LSU is Alabama football’s division rival in the SEC West and has been among the Tide’s toughest annual competition for the past 15 years. Even though Alabama has dominated the series 12-4 since Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, it has been more competitive than the win-loss record indicates. Four of Alabama’s wins in the series have been by a single possession, including two overtime games. All four of LSU’s victories have been one-possession wins, including an additional overtime game. The two teams also famously (or infamously) competed for a BCS national championship in an unprecedented rematch between divisional opponents in January 2012, with the spoils going to the Tide.
LSU’s 2019 team and Alabama’s 2020 team, with several similarities and parallels between them, have often been compared. Both teams ran the table as undefeated SEC and national champions, and are considered two of the best teams and offenses in college football history. Both, naturally, lost incredible amounts of talent to the draft following their championship runs. This led to the inevitable “down year,” which is where the separation between the two programs becomes obvious and evident.
Following its historic championship season, the LSU Tigers opened the 2020 season with a #6 national ranking. They lost to a woeful Mississippi State team in their first game, then lost to Missouri just two weeks later. The slide would continue when the Tigers got blown out by Auburn, Texas A&M, and Alabama in the span of a month by a combined score of 123-31. LSU hit rock bottom at 3-5 before pulling out two narrow wins to close the season with a .500 record. Additionally, there was turmoil within the program and a wave of transfers exited Baton Rouge following the season.
The argument could be made that LSU was hit especially hard by Covid-19 opt-outs. However, the Tigers showed no improvement in 2021 despite continuing to recruit at a high level. Once again, they lost their season opener, this time against UCLA. LSU ended up going 3-5 in the SEC and fired their coach midway through the season, eventually needing a game-winning touchdown against Texas A&M just to become bowl eligible. LSU did play Alabama very close, and the narrow defeat was probably the highlight of their 2021 season.
The 2019 version of the LSU Tigers was certainly a great team, and for one brief offseason, much of the LSU fan base believed that they would be the next dynasty in college football. However, as Nick Saban has proven, the only thing more difficult than reaching that level of success is sustaining it. LSU has posted an unimpressive 11-11 record since bringing home that championship, and is now starting from scratch with a new head coach.