November 3, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back T.J. Yeldon (4) scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium. Alabama defeated LSU 21-17. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama-LSU Rivalry Remains The Path To The National Championship

This Saturday the first-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide welcomes the N0. 13 LSU Tigers in a massive SEC West showdown. Though this game may not come with the same level of hype past games between the two SEC powers has garnered, it’s still a giant game and one of the bigger games in the SEC this season.

That has become a trend under Nick Saban at Alabama. It seems that every year the Alabama-LSU game is a game that fans across the south circle as “must watch TV.” Before the arrival of Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa, LSU had been dominating the rivalry for almost a decade, while Alabama had dominated the rivalry for many years before that. In 2013 this rivalry has become one of the hottest and most fierce rivalries in all of college football.

Since 2007, Alabama has won four games in the series while LSU has won three. Of those games, three have been settled by three points, two have ended in overtime, two others have been settled by ten points or less, and only two have resulted in wins of more than ten points. One of those two games came in Saban’s first year, when LSU won 41-34 – the highest score between the two teams since Saban’s arrival. The other was Alabama’s dominating 21-0 win in the 2011 BCS National Championship, which was also the only time the two teams have ever faced each other twice in one season.

The game really became hot in 2008, as the two powers slugged it out back and forth for four quarters but it just wasn’t enough. In overtime, All-American safety Rashad Johnson recorded his third interception of the game and senior quarterback John Parker Wilson hit Julio Jones, who leapt over future All-American Patrick Petterson to take the ball to the one-yard line. On the next play Wilson reached across the goal line to provide Alabama with its first victory over LSU since 2002. Five years of heartbreak for Alabama was over with and it was clear the LSU-Alabama rivalry was back.

Julio Jones was again a hero in the 2009 game when he grabbed a screen pass and sped to the end zone for the game winning 73-yard TD. After two consecutive losses to Alabama, LSU bounced back in 2010 with a three-point victory holding off a furious comeback from the Crimson Tide.

The wildest year ever of this rivalry came in 2011, with the game was billed as the “game of the century,” and saw No. 1 (LSU) vs. No. 2 (Alabama) for the first time in the rivalry. It didn’t provide the fireworks that many of the high-scoring slugfests across the country did, but there was no question how furious the rivalry was, as the two teams pounded on each for four quarters. Both hellacious defenses held the other offenses out of the endzone as the game ended 6-6 in regulation.

In overtime, AJ McCarron missed a potential scoring pass to Trent Richardson. After a sack, Cade Foster missed his third field goal of the game and LSU easily won the game with a 25-yard field goal.

Alabama got some breaks down the stretch (Oklahoma State losing to unranked Iowa State and Oregon falling to Stanford), and was given its chance at redemption in the BCS Championship Game in a rematch. There was no slugfest this time around, as Alabama dominated the game from start to finish. McCarron had his breakout game and the Tide defense was smothering, holding LSU from crossing the 50-yard line until late in the game, and even then the defense forced a fumble and took the ball away.

Last year’s game may have been one of the most exciting games between the two programs. In the end it was McCarron that led the Alabama offense on a clutch last-minute drive before tossing the game-winning pass to freshman T.J. Yeldon to secure the win. One of the most memorable moments in the game was the view of an emotional McCarron breaking down on the sideline as his team surrounded him.

LSU may not be undefeated this time around, but there is no question that they are playing for pride, and maybe even more if they can get some breaks along the way as Alabama did in 2011.

Alabama is playing not just for pride either, it knows that this season an undefeated record may be the only way to secure a shot at a third consecutive BCS National Championship. It’s only fitting that this rivalry, which has become so massive in the landscape of college football, once again holds SEC and BCS Championship ramifications.

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