The clash of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in college football is a rare occurrence and for it to happen in the regular season between conference rivals is almost unprecedented. The Alabama-LSU game will be the first SEC game between No. 1 and No. 2 outside of the SEC Championship Game. There have been 45 previous meetings between the No. 1 team and the No. 2 team in the Associated Press poll before Alabama and LSU square off on Nov. 5. The first of these meetings came on Oct. 9, 1943, when No. 1 Notre Dame defeated No. 2 Michigan, 35-12. But, there have only been 22 regular-season meetings – 24 if you count the 2008 and 2009 SEC Championship Games between Alabama and LSU. The last No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown (outside of the SEC title game) was on Nov. 18, 2006, with No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 2 Michigan 42-39. It also happened earlier that season with No. 1 OSU defeating No. 2 Texas 24-7. Before that, the last No. 1 vs. No. 2 regular-season clash came 10 years earlier when No. 2 Florida State knocked off No. 1 Florida, 24-21, Nov. 30, 1996. Of the 22 regular-season No. 1 vs. No. 2 meetings outside of conference championship games, only four of those games were between conference foes and the Alabama-LSU game is the first between two teams in the same division of a conference. It is also just the third time that the game has matched two teams with a bye to prepare. The first time it happened was when No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Arkansas met in a Southwest Conference matchup on Dec. 6, 1969, with Texas erasing a 14-0 deficit for a 15-14 win. Nebraska and Oklahoma did it in a Big Eight game on Nov. 25, 1971, and again on Nov. 21, 1987. Ohio State and Michigan were the last conference foes to meet on Nov. 18, 2006.
Alabama Under Saban in November:
Now in his fifth season at Alabama, head coach Nick Saban has led the Crimson Tide to a 10-6 record in November, with four of those losses coming in 2007. Over that span in games played in November, Alabama has outscored its opponents 467-232.
The Tigers and The Tide
The Alabama-LSU game will be just the ninth game in the history of Bryant-Denny Stadium between teams ranked in the top 10. That number is skewed since a large portion of Alabama’s best games were played at Legion Field in Birmingham before Bryant-Denny was expanded to 83,818 in 1998. Just three of the nine games between top 10 teams came prior to the 1998 expansion. LSU is also just the second No. 1-ranked team to visit Bryant-Denny Stadium, joining Oklahoma, which visited Tuscaloosa in 2003 and defeated an unranked Alabama team, 20-13.
Tide On Top of the SEC in Offense and Defense
Alabama is currently leading the Southeastern Conference in total offense and total defense as well as scoring offense and scoring defense. The Crimson Tide averages 457.6 yards per game, while limiting opponents to 180.5 yards per outing. Additionally, Alabama scores nearly 40 points per game at 39.4, and at the same time, holds teams to a league, and nation, low of 6.9 points per game. The Tide also leads the league in rushing offense (229.3), rushing defense (44.9), pass efficiency defense (44.9), pass defense (127.3) while ranking second in punt returns (12.7), turnover margin (+0.75), tackles for loss (8.7) and sacks allowed (1.5).
Alabama has won its last nine games by 16 or more points dating back to last season’s Capital One Bowl victory over Michigan State. That nine-game streak surpassed the previous mark in the modern era of Crimson Tide football (since 1950). During the current streak, the Tide has beaten the No. 7 Spartans by 42 (49-7), Kent State by 41 (48-7), No. 23 Penn State by 16 (27-11), North Texas by 41 (41-0), No. 14 Arkansas by 24 (28-14), No. 12 Florida by 28 (38-10), Vanderbilt by 34 (34-0), Mississippi by 45 (52-7) and Tennessee by 31 (37-6).
Finishing in the Fourth Quarter
After letting three games slip away in the fourth quarter last season, Alabama put an emphasis on finishing strong in 2011. That emphasis has paid dividends so far with an impressive edge in several categories in the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide has outscored its eight opponents – including three top 25 teams – by a margin of 61 points (69-8) in the fourth quarter while outgaining its opposition 730 yards to just 135 yards on the ground, a difference of 595 yards. The Tide offense has only had to throw 18 passes – completing 13 – while opponents have only completed 44.1 percent of their passes with five interceptions and averaged just 2.2 yards per rush and 2.9 yards per play.
Junior running back Trent Richardson has had a solid season running the ball in the 2011 collecting 989 yards on the ground through eight games. Through eight games during Mark Ingram’s Heisman Trophy winning season in 2009, he had 1,004 rushing yards. In addition, Richardson has had 149 carries for 17 touchdowns, while Ingram had 153 carries and eight touchdowns after eight games.
Tide at Home Since 2008
Alabama is 25-1 in its last 26 games at Bryant-Denny Stadium, dating back to the start of the 2008 season. During that stretch the Crimson Tide has been extremely stingy on defense and very effective on offense. Some of the most impressive numbers include 59 rushing touchdowns for the Alabama offense, while the Crimson Tide defense has surrendered only two rushing touchdowns at home over that span. UA has averaged 195.8 yards of total offense more than its opponents while rushing for 127.1 more yards per game. Alabama is also outscoring its opponents by 25.8 points per game (33.8 points per game [878 points] to 8.0 points per game ).
Beating the Best
Alabama is 17-5 against the Associated Press Top 25 over the past three seasons and 9-3 against AP top 10 teams. UA had reeled off nine straight wins against top 25 teams until at loss at South Carolina in October of 2010. The Crimson Tide’s 31-6 win over No. 7 Florida on October 2, 2010, was the Tide’s second straight win over a top 10 team and third top 25 victory in a four-week span. Alabama went 5-3 against the AP Top 25 last season.
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