Almost 10 months ago the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide faced off in the BCS Championship. Many predicted these two teams would make the Bowl game, but few predicted how impressive ‘Bama would be, and how lackluster LSU would perform.
Fast forward to November 3 and the two powerhouse teams from the SEC will clash once again, the first time since that history-making game in January. Heading into the 2012 season, Alabama were ranked #2 and LSU #3. What’s changed?
How have the teams performed so far? And most important, who will win this battle?
Let’s firstly look at Alabama. Unlucky not to get the #1 ranking heading into the start of the season, they quickly claimed what most believed should have been rightfully theirs from the outset – the favorites to win it all. One of only a handful of teams still to lose a game this year, the Crimson Tide are loudly and proudly proving to everyone why they deserve the favoritism tag. An opening round thrashing of Michigan and a devastating win over Mississippi State last week, Alabama have been impressive across the field. Quarterback AJ McCarron has a completion rate of 68.9% and has already thrown more TDs this season (18) than he did all last season (16). While he might only be ranked #6 in the race for the Heisman Trophy, many experts still say he is one of the best college QBs in the league.
LSU aren’t lying down though and are determined to bounce back from the demoralizing BCS defeat earlier in the year. They’ve only lost one game (a close one at the hands of Florida) and have won most of their seven games convincingly. While most experts thought it would be Alabama, Oregon and USC fighting it out for January glory, LSU won’t go away, and sit comfortably on the rankings ladder heading into November. Junior QB Zach Mettenberger is proving himself, with a completion rate of 56.6%. While he has only thrown seven touchdowns and has been sacked 18 times, he is yet to be benched this season.
So what about defense? Unsurprisingly, Alabama are on top. They are currently the number one team in the country on points against, having only allowed an average of 8.1 points from the opposition in the opening eight games. Conversely, LSU are ranked 9th, having allowed an average of 14.6 points. The closest any other team has come to beating Alabama was Ole Miss on September 29 (Alabama won 33-14), while LSU only just managed to grind out a 12-10 win against struggling Auburn on September 22. ‘Bama haven’t lost a game, LSU fell to Florida 14-6.
With an 8-0 record and the best percentages in the game, Alabama are appropriately ranked number 1 (a ranking they haven’t lost since stealing it from USC after the opening weekend). LSU at 7-1 are aptly ranked 5th, sitting behind Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon. After this weekend, the Crimson Tide will face only one team that has a chance of beating them (Texas A&M), while LSU face interesting and potentially dangerous competition in Miss State, Ole Miss and Arkansas. Many would bet that Alabama finish the season with their #1 ranking, while LSU could slip out of the top 10 if they lose any of their remaining games.
The Alabama v LSU game is always a crowd pleaser, always gets the fans going and continues to rank as one of the best of the season. In the past 10 clashes between the two teams, LSU is a convincing winner, having claimed seven of the last 10 matches (but only two of the past five). Both teams are out to silence their critics – Alabama looking to prove that the BCS Championship win wasn’t a fluke and LSU out to stake their (potential) claim on a Bowl berth.
It’s McCarron v Mettenberger. Saban v Miles. #1 v #5. I think Alabama will win this one, but it will be closer than most might expect. While the Crimson Tide have the goods to go all the way again this season, don’t write off the Tigers just yet.
Alabama in a close one, 24-14.