Game Notes: Background on the Alabama-LSU series and the Game of the Century

Here are the preview notes (courtesy of UA Media Relations):
GAME 9: Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) vs. LSU (8-0, 5-0 SEC) Saturday, November 5, 2011 • 7 p.m. CT • CBS Bryant-Denny Stadium (101, 821) • Tuscaloosa, Ala.

THE GAME: Both Alabama and LSU had an open date prior to this week’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. The Crimson Tide and Tigers enter the game with identical 8-0 overall records and 5-0 marks in the Southeastern Conference. The meeting between Alabama and LSU will be the 75th in the series that dates back to the 1895 season. The Alabama-LSU game will be the first SEC game between No. 1 and No. 2 outside of the SEC Championship Game. Additionally, it will be just the ninth game in the history of Bryant-Denny Stadium between teams ranked in the top 10. The game will air on CBS with Verne Lundquist serving as the play-by-play announcer, and Gary Danielson at his side as the color analyst. The two will be joined by sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson. Eli Gold and Phil Savage will handle the radio call on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Chris Stewart serving as sideline reporter.

RANKINGS: In the latest polls released on October 30, Alabama remains at No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series standings, the Associated Press Top 25, the Harris Poll and the USA TODAY Coaches’ Poll, while LSU stands at No. 1 in all four polls.

THE ALABAMA-LSU SERIES: Alabama leads the series with LSU 45-24-5 in the series that dates back to the 1895 season. The 2011 game will be the 75th meeting between these two long-time Southern football rivals. The Tigers won the inaugural meeting in Baton Rouge, 12-6, on Nov. 18, 1895. The two teams did not meet again until the 1902 season, with LSU prevailing once again. Alabama’s first series win came on Nov. 9, 1903, in Baton Rouge as the Crimson Tide scored a 10-0 victory. From 1919-45, Alabama posted a 12-game unbeaten streak (9-0-3) against LSU. The series was resumed during the 1944 season with the Tigers gaining a slight advantage over the next nine meetings, posting a 5-3-1 record from 1946-58. Alabama went 16-2 (.889) against LSU from 1964-81, including a series-long 11-game winning streak from 1971-81. LSU also ended UA’s school record 31-game (30-0-1) unbeaten streak with a 17-13 win at Bryant-Denny Stadium in 1993. The Tigers snapped a 15-game winless streak to the Crimson Tide in Tiger Stadium with a 30-28 win in Baton Rouge on Nov. 4, 2000. LSU has won eight of the last 14 meetings, dating back to 1997. Alabama snapped a five-game series skid with the 27-21 overtime win in Baton Rouge in 2008 and followed that with a 24-15 win in Tuscaloosa in 2009. In last season’s meeting, LSU scored 14 fourth-quarter points to take the game 24-21 in Tiger Stadium.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONS: Nick Saban, Les Miles and Steve Spurrier are the three active SEC coaches to win a national championship. Saban led Alabama to the 2009 BCS National Championship and LSU to a 13-1 record and the BCS National Championship in 2003, while Miles led the Tigers to the BCS National Championship in 2007. Spurrier guided Florida to a 12-1 ledger and the school’s first national title in 1996.

ALABAMA-LSU AT VARIOUS SITES: The Alabama-LSU series has been played at six different sites since the initial meeting in 1895. The city of Baton Rouge has hosted the most games in the series (35), with Alabama posting a 25-8-2 record on the LSU campus. Only one other Louisiana city has hosted this series, with Alabama and LSU playing to a 7-7 tie in New Orleans in 1921. Four Alabama cities have played host to this rivalry, including Tuscaloosa, Mobile, Montgomery and Birmingham. The Tide owns a 20-14-2 record in the state of Alabama.

ALABAMA-LSU SERIES IS A LONG ONE: The LSU series is the fifth-longest series in school history. The two teams began playing in 1895, the 15th game in Crimson Tide history, and the 2011 game marks the 75th meeting between the two teams. Only Mississippi State (96), Tennessee (94), Vanderbilt (83) and Auburn (75) have played Alabama more than LSU.

SABAN VS. LSU: Alabama head coach Nick Saban is 2-3 in his career against LSU, following last year’s 24-21 loss at Tiger Stadium. Prior to that, Alabama had won a pair of games with a 27-21 overtime victory in 2008 and a 24-15 win in 2009. Before his arrival in Tuscaloosa, Saban-coached teams were 0-2 against LSU, losing 46-25 to the Tigers while at Michigan State in the 1995 Independence Bowl in Shreveport and 41-34 in 2007 Tuscaloosa. Saban was the head coach at LSU from 2000-04 and compiled a 48-16 (.750) record, leading the Tigers to the 2003 BCS National Championship and two SEC Championships during his tenure. In 2003, Saban led the Tigers to a 13-1 record and a 21-14 win over Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship Game played at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La.

