Well, here we are again! The SEC has its third interleague Top Ten Matchup of the season. The first two matchups did not disappoint as #1 Alabama defeated #6 Texas A&M 49-42 in week 3 and #9 Georgia defeated #6 LSU 44-41 in week 6. It’s week 11 now in SEC life and #1 Alabama finds itself at home in a matchup with #10 LSU. Though this game isn’t the game of the century that it was in 2011, this game still offers enough eye candy to the average college football fan that it will draw big television ratings.
This year, Alabama cannot afford a slip up like it suffered in 2012. Last year, Bama endured a home loss to Texas A&M yet found its way back into the national championship game. This season, however, there are five undefeated teams in the top 5 and there may even be less chance that a window will open for Bama to sneak into the national championship game with one loss. Only one coach and team has beaten the Tide twice in the Saban era in Tuscaloosa and that is Les Miles and his Tigers in 2007 and 2011.
These two teams began meeting in 1895 when LSU won 12-6 in Baton Rouge, LA. Oftentimes, the home team has struggled in the series. Only 42% of games have been won by the team playing in its home state. After legendary Bama Coach Bear Bryant retired in 1982, Alabama leads the series by a slim margin of 16-14-1. Added to the rivalry was the fact that Bama Coach Nick Saban left LSU in 2007 after leading the Tigers to a national championship. Now the game is known as the Saban Bowl and Bama leads this current stretch by a 1 game margin (4-3).
In 2011, the teams met twice. After LSU beat Bama 9-6 in OT in the game of the century matchup, Bama returned the favor that season’s national championship game winning 21-0. In fact, Saban and Tide humiliated Miles and the Tigers in the title game. However, Miles and his Tigers earned some much needed respect in 2012 after nearly defeating the Tide at home. Bama won that game 21-17 after QB AJ McCarron rallied the troops for a come from behind victory. Emotion has played a part in the game both during and after the contests. McCarron was seeing crying in joy on the sidelines after last season’s victory.
The biggest question for Bama in this game is if their cast of rotating cornerbacks will be able to stop the two future NFL receivers that the Tigers possess. LSU WR’s Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry have already caught nearly 2000 yards together this season. Behind a strong and talented arm in Tiger QB Zach Mettenberger, Tide cornerbacks will have their hands full for the duration of the game. Though Bama has proven they are up to this challenge as of late, questions still remain. Will Bama CB’s look like they did vs. Texas A&M when Manziel threw for over 450 yards or will they look like they have the past 6 games where they have dominated opponents? My best guess is it will be somewhere in between.
The concern for LSU is even bigger. Will their entire defense show up at all? This is not the LSU defense of the past and thus this is not the LSU team of the past. That being said, however, if Bama for some reason forgets to show up or bring their A game, they will be in for a contest that could end up going either way. Saban’s past two championship teams did not overlook their opponents and I doubt this Bama team is any different. There is an old saying, however, that says familiarity breeds success. If anyone or any team understands Bama and its intricacies, it’s Les Miles and the LSU Tigers. An LSU win would bring the Saban Bowl overall record back into balance.
This is an article by Aaron Dougherty, the SEC Beat Writer for All Sports Talk.
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