Alabama Football: LSU has never gotten over Nick Saban leaving them in 2005 and returning to CFB to haunt them in 2007.
It is not normal for a defending National Champion to live in a shadow. Even when the large shadow is the Alabama football program and Nick Saban. That is where the LSU football program is today. In a place it knows well, living in the shadow of Alabama football.
Saban’s history with LSU brought the Bengal Tigers joy and sadness. He coached LSU to a National Championship in 2003. Less than a year from that championship game, Saban dashed away from Baton Rouge for the NFL. LSU fans were disappointed but given Saban’s production of a National Championship and understanding the allure of being an NFL head coach, they accepted the transition.
Les Miles appeared to be a good replacement for Saban, winning a National Championship in 2007. LSU fans had not been pleased when Nick Saban quickly returned to college football to lead the Alabama Crimson Tide. But as long as Les was winning, they were content. Les did keep winning, For awhile he also had an upper hand over Saban, with LSU winning three of the first five games after Saban became the Alabama football head coach.
An abrupt change occurred in the sixth game, played for the 2011 National Championship. The Crimson Tide dominated LSU, winning 21-0 in a game it controlled throughout. LSU would coach four more seasons in Baton Rouge. Every year the awareness grew that without a team mostly built by Nick Saban, Les would not have won the 2007 National Championship.
LSU has other rivals; Ole Miss, Florida, even Mississippi State. But no other program can match the historical success of the Alabama Crimson Tide over LSU. In 84 games between the schools, the Crimson Tide has won 53 games. That disparity pains LSU fans but the Tide’s success in Baton Rouge pains them more. The two teams have battled 39 times in Baton Rouge. LSU has won only nine of those games. For added perspective, remember the Crimson Tide lost to LSU in Baton Rouge in 1969. The next Tide loss on LSU’s home field was in the 2000 season, a run of 14 straight Tide wins only interrupted by one tie. For Tigers’ fans, it was a lot of pain to endure.
Unlike LSU, the Alabama football home games in the series have been in multiple locations. The Crimson Tide and the Bengal Tigers have played in Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. LSU had two strong runs in those Alabama home games, winning four games in 1982-1988 and 2001-2007. After Nick Saban returned to college football, LSU’s has won only three of 13 games against the Crimson Tide.
The 2019 LSU National Championship was said to allow LSU to escape from the Crimson Tide shadow. It did, for a several months respite. The shadow looms again.
As we said at the top, LSU has a Nick Saban problem. Last season’s National Championship soothed old LSU wounds. The 2020 season is showing those wounds never fully healed.