The date was November 5th, 2011. #1 LSU traveled up to Tuscaloosa to take on #2 Alabama in what was dubbed the 'Game of the Century'. The Tigers' and Crimson Tide's defenses were considered and touted as the best in the country as Les Miles and Nick Saban would face off yet again.
Both teams had amassed a combined 534 yards of offense by the end of regulation, but had only scored a total of 12 points. With a 6-6 tie, and the number one ranking on the line, 'Bama received the ball first as the game went into overtime. A.J. McCarron was sacked for a loss on third down, leading to Alabama attempting a 51-yard field goal. Cade Foster, who had already missed two field goal attempts in the game, came up just short and wide-left.
Hope was not lost as Alabama's defense had likewise been problematic for the Tigers. But running back Michael Ford carried the ball to the 7-yard line, giving the Tigers a chipshot field goal with a chance to win the game. Drew Alleman lined up midfield between the hashes to attempt the 25-yard kick. In seemingly slow motion, the kick floated through the air as those in the sold out Bryant-Denny Stadium held their breath.
When the masses exhaled, purple and gold flags flew over Tuscaloosa.
That was 2,923 days ago. It was the last time LSU has beaten Alabama.
In the aftermath of that game, many around the country declared the 'Game of the Century' a flop. A defensive slugfest is not what roughly 12 million homes tuned in to see. To make matters worse, chaos reigned supreme during championship weekend, with Oklahoma State losing in the Big XII Championship Game. Alabama finished at #2 in the final BCS rankings by a margin of a .09 point difference between the Tide and Cowboys.
When all was said and done, Alabama would get its revenge on LSU in the BCS National Championship Game, dominating the Tigers in New Orleans with a 21-0 win to secure Nick Saban's third overall national championship, his second at Alabama.
In the eight years since that storied night in the Big Easy, LSU has struggled to find its identity in the rivalry with Alabama and as a competitor in the SEC as a whole. When administrators pulled the plug on Les Miles mid-season in 2016, Ed Orgeron was promoted to interim, and later full-time, head coach. Affectionately referred to as 'Coach O', Orgeron has been an infusion of energy into the Tigers' football program.
Meanwhile in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has carried on as the standard-bearer in college football, winning three more national championships along the way. The Crimson Tide have appeared in every College Football Playoff, winning it twice. Nick Saban has, in the eyes of some, even surpassed “Bear” Bryant as the greatest coach in the history of college football.
College football itself has undergone significant change since that 2011 night in Tuscaloosa. It is widely believed that the SEC rematch in the National Championship Game was the catalyst that directly led to the fall of the Bowl Championship Series and the rise of the College Football Playoff.
When 2:30 p.m. rolls around on Saturday, it will be familiar sight for those that recall it. #2 LSU will again make the trip up Interstate 59 to Tuscaloosa to take on #3 Alabama. This time, however, it will not be a 9-6 defensive struggle. Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow are two of the top three quarterbacks in the country when it comes to passing touchdowns, combining for an astonishing 57 scores through the air. But, for the Crimson Tide, Tagovailoa's health is the biggest concern. After missing the Arkansas game with a high-ankle sprain, Nick Saban has said that Tua will be a game-time decision. That decision could very well decide Alabama's 2019 season.
The SEC Network's Paul Finebaum described this game as a “must-win” for Alabama. Looking at the Crimson Tide's schedule, 'Bama does not have another quality game to offset a potentially disastrous loss to LSU. On the other hand, losing to the #3 team in the country on the road would not nessecarily eliminate the Tigers from the Playoff picture.
The eyes of the college football world are once again turned to Tuscaloosa, so much so that President Trump himself will be in attendance for what may turn out to be 'Game of the Century II'. While the College Football Playoff Selection Committee bumped the Tide and Tigers down in favor of Ohio State in their initial rankings, there is no doubt that this is by far the biggest game of the season to date – a game that will again define an entire season.
#2 LSU and #3 Alabama will face off this Saturday from Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on CBS42 and on WJLX 101.5 FM in Jasper.