It is no coincidence that both Alabama and LSU had byes last week. This yearly contest between the two schools and SEC West rivals has become the biggest annual game of the last decade. In the past eight years, the winner of this game has gone on to play in the SEC Championship Game six times.
This weekend’s matchup is no different. LSU is undefeated and Alabama has one loss. The two programs came in at No. 2 and 4 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, and seemingly have a clear path to not only play for the SEC title, but also being one of the four teams chosen to fight for the national championship. While this rivalry has reached unprecedented heights in the last decade or so, there have been many great games since these schools first met in 1895. Here are the top five.
5. Alabama 27, LSU 27
Baton Rouge, La. — Sept. 30, 1944
Ties in football in the 1940s were pretty normal. However, 27-27 ties were not. LSU was led by freshman quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who slung a 34-yard touchdown pass to Don Sandifer to put the Tigers up 14-7 in the second quarter. Alabama, which was fielding its first team since 1942, then scored two touchdowns on long runs to go into the half up 21-14. In the second half, LSU's Felix Trapani blocked Harry Gilmer’s punt and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game. Gilmer then took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, but kicker Hugh Morrow missed the extra point to make the score 27-21. In the fourth quarter, LSU’s Clyde Lindsey blocked another Gilmer punt and returned it for a touchdown. Then kicker Andrew Lay missed the extra point and the game was tied. Tittle drove the Tigers to the Alabama 21-yard line in the final minutes, but a Norwood Hodges interception sealed the unsual tie.
4. LSU 9, Alabama 6 (OT)
Tuscaloosa, Ala. — Nov. 5, 2011
LSU was No. 1, Alabama was No. 2, both teams were undefeated. In what would be a game of attrition, 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 both teams tied at six 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. Two months later, LSU and Alabama met again in the Sugar Bowl in the BCS National Championship Game. This time, the Crimson Tide won 21-0. Nevertheless, the regular season game was the more classic of the two matchups and more importantly, it gave us this.
3. Alabama 21, LSU 20
Baton Rouge, La. — Sept. 27, 1952
The Crimson Tide jumped out to 7-0 lead on a touchdown run by Bobby Luna. Then LSU responded by tying the game with a score of its own. The tie would be brief, as Bob Conway took the kickoff and ran 95 yards into the end zone to put ‘Bama up 14-7. LSU responded with another touchdown but missed the extra point. The Tigers then scored again to take a 20-14 lead. Alabama put together a late drive that ended with another touchdown run by Luna, who then kicked the extra point to put his team up for good at 21-20. Alabama went 10-2 and won the Orange Bowl. LSU finished the season 3-7.
2. LSU 17, Alabama 13
Tuscaloosa, Ala. — Nov. 6, 1993
Alabama had not lost a game since Sept. 14, 1991, but its rock, quarterback Jay Barker, was out with a shoulder injury. The Tigers were 3-5, but collected four interceptions from the the three Crimson Tide quarterbacks who tried eplace Barker. After a scoreless first half, LSU jumped ahead 14-0 in the third quarter with touchdown runs by Jay Johnson and Robert Toomer. Alabama head coach Gene Stallings then put David Palmer, his kick returner and receiver extraordinaire, in at quarterback and he promptly threw a touchdown pass to cut the lead in half. LSU kicker Andre Lafleur then made it 17-7 with a field goal. Palmer added another touchdown, but that was as close as Alabama got and its streak of 31 consecutive games without a loss came to an end.
1. Alabama 27, LSU 21 (OT)
Baton Rouge, La. — Nov. 8, 2008
This game marked Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s first visit to Death Valley since leaving LSU in 2004. The Crimson Tide were 9-0 and ranked No. 1, while LSU was the defending national champion. After both teams turned the ball over on their first possessions, Alabama got on the board first when quarterback John Parker Wilson ran in from the one-yard line. The Tigers roared back, scoring touchdowns on their next two possessions to lead 14-7 at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, Alabama’s Rashad Johnson intercepted Jarrett Lee’s pass and raced 54 yards into the end zone to tie the game. In the third quarter, Crimson Tide running back Glen Coffee, who would finish the day with 126 yards on the ground, put the Tide ahead with a three-yard touchdown run. The Tigers then put together a 74-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 21-21. Alabama later got the ball with 1:45 in the fourth quarter and drove all the way to the LSU 12-yard line. With one second left, kicker Leigh Tiffin lined up to kick the game-winning field goal, but it was blocked and time expired. LSU got the ball first in overtime and once again Johnson intercepted Lee’s pass. On the first play of Alabama’s possession, Wilson hit Julio Jones for a 23-yard pass that put the team just oustide of the end zone. Wilson scored two plays later on a one-yard plunge. With the win, Alabama clinched the SEC West and Saban became the first coach to ever win a road game at a school where he had won a national title. Although the Tide would lose the SEC Championship Game to Florida, this game showed that Alabama football was back.
— 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)