After finishing 7-6 in his debut season—then reduced to 2-6 as Alabama had to vacate five wins due to sanctions stemming from textbook-related infractions—Saban has transformed Bryant-Denny Stadium into a fortress.
The 68-year-old is 147-15 in 12 years in Tuscaloosa and aside from his first season he has lost just four times at home and never to the same program. Incredibly, Saban has won five national titles in the same period.
LSU became the second member of that exclusive club in 2011, when it handed his former coach the only defeat of the season after winning 9-6 in Alabama following a triple-overtime battle.
As will be the case on Saturday, LSU arrived into the latest instalment of the “Game of the Century” as the No.1 ranked team in the AP Top 25 poll, with Alabama at No.2.
Saban didn’t place much emphasis on rankings then and operates by the same philosophy now, something he shares with his LSU counterpart, Ed Orgeron.
“I’m not really big on rankings and all that kind of stuff, but I know that they are a really, really good team,” the former said during his press conference earlier this week.
Orgeron agreed, suggesting bigger games than the “Game of the Century” may await both teams later this season.
“It’s the biggest game on our schedule but there’ll be bigger games down the road for us,” he was quoted as saying by Sports Illustrated.
A year before the loss to LSU, Cam Newton inspired Auburn to win a memorable comeback, as the Tigers wiped out a 24-7 deficit at halftime to win 28-27.
Texas A&M defeated Alabama 29-24 in Tuscaloosa in 2012, before then-No. 15 ranked Ole Miss left Bryant-Denny Stadium with 43-37 win in September 2015.
The loss to the Rebels marked Alabama’s fourth defeat at home in just under five years and it was also the last time a team left Tuscaloosa with a win.
In the intervening four years, the Crimson Tide has won 31 straight games at home—the longest home winning run in the nation—and nobody has come to within three touchdown of Alabama in Tuscaloosa since LSU lost 24-10 two years ago.
To put Alabama’s dominance into context, the Crimson Tide is 39-1 straight up as the home favorite since the College Football Playoff was introduced in 2014.
Since Orgeron took over as the full time head coach in 2017, LSU’s overall record against the spread is 6-0 and its road record is an unblemished 3-0, but the Tigers have lost the last eight meetings against their SEC West rivals and Alabama needs another three wins to equal the longest winning run in the rivalry’s history—the Crimson Tide won 11 straight games between 1971 and 1981.
More worryingly for the Tigers, they have failed to score in two of the last three meetings against Alabama.
Getting on the scoreboard should no longer be a concern, as LSU ranks fourth nationwide in both total offense and scoring offense and Joe Burrow has developed into a Heisman Trophy favorite in his senior year.
The LSU quarterback has thrown for 2,805 yards, 30 touchdown passes—both figures are second best in the nation—and just four interceptions, while completing 78.8 percent of his passes.
Burrow has been crucial for the Tigers so far, as they raced to an 8-0 start to the season and became the first team in the AP era to defeat three ranked programs—Florida, Auburn and Texas—in the first eight weeks of the campaign.
If LSU is to write another chapter of history on Saturday, Burrow could have an even bigger role to play.
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