While college football fans everywhere will be watching Tennessee-Georgia in Athens at 3:30 p.m. ET, the annual highlight of the season for many SEC fans will take place in relative obscurity a few hours later.
At 7 p.m., an LSU team that has quietly climbed up the polls – the Tigers are No. 15 in the AP poll and No. 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings – will host AP No. 6 Alabama. The Tide are 13.5-point favorites on the road.
LSU Playing Well After Early Struggles
After many wrote LSU off — or at least dismissed it as a title contender in the loaded SEC West — early this season after losses to Florida State in Week 1 and Tennessee in Week 6, Brian Kelly’s team has bounced back.
Since losing 40-13 to the Volunteers at home on Oct. 8, LSU has scored 45 points in back-to-back weeks, knocking off Florida, 45-35, on Oct. 15, before blowing out then-undefeated Ole Miss, 45-20, on Oct. 22.
Alabama has not been as dominant this season as in recent years but is 6-1 and coming off an impressive 30-6 win over Mississippi State on Oct. 22. Both the Tide and the Tigers were idle last week.
While these teams aren’t as highly ranked as they often are when they meet late in the season, Saturday’s game certainly has the potential to be a memorable track meet, if not one of the best games in the history of this rich rivalry.
Top 5 Alabama-LSU games since 2000
Ahead of Saturday’s match-up, let’s look back at the top five regular season games these schools have played since 2000.
We’re sticking with regular season matchups because A) how do you compare that national title game after the 2011 season to their annual regular-season battles? And B) as strange as it sounds, most would agree that title game in January 2012 was not one of the top five between these two in recent history.
No. 5: 2019 – No. 2 LSU 46, No. 3 Alabama 41, Bryant-Denny Stadium
Pre-game line: LSU was +5 on the road
Joe Burrow had plenty of great performances in 2019, but this one belongs right up there with what he and the LSU offense did to Georgia in the SEC Championship game (37 points), Oklahoma in the CFP Semifinal (63 points), and Clemson in the CFP National Championship (42 points).
Burrow threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns on 31-of-39 passing, and ran the ball 14 times for 64 tough yards. His future NFL teammates were also outstanding. Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for more than 100 yards and three touchdowns, and added 77 yards receiving and a TD catch. Ja’marr Chase hauled in six catches for 140 yards and a touchdown.
Somehow, Bama kept pace after falling behind 33-13 at halftime. Tua Tagovailoa and the Tide made it a one-possession game three different times in the fourth quarter, but never came up with the stop they needed.
No. 4: 2008 – No. 1 Alabama 27, No. 16 LSU 21 (in overtime), Tiger Stadium
Pre-game line: LSU was +3.5 at home
In Nick Saban’s first season with Alabama in 2007, the Crimson Tide went 7-6, with a win in the Independence Bowl. But he led the Tide to a stellar campaign in 2008 that included an overtime win over his former team at Tiger Stadium.
The OT win clinched the first of many SEC West titles for Saban and the Tide. Bama nearly won the game in regulation, but kicker Leigh Tiffin’s would-be game-winner from 29 yards out with time expiring was blocked. Saban’s team got the stop it needed on the first possession of overtime when Rashad Johnson intercepted Jarrett Lee, Johnson’s third pick of the game. QB John Parker Wilson scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard sneak a few plays later.
No. 3: 2012 – No. 1 Alabama 21, No. 5 LSU 17, Tiger Stadium
Pre-game line: LSU was +7.5 at home
While these teams only met once in 2012, this game arguably delivered more entertainment value than the two ’11 meetings combined. A year after LSU won 9-6 in the regular season before being suffocated by Bama 21-0 in the national championship, the Tigers led their rivals, 17-14, for most of the fourth quarter.
LSU stopped Alabama twice after taking the lead with 12:58 remaining. But Alabama got the ball with 1:28 to play on its own 28-yard line and marched 72 yards on five plays in just 43 seconds. Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon took a screen pass 28 yards for the game-winner with 51 seconds on the clock.
No. 2 – 2005: No. 5 LSU 16, No. 4 Alabama 13 (in overtime), Bryant-Denny
Pre-game line: LSU was -3 on the road
Don’t let anyone tell you these teams didn’t play great, if not high-scoring, games before Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007. The highlights of the 2005 meeting aren’t hard to find, but they’re far from crystal clear, as this game took place in the final years of the pre-HD era. Anyone who watched it live has a vivid recollection, though, of LSU giving Alabama its first loss of that season in mid-November.
After a scoreless fourth quarter, the game went to overtime at 10-10. After Bama kicker Jamie Christensen connected from 34 yards out to make it 13-10 in overtime, JaMarcus Russell found Dwayne Bowe in the end zone for the game-winner on the next series.
No. 1 – 2011: No. 1 LSU 9, No. 2 Alabama 6 (in overtime), Bryant-Denny
Pre-game line: LSU was +5.5 on the road
Many fans don’t consider this one of the better games between these two teams. In some ways, that makes sense. After all, neither managed to score a touchdown, and most people like to see a bit more offense than that.
That doesn’t change the fact that this game pitted No. 1 vs. No. 2, went to overtime, and was hard-fought – and hard-hitting – from start to finish. It also set up a rematch – albeit one in which Alabama cruised – in the national championship game. No matter how one-sided Round 2 was as Alabama dominated, these teams’ first meeting was one of the most interesting in college football history.
A staggering 45 players who participated in this game were drafted in the NFL over the following four years. While the quarterback battle between Jordan Jefferson and AJ McCarron left plenty to be desired, the game showcased an unbelievable amount of star power.
Bama’s Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw were all high draft picks in either 2012 or 2013. LSU, on the other hand, boasted Odell Beckham Jr., Morris Claiborne, Eric Reid, Michael Brockers and Barkevious Mingo, to name a few.
AP Photo/Dave Martin