Over the last 10 years, the Alabama-LSU matchup has loomed large in the college football schedule, a bellwether for the state of the SEC that season. The winner of that game could stake its claim as not only the best in the conference, but frequently, the nation.
By record, Alabama has dominated the slate, 7-4, but seven of the last 11 matchups dating back to 2007 have been decided by 10 points or less. Here, we take a look at some of the iconic wins for Nick Saban at Alabama against his former employer in Baton Rouge.
5. 2014: Alabama 20, LSU 13 OT
What happened: Alabama entered the first game of the series in the expanded Tiger Stadium as the No. 5 team in the nation. Receivers Malachi Dupre of LSU and Amari Cooper of Alabama each accounted for a first-half touchdown, the only time each team found the end zone in regulation. With Alabama trailing 13-10 near the end of regulation, quarterback Blake Sims led a 55-yard drive that ended in a 27-yard field goal from Adam Griffith with 3 seconds remaining. In overtime, Sims found Kenny Bell for a 6-yard touchdown before the defense forced a four-and-out to secure the second consecutive win in Death Valley.
Why it ranks here: This was the first November test of the Crimson Tide’s ambition to make the first College Football Playoff. It loses some impact because of the matchup against No. 1 Mississippi State the next week, but it’s hard to dispel the importance of beating a major division rival on the road in front of 102,000 notoriously hostile fans.
4. 2015: Alabama 30, LSU 16
What happened: Alabama limited then-Heisman favorite Leonard Fournette to just 31 rushing yards in a defensive performance for the ages. Derrick Henry, meanwhile, essentially won the Heisman, putting 210 yards and three touchdowns on the Tigers. Alabama jumped out to a 10-0 lead that was only threatened when a busted coverage allowed a 40-yard touchdown pass from LSU quarterback Brandon Harris to Travin Dural in the second quarter. The Crimson Tide crushed any hopes of an LSU comeback by scoring two touchdowns in the third quarter and shutting out the Tigers until the fourth, when a fumble by Henry gave LSU the ball on the 22-yard line.
Why it ranks here: At the time, LSU was the No. 2 team in the playoff rankings behind only Clemson. Alabama ranked fourth, and with weak teams remaining on both teams schedules, this game became, for all intents and purposes, a play-in to the College Football Playoff. After the win, Alabama jumped to No. 2 and rolled through its next three opponents until it met Clemson in the National Championship Game.
3. 2009: Alabama 24, LSU 15
What happened: No. 3 Alabama trailed No. 9 LSU until the fourth quarter of this game, which LSU entered leading 15-13. The comeback began when Julio Jones took a screen pass 73-yards for a touchdown, followed by a successful two-point conversion, giving Alabama a 21-15 lead. Mark Ingram led the way on a game-icing six-minute drive to set up a Leigh Tiffin field goal, the final score of the game, with three minutes remaining.
Why it ranks here: Except for perhaps the 2009 SEC Championship win over Urban Meyer’s Florida, perhaps no game did as much to announce Alabama’s status as a national power as this one. Alabama had ranked No. 1 nationally earlier in the season, but was dropped after struggling against Tennessee. With this win, Alabama could once again be seen as a national title contender, pending the Alabama-Florida rematch.
2. November 2012: Alabama 21, LSU 17
What happened: No. 1 Alabama led most of this game at No. 5 LSU’s Tiger Stadium, but fell behind late enough that Alabama fans began to see their divisional, conference and national title hopes slipping away. With 1:34 remaining in the game, AJ McCarron engineered a 72-yard desperation drive ending in a 28-yard screen pass to T.J. Yeldon, capping “The Rally in Death Valley.”
Why it’s ranked here: Beyond the competitive benefits of the win – staying undefeated, keeping the door open for the BCS madness that led to the Crimson Tide’s second consecutive national championship – this game proved that Death Valley wasn’t the impenetrable fortress some believed it to be. This game remains possibly my favorite game I’ve ever attended, with an atmosphere only topped by the 2013 Alabama-LSU game in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
1. January 2012: Alabama 21, LSU 0
What happened: Two months after losing “The Game of the Century” against LSU at home 9-6, Alabama went into Louisiana and dominated a game many said it had no business playing in. LSU infamously only crossed the 50-yard line on offense once. The Tigers ended the game with 92 total yards and five first downs. The Crimson Tide didn’t even need touchdowns to clinch this game. Jeremy Shelley kicked five field goals before Trent Richardson scored a touchdown with 4:36 left in the game.
Why it’s ranked here: In addition to clinching Alabama’s second national championship in three years and instituting one of the great dynasties in college football history, this game essentially killed the BCS, paving the way for the College Football Playoff. This game remains one of the great defensive performances of all time.