Alabama and LSU face off this Saturday in a true No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup since the two teams currently occupy those two spots in both the AP Top 25 and Coaches (order is flipped) Polls. Here are 10 fast facts to get you up to speed on the rivalry to date.
The schools were first originally scheduled to meet on Nov. 15, 1895, but that was pushed back to Nov. 18 because the Alabama team’s train was delayed traveling to Baton Rouge. To make the most of the trip, Alabama also played Tulane on Nov. 16 and lost 22-0. The Crimson Tide then played LSU two days later and jumped out to 6-0 lead, but the Tigers took control and won 12-6.
They Have Played Every Year Since 1964
The two teams played only 27 times between 1895 and '63, but began playing each other on an annual basis in '64. For that first meeting, both teams were ranked in the top 10 and Alabama could clinch the SEC title with a win. A crowd of nearly 68,000 — at that time, the largest to ever see a game in the state of Alabama — packed into Legion Field in Birmingham to watch the Crimson Tide take control in the fourth quarter of a 17-9 win.
Alabama Dominated Early
'Bama leads this series 53-25-5 and built a substantial lead through Bear Bryant's tenure. Bryant only lost four times to LSU while in Tuscaloosa and every one of those losses came in, by his standards, down years. Since his death in 1983, the series has not been quite even, but it is much more competitive with the majority of the games being decided by two touchdowns or less.
"You're No. 1, Babe"
The 1979 Alabama Crimson Tide were arguably the best squad that Bryant ever fielded, pitching six shutouts and beating all but two of its opponents by at least 10 points. The team that played them the closest was LSU. On Nov. 10 of that season, the two held of a war of attrition in a downpour in Tiger Stadium with neither making it into the end zone. Ultimately, a 27-yard field goal by Alabama kicker Alan McElroy proved to be the deciding factor in a 3-0 win. After the game, LSU head coach Charlie McClendon, who had played for Bryant at Kentucky, said “You’re No. 1, Babe,” and Bryant responded with “You gave us all we could handle.”
Home Field Woes
You've always heard that playing Alabama in Tuscaloosa is brutal and Tiger Stadium is the ultimate home-field advantage, right? Well, not in this series. Since 1982, Alabama is 7-11 in Tuscaloosa, and LSU is 4-14-1 in Baton Rouge.
The main reason this rivalry is where it is at today is because of Saban. At LSU, he turned the program around, going 48-16 from 2000-04 and winning a national championship. After two seasons with the Miami Dolphins, he went to Tuscaloosa and has done even better, going 154-21 (I'm counting five games vacated because of NCAA sanctions under Mike Shula) and winning five more national titles.
Game of the Century
The last time these two schools have met holding the top two spots in the rankings was 2011. LSU was No. 1, Alabama was No. 2, and both were undefeated. Neither team scored a touchdown and Alabama missed three field goals in regulation. LSU tied the game with a field goal early in the fourth quarter and the two teams traded field position for the remainder of the period. The second half ended with a 6-6 tie and Alabama got the ball first in overtime. A substitution penalty and sack put the Crimson Tide back on their 35-yard line, where kicker Cade Foster attempted a 52-yard field goal and missed. The Tigers then took the ball inside Alabama's 10-yard line and Drew Alleman booted the game-winning field goal.
2012 BCS National Championship
Two months later, LSU and Alabama still held the top spots and met again in the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans. Amidst great controversy, it is the only time two teams from the same division in the same conference have played for the national title. That’s where the excitement ended. This time, the Crimson Tide shut out LSU, winning 21-0.
Perceptions of a Rivalry
In part because this game often determines who wins the SEC West, LSU fans consider Alabama to be their most bitter rival. However, all schools that consider Alabama to be their biggest rival play second fiddle to Auburn with Tide fans.
As part of its contract with the SEC, CBS has the option to broadcast an 8 p.m. game during the season. From 2011 to '18, this has been the 8 p.m. game each year. This year, CBS aired the Georgia/Notre Dame game at 8 p.m. so this one will air at 3:30 p.m. ET.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)