After two largely lopsided affairs on Thursday night, the Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers rivalry can now resume its rightful place at the top of the weekly college football slate. With Stanford pounding Oregon silly and Baylor torching Oklahoma, the annual SEC West showdown now figures to be the best game of Week 11 if recent memory serves the series well.
Disclaimer: If you find SEC horn-blowing upsetting, you should probably stop reading now.
Sure, the matchups between the Pac 12’s and Big 12’s top-10 teams looked great on paper, but the actual play on the field in both contests largely disappointed — at least in terms of competitiveness. Now it’s time for all you folks in the Southwest and up the West Coast to sit back and watch the Tide and Tigers show you how a big time game is supposed to look and feel.
Frankly, if you combined all the best parts of the two Thursday games – Stanford’s rushing attack, Baylor’s/Stanford’s defense, the Bears’ balanced offensive attack and David Shaw’s game plan – you’ll end up with something similar to what will likely transpire at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night.
Do we even need to mention the fact that there will be more than twice the number of fans attending the Bama-LSU game as were packed into Floyd Casey Stadium to watch Baylor-Oklahoma and nearly double the number of people in Stanford Stadium Thursday?
Say what you want about the SEC bias, its teams’ non-conference schedules and anything else about the conference you deem unsavory. But know this: When two top-10 SEC teams square off, the game usually lives up to its billing. Here are several recent examples (including a few Bama-LSU games):
No. 1 Alabama 49, No. 5 Texas A&M 42 (Sept. 14, 2013): There’s already been one great top-10 showdown in the SEC this season. This game had it all: a streak of 35-straight points by the Crimson Tide. A virtuoso performance by the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel to get A&M back in the game. A record-breaking 279 receiving yards by Aggies’ WR Mike Evans.
And it was a rematch of the Crimson Tide’s lone loss from last season. This slugfest offered storylines galore before and after the game.
No. 1 Alabama 21, No. 5 LSU 17 (Nov. 3, 2012): We only need look back to last season for the first example of a classic Alabama-LSU heavyweight battle. For 59 minutes, Zach Mettenberger and co. had the upper hand as LSU controlled the game and Alabama’s national title hopes. But A.J. McCarron was able to lead the Tide on a fateful 72-yard scoring drive that eventually proved critical to keeping Bama alive in the BCS title hunt.
No. 1 LSU 9, No. 2 Alabama 6 (Nov. 5, 2011): The Tide and Tiger defenses lived up to the billing in a matchup touted as the “Game of the Century.” Neither LSU nor Alabama could reach the end zone the last time the two played in Tuscaloosa, not even with extra time. It was one of the hardest-hitting defensive battles you’ll ever see in a college game.
It could be said that Alabama’s four missed field goals and an INT thrown at the goal line diminishes the game, but folks down south were more than happy to watch two great teams bludgeon each other between the 20-yard-lines for 60-plus minutes only to have the smallest guys in pads decide the biggest game of the season.
No. 4 Auburn 24, No. 6 LSU 17 (Oct. 23, 2010): The league’s best offense (Auburn) and defense (LSU) faced off in a mid-season clash of the titans that Auburn won with a dominating 440 rushing yards. The back-and-forth battle was finally settled when Onterio McCalebb sprinted 70 yards for the go-ahead score with 5:05 left. The Tigers went on to win the SEC and BCS titles.
Unfortunately, both of Thursday night’s games lacked this kind of back-and-forth action. Aside for a sparse few minutes early in Waco and a wacky final five minutes in Palo Alto, neither contest had you on the edge of your seat. At their conclusions, there certainly wasn’t a want for more — only a longing for Saturday night and the real heavyweight fight.
I only hope the Tide and Tigers put on one heck of a show, or else I’ll be stuffing my face with crow come Sunday morning.