No. 13 LSU visits No. 1 Alabama in yet another installment of the “Game of the Century.” It marks the fourth meeting between the two SEC powerhouses in two calendar years to the week. This rivalry has elite national championship coaches, stacked rosters of future NFL stars and a rich history.
Before LSU and Alabama gets kicked off on 8 p.m. ET Saturday night (CBS), here is a tasty pregame meal in the form of important, bizarre and historic statistics:
6-1: LSU’s record in the last seven visits to Tuscaloosa
Alabama leads the overall series 47-25-5, has won two straight and four of the last six. However, LSU has won six of the last seven in Tuscaloosa in a series that has seen the road team achieve a bizarre level of success. In fact, the road team has won 11 of the last 17 meetings overall between these two SEC West powerhouses. LSU outlasted Alabama 9-6 in overtime the last time these two got together in Tuscaloosa (2011). Nick Saban is 4-3 against Les Miles since coming to Alabama.
78 and 115: Total TDs allowed by Alabama and LSU since 2009
Since the start of the championship era at Alabama under Nick Saban (2009), Alabama is leading the nation with78 total touchdowns allowed on defense (62 games). LSU is No. 2 in the nation with 115 total touchdowns allowed on defense (62 games) over that same span. Over the last five seasons, that makes these the toughest two defenses to score on in the nation.
207.3: Odell Beckham Jr.’s SEC-leading all-purpose yards per game
Beckham has been a big-play machine for the Tigers all season and will be a pivotal player come Saturday night. He is second in the nation only to Antonio Andrews of Western Kentucky (227.2 ypg) in all-purpose yards per game. Beckham averages 21.2 yards every time he touches the ball and he gets his hands on it 9.8 times per game. Against an Alabama secondary that has some holes, Beckham and fellow wideout Jarvis Landry will have to come up big in the vertical passing game. Beckham has caught 48 passes for 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns on 21.0 yards per catch and has over 700 yards in the return game — including this ridiculous play:
495.7: Yards allowed per game by LSU in road SEC games this year
LSU is No. 3 in the SEC and No. 22 nationally in total defense, allowing 351.7 yards per game in 2013. The Tigers are No. 5 in the SEC and 31st nationally in scoring defense at 21.9 points allowed per game. But in road SEC contests, this unit has been suspect to big plays and big yards. In three conference road games this year, the Bayou Bengals defense is allowing 495.7 yards per game and 32.3 points per game. Georgia and Ole Miss are solid offensive teams but LSU shouldn’t give up 468 yards to Mississippi State no matter where they play.
26: Points allowed by Alabama in six games since playing Texas A&M
The Crimson Tide has yet to allow more than 10 points in a game since giving up 42 to Johnny Manziel in College Station in Week 3. Nick Saban’s club shutout both Ole Miss and Arkansas while allowing 10 points to Tennessee, seven to Kentucky and six to Colorado State. Alabama has allowed two touchdowns in six games and is allowing 4.3 points per game since facing the Aggies.
57.8%: LSU’s SEC-leading third-down offense
Third downs will be critical for both teams, as usual, and the Tigers’ offense has been excellent on the important down all season. LSU is leading the SEC and is second nationally only to Louisville (63.4%) by converting 57.8 percent of its third down chances (57-of-99). It won’t be that easy for LSU, however, as Alabama is leading the SEC in third-down defense. It allows opposing teams to convert on third down just 29.5 percent of the time (seventh nationally). Meanwhile, Bama is No. 2 in the SEC in third-down offense (50.4%) while LSU is 61st nationally in third-down defense (38.4%).
33-2: AJ McCarron’s record as a starter
Alabama’s quarterback may never get the Heisman consideration he likely deserves but his ability to win games is unquestioned. He has won 12 straight games, including his second BCS national title last year. His .943 winning percentage is fourth all-time in NCAA history for quarterbacks with a minimum of 30 starts behind only Oklahoma’s Steve Davis (.956), Miami’s Ken Dorsey (.950) and USC’s Matt Leinart (.949). Having said that, both of McCarron’s losses have come at home and one came at the hands of the LSU Tigers the last time they visited The Capstone. Overall in three games against the Tigers, the Bama signal-caller has thrown for 598 yards on 59.5 percent passing (53-of-89) with one game-winning touchdown pass and one interception.
177.07: Zach Mettenberger’s QB rating
Only Johnny Manziel (185.01) has been more efficient throwing the football this season in the SEC than Mettenberger. His 177.07 passer efficiency is a marked improvement from a year ago when he ranked 11th in the SEC at 128.34. His 276.9 yards passing per game are No. 2 to Manziel as well. However, he has struggled of late. Mettenberger has just one touchdown pass in his last two SEC games and has five interceptions in his last two games overall. With an advantage over Alabama on the outside with wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, Mettenberger becomes the most pivotal player on the LSU offense this weekend. He must play like he did against Georgia (372 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) not Ole Miss (274 yards, TD, 3 INTs).
0: Alabama and LSU players ranked in the top 10 in sacks in the SEC
Freshman A’Shawn Robinson is leading Alabama with 4.0 sacks on the season and is 11th in the SEC. Star nose tackle Anthony Johnson and cornerback Jalen Mills are tied for the LSU team lead with 3.0 sacks this season. It is almost shocking that neither team has a player ranked in the top 10 in the SEC in QB sacks. The Tigers, as a team, have been better at pressuring the quarterback, ranking fifth in the SEC with 20.0 sacks this year. Alabama, however, is 12th in the SEC with just 11.0 sacks on the season. This means Mettenberger may have some time to make big plays with his powerful right arm.
Minus-0.22: LSU’s turnover margin
The Tigers are 12th in the SEC, ahead of only Georgia and Arkansas, in turnover margin in 2013 at minus-0.22 per game. LSU is 88th nationally with just 12 forced turnovers (6 INT, 6 FR) and is 57th nationally with 14 giveaways on the season. Meanwhile, Alabama is No. 2 in the SEC with a plus-0.63 margin per game and No. 3 nationally with just seven turnovers all season. Bama has one turnover in its last two games while the Tigers have given the ball up six times in their last two games.