Three of the last four seasons, Alabama and LSU have finished as the top two teams in the Southeastern Conference West Division.
So, it should come as no surprise that Saturday’s showdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., is rife with SEC championship game implications.
“It’s a great challenge,” Tigers coach Les Miles said. “If you enjoy competition, if you’re a person who grew up competing start to finish, what you want to do is line up against your finest opponents and play your best. Certainly, this is that style of game.”
Lately, the type of game Alabama and LSU have played has been a slobber-knocking defensive style, which was epitomized by the Tigers’ 9-6 overtime win the last time the programs met in Tuscaloosa.
That might change this season with both offenses averaging more than 40 points per game. Neither team has scored more than 30 points in the rivalry since LSU won 41-34 in 2007.
“Both teams are probably a little more geared up to score points and have scored points a little more consistently than that particular year,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said.
Quarterback play is a big reason fans might expect a more wide open game at 7 p.m. on CBS.
LSU senior Zach Mettenberger ranks second in the SEC in pass efficiency at 177.1 behind only reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.
Mettenberger, a transfer from Georgia, has completed 151 of 231 passes for 2,492 yards with 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.
Alabama senior A.J. McCarron has been every bit as good. He ranks third the SEC in pass efficiency (166.6) having completed 145 of 209 throws for 1,862 yards with 16 touchdowns and three interceptions.
“Both quarterback positions have evolved and have the ability to throw it,” Miles said. “I still think that there’s tremendous defenses on the field, but there more offense as well.”
Of course, Alabama gives up fewer than 10 points per game (9.8) and only 280.9 yards of total offense, while LSU remains stout as well, giving up only 21.9 points per game and 351.7 total yards.
Regardless whether defenses continue to rule the day, one thing hasn’t changed at all. It’s a massive game with national title implications for the Tide.
“Based on the history of this game, the quality of team that LSU has, the guys that have been in the program and played against them before in the very physical and competitive battles we’ve been in, it’s hard for them, hard for me, probably hard for LSU players and everybody to think that this is just another game,” Saban said.