemed themselves by defeating then No. 2-ranked Georgia and No. 22 Mississippi State. The Tide is hoping to shut critics up with a visit to Baton Rouge this weekend where the No. 3 team in the country will be waiting under a night sky to prove its worthiness as a national championship contender.
This year’s matchup will truly be a clash of the unstoppable force and the immovable object, and here are some reasons why:
- Tagovailoa has yet to throw an interception, and LSU’s defense leads the NCAA with 14 interceptions
- Alabama’s offense leads the nation with an average of 54.1 points per game, while the Tigers defense has allowed no more than 21 points in any game.
- This is the first truly stressful environment Tagovailoa has played in since last season’s national title game, and there is no stadium in college football as nerve-racking as Death Valley.
Whoever wins will likely win the SEC West and a trip to Atlanta come December 1. All in all, this makes for another classic Saban Bowl.
As we approach this much-anticipated game, reliving some epic moments in the rivalry’s recent history would certainly give fans on both sides reasons to believe their team can prevail.
The “Game of the Century” in 2011 probably comes to mind first to LSU fans, and the rematch in the 2012 Bowl Championship Series National Championship probably makes Bama fans smile more than any other in the series. The first meeting that season was a defensive slugfest in Tuscaloosa with neither offense able to find the end zone. The game quickly became a Tide fan’s worst nightmare: a field-goal contest. Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster were at the forefront of No. 1 Alabama’s demise, making only 2 of 6 field goal attempts combined. As for No. 2 LSU, Drew Alleman made all three of his attempts, one of which came in a nail-biting overtime to win the game, 9-6.
Though the rankings were switched on January 9, 2012, Alabama proved it was the rightful No. 1. The Crimson Tide shut down Heisman Trophy finalist and national defensive player of the year Tyrann Mathieu, who had been a key factor in the previous game, as well as his entire LSU team. The LSU offense passed the 50-yard line only once in an embarrassing 21-0 shutout, and Alabama has won every game in the series since.
Still, LSU has come close. The closest was the following November when the Tigers finally got the Tide back on their own turf. Alleman came through once again in the first quarter with a 38-yard field goal, but Alabama struck back in the second. First, Eddie Lacy rushed for a 7-yard score. Then, A.J. McCarron ran 9 yards for another. Coach Les Miles entered the second half down 14-3, but he was far from done. LSU’s Jeremy Hill got his own touchdown on a short run late in the third, and Zach Mettenberger connected with Jarvis Landry on a 14-yard pass for another touchdown shortly after that. Suddenly, Alabama was trailing 17-14 in the fourth quarter.
As the final minutes ticked off the clock, it looked like all was lost for the Tide. But McCarron wasn’t accepting that fate. With 51 seconds remaining, the quarterback read an LSU blitz and threw a screen pass to T.J. Yeldon, who finished the play for a 28-yard score to win the game in heart-thumping fashion, 21-17.
The Tide enters this week’s matchup on a seven-game win streak against the Tigers, and the 52-25-5 series total is even more discouraging for LSU.
Across the years, no team has owned another’s home field quite like Alabama has owned Tiger Stadium. Since the first meeting in 1895, the Tide has put together an impressive 27-9-2 record in one of the most hostile environments in college football, including an incredible 14-0-1 string from 1971-1998. LSU has not beaten Alabama at home since the 2010 season.
But fans in Baton Rouge will quickly tell you that this year is always separate from the past. As true as that may be, many believe it will take a perfect performance by LSU plus some mistakes by Alabama for the upset to happen.
After all, no one is unbeatable, but the team in Tuscaloosa is as close as it gets. H&A
Kickoff time for Alabama and LSU is 7 p.m. CDT on CBS.