ALABAMA VS. LOUISIANA SCHOOLS: Alabama owns an 85-40-8 record against teams from the state of Louisiana. The Crimson Tide has played 115 of those 131 games against LSU (74) and Tulane (41).

NEXT GAME: Alabama travels to Starkville, Miss., to take on Mississippi State on November 12. The meeting between the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs will be the 96th in the series that began in the 1896 season. Alabama leads the series 73-18-3, and has won the previous three matchups.

ALABAMA UNDER SABAN IN NOVEMBER: Now in his fifth season at Alabama, head coach Nick Saban has led the Crimson Tide to a 10-6 record in November, with four of those losses coming in 2007. Over that span in games played in November, Alabama has outscored its opponents 467-232.

NO. 1 VS. NO. 2: The clash of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in college football is a rare occurrence and for it to happen in the regular season between conference rivals is almost unprecedented. The Alabama-LSU game will be the first SEC game between No. 1 and No. 2 outside of the SEC Championship Game. There have been 45 previous meetings between the No. 1 team and the No. 2 team in the Associated Press poll before Alabama and LSU square off on Nov. 5. The first of these meetings came on Oct. 9, 1943, when No. 1 Notre Dame defeated No. 2 Michigan, 35-12. But, there have only been 22 regular-season meetings – 24 if you count the 2008 and 2009 SEC Championship Games between Alabama and LSU. The last No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown (outside of the SEC title game) was on Nov. 18, 2006, with No. 1 Ohio State beat No. 2 Michigan 42-39. It also happened earlier that season with No. 1 OSU defeating No. 2 Texas 24-7. Before that, the last No. 1 vs. No. 2 regular-season clash came 10 years earlier when No. 2 Florida State knocked off No. 1 Florida, 24-21, Nov. 30, 1996. Of the 22 regular-season No. 1 vs. No. 2 meetings outside of conference championship games, only four of those games were between conference foes and the Alabama-LSU game is the first between two teams in the same division of a conference. It is also just the third time that the game has matched two teams with a bye to prepare. The first time it happened was when No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Arkansas met in a Southwest Conference matchup on Dec. 6, 1969, with Texas erasing a 14-0 deficit for a 15-14 win. Nebraska and Oklahoma did it in a Big Eight game on Nov. 25, 1971, and again on Nov. 21, 1987. Ohio State and Michigan were the last conference foes to meet on Nov. 18, 2006. Below is a look at conference games between No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the AP poll.

MORE ON THE SHOWDOWN BETWEEN THE TIDE AND TIGERS: The Alabama-LSU game will be just the ninth game in the history of Bryant-Denny Stadium between teams ranked in the top 10. That number is skewed since a large portion of Alabama’s best games were played at Legion Field in Birmingham before Bryant-Denny was expanded to 83,818 in 1998. Just three of the nine games between top 10 teams came prior to the 1998 expansion. LSU is also just the second No. 1-ranked team to visit Bryant-Denny Stadium, joining Oklahoma, which visited Tuscaloosa in 2003 and defeated an unranked Alabama team, 20-13.

FINISHING STRONG: Alabama has started slowly in the first quarter this season, but has quickly turned things around and finished strong. The Crimson Tide has outscored its opponents 243-25 in the final three quarters of games this season after holding just a 72-30 edge in the first quarter. The disparity has grown even wider over the past six games where Alabama owns a 44-27 scoring edge in the first quarter and a 196-10 edge in the final three quarters. Alabama has outscored its opposition in the second half of the last six games by a score of 142-7, but has not allowed a second-half point in the last four games. Arkansas in week four was the last team to put points on the scoreboard after halftime.

TIDE ON TOP OF THE SEC IN OFFENSE AND DEFENSE: Alabama is currently leading the Southeastern Conference in total offense and total defense as well as scoring offense and scoring defense. The Crimson Tide averages 457.6 yards per game, while limiting opponents to 180.5 yards per outing. Additionally, Alabama scores nearly 40 points per game at 39.4, and at the same time, holds teams to a league, and nation, low of 6.9 points per game. The Tide also leads the league in rusing offense (229.3), rushing defense (44.9), pass efficiency defense (44.9), pass defense (127.3) while ranking second in punt returns (12.7), turnover margin (+0.75), tackles for loss (8.7) and sacks allowed (1.5).