Despite the College Football Playoff selection committee’s best efforts, Saturday’s matchup between LSU and Alabama remains the biggest game of the college football season.
The Tigers and the Crimson Tide were listed second and third in the first weekly CFP ranking on Tuesday behind Ohio State, but the pair occupy the top two spots in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and in USA Today coaches’ poll.
LSU tops the former with Alabama second, while the Crimson Tide is number one in the latter with the Tigers in second place.
Saturday’s matchup in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, marks the first time in the AP Top 25 era that the top-two ranked programs have collided in the regular season since 2011.
Eight years ago, incidentally, it was LSU and Alabama who slugged it out in Tuscaloosa in the so-called “Game of the Century,” with the Tigers winning 9-6 in triple overtime.
Both coaches, however, were eager to downplay the hype surrounding the game—which pits together the only two undefeated programs left in the SEC.
“I’m not really big on rankings and all that kind of stuff, but I know that they are a really, really good team,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said during his press conference this week.
“It’s going to take great effort on our part and great preparation on our part to be able to play our best in the game.”
His LSU counterpart, Ed Orgeron, echoed the thought, suggesting bigger games loomed large on the horizon for both teams if they qualified for the playoffs.
“It’s the biggest game on our schedule but there’ll be bigger games down the road for us,” Orgeron was quoted as saying by Sports Illustrated.
“We understand, we have respect for Alabama, we understand what they do well, what we do well and it’s going to be a great game.”
The win eight years ago granted LSU access to one of college football’s most exclusive clubs: that of programs who have defeated Alabama on the road since Saban’s first season in charge of the Crimson Tide.
Aside from LSU in 2011, only Ole Miss, Auburn and Texas A&M have won at Bryant-Denny Stadium in the last 11 years.
Nobody has got within three touchdowns of Alabama in Tuscaloosa since the No.19-ranked LSU lost 24-10 in 2017, and the Tigers have lost the last eight games against the Crimson Tide.
The current version of LSU, however, is probably the best equipped of any of its iterations over the last eight years to buck the trend.
The Tigers have built up a head of steam throughout the season and are the first team in the AP era to defeat three ranked programs in the first eight weeks of the campaign.
Of those three teams—Florida, Auburn and Texas—only the Gators are still in the top 10, but LSU’s resume is better than Alabama, whose opponents have a combined record of 28-41.
While picking the winner of Saturday’s matchup is a fool’s errand, one thing that is almost certain is that the scoreline is unlikely to be as modest as it was eight years ago.
Alabama and LSU rank second and fourth respectively in scoring offense, ninth and fourth in total offense and boast two of the best quarterbacks in the country.
In his senior year in Louisiana, Joe Burrow has developed into a Heisman Trophy favorite. The Ohio native 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.
While Burrow is certain to start, his Alabama counterpart, Tua Tagovailoa, remains day-to-day after undergoing a so-called “tight-rope” surgical procedure last month.
Last year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up suffered a high ankle sprain on his right ankle against Tennessee and missed Alabama’s 48-7 win over Arkansas two weeks ago.
Saban, however, sounded optimistic about the chances of seeing his star quarterback, who has passed for 2,166 yards, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions, in action on Saturday.
“It’s still day-to-day, and you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the next day, but he’s moving around well and throwing the ball with confidence,” he was quoted by ESPN.
“His mobility will be the big question, but every day that’s improved dramatically.”
Here’s all you need to know ahead of Saturday.
When and where is the game?
Alabama hosts LSU at the Bryan-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Saturday, November 9.
Kick-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET.
The game will be broadcast nationally on CBS.
A live stream will be available via CBS’s digital platforms and fuboTV.
The two teams have met 83 times, with Alabama holding the upper hand in the all-time series.
The Crimson Tide has won 53 times to LSU’s 25 wins and is on an eight-game winning streak, keeping LSU scoreless in two of the last three meetings.
The Tigers last defeated Alabama in 2011, when the two teams were ranked No.1 and No.2 respectively.
According to Oddschecker, Alabama is a 6.5-point favorite and is 43/50 to cover the spread, while LSU is a 9/5 underdog.
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