There are some people who believe that the Alabama Crimson Tide will roll into Baton Rouge, Louisiana this weekend, run through the LSU Tigers, and continue on their way to another national championship season. Not so fast. The Crimson Tide haven’t played on the road a lot this season and of all the places to play on the road in college football, Baton Rouge might be the worst.
The Crimson Tide’s road game this weekend with the Tigers will be their fourth and final game away from home this season. That goes with seven home games and the season opener in Dallas, Texas against the Michigan Wolverines. On the flip side, the Tigers are on a 22-game home winning streak dating back to 2009.
The drawback to a neutral location game that is in a truly neutral location (unlike the Georgia Bulldogs and Boise St. Broncos playing in the Georgia Dome last September) is that it’s technically a road game, but doesn’t offer the true experience of a road game. For teams to be playing at home for weeks on end, hearing only cheers for them, and basking in the glow that the atmosphere for a home game can bring can also have a negative effect on a team.
Look at the Ohio St. Buckeyes. They have only had three road games at this point in the season and all three have featured the Buckeyes in a close game or in a game where it has taken their offense nearly an entire half to get into gear. Such was the case for the Buckeyes offense in their road games against the Michigan St. Spartans and Penn St. Nittany Lions. Against the Indiana Hoosiers, the Buckeyes’ defense apparently didn’t travel with the rest of team and a shootout with over 100 points combined took place. The silver lining for Crimson Tide fans with me bringing up the Buckeyes’ road performances being less than stellar is that the Buckeyes won those three games and are currently still undefeated.
The problem with the road experience the Crimson Tide has gotten this year is that it hasn’t been against good teams who are formidable at home the same way the Tigers are. The Arkansas Razorbacks and Missouri Tigers were already broken due to earlier defeats and injuries by the time they hosted the Crimson Tide. This made victory too easy for Nick Saban‘s team, and they achieved victory in both road games by an average of 41 points.
The only time the Crimson Tide has faced a real road test was when they traveled to play the Tennessee Volunteers. This performance from the Crimson Tide may be underrated because the Volunteers were already on the way down when the game took place. But the Crimson Tide’s 44-13 victory on that night was a truly big performance because this game had telltale signs that an upset could happen: it was in a place that is generally tough to play in, it was against a capable offense, it was the second straight road game for a team that had only been on the road twice previously for the season, and because all of those things combined with a team playing the best game of their season does produce upsets.
Saturday night will be the toughest test of the season for both the Tigers and Crimson Tide. Both have plenty on the line and it will be interesting to see if two of the Crimson Tide’s last three games coming into this game being on the road will make things easier on them in a hostile environment. Because it is assured that Tiger Stadium is going to be louder on Saturday night than during any game of the Tigers’ current home winning streak.