Alabama versus LSU by the numbers from 2007 to 2014

The long awaited College Football Playoff Rankings came out this evening and, once again, the rankings set the stage beautifully for a game for the ages!  The #2 ranked LSU Tigers are traveling to T-town this weekend to face the #4 ranked Crimson Tide in another made for prime time TV affair.  To get you ready for the game (and to know where we are going), we thought it would be helpful to know where we’ve been in regards to this bloodbath of a series.  So, this week the Notorious PAB is back again with an in-depth analytical look at the Tide v Tigers since 2007….

Introduction

It’s pretty safe to assume that just about anyone reading this knows that the Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tiger football teams will face one another on the verdant grass of Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday, November 7. Kickoff is set for 7 PM, and in addition to the more than 100,000 estatic-to-be-there fans in attendance, millions will be watching in prime time on CBS. While the first (and best) set of performers on Saturday Night Live were the “Not Ready for Primetime Players,” these two programs, both coming off a bye week, should be more than ready.

A good number of the athletes who strive for victory that evening will go on to play on Sundays (and Sunday nights, Monday nights, Thursday nights and in London) in the NFL. The staffs feature many of the more experienced, more accomplished and higher-paid coaches in the nation. Both Bama and LSU embrace their football traditions, invest generously in their programs, and reap considerable benefits from consistent on-field success.

To paraphrase Bum Phillips, speaking of battering-ram RB Earl (The Tyler Rose) Campbell: if Bama vs. LSU ain’t at the top of the class of big-time college football games, it sure don’t take long to call the roll.

In this entry, we’ll look at points scored and allowed in the Bama and LSU contests, 2007 – 2014 inclusive, a “golden era” during which the SEC became firmly established as college football’s preeminent, if not outright dominant, conference.

The Situation

At this moment, LSU (7-0; 4-0 SEC) is ranked #4 in the AP poll and Bama (7-1; 4-1 SEC) is at #7. Bama’s only loss has been to Ole Miss (7-2; 4-1 SEC), which is #17. LSU is first in the SEC West standings, while Ole Miss and Bama are tied for second, with the Rebels holding the tie breaker thanks to their 43-37 win over the Tide on September 19 in Tuscaloosa. Ole Miss’s one SEC lost was to Florida and has no impact on West standings.

Bama does enter the game with a three-game winning streak over the Tigers. Will that translate into confidence and momentum that can influence Saturday’s outcome? Or, to paraphrase a baseball saying, does momentum in big-time college football boil down to points scored off turnovers?

Ole Miss and LSU will play in Oxford on November 21. So the Rebels (cliché alert) control their own destiny. But recent history – defined as “since Coach Saban took the helm at The Cornerstone” – strongly suggests that Crimson Tide vs. Tigers is quite likely to determine the SEC West, the SEC champion and one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff (CFP). The result of the game will be reflected in the CFP rankings to be released on Tuesday, November 10.

Head-to-Head Results

Here are the Bama / LSU game results, to date, during Coach Saban’s tenure, with the years when the Tide won at Baton Rouge in bold.

2007               Bama 34       LSU 41          LOSS             Bryant-Denny Stadium

2008               Bama 27       LSU 21          WIN                Tiger Stadium

2009               Bama 24       LSU 15          WIN                Bryant-Denny Stadium

2010               Bama 21       LSU 24          LOSS             Tiger Stadium

2011               Bama 6          LSU 9             LOSS             Bryant-Denny Stadium

2012               Bama 21       LSU 17          WIN                Tiger Stadium

2013               Bama 38       LSU 17          WIN                Bryant-Denny Stadium

2014               Bama 20       LSU 13          WIN                Tiger Stadium

Results breakdown

Bama’s overall record: 5 wins, 3 losses (62.5 winning percentage)

Bama at home: 2 wins, 2 losses (50.0%)                     Bama away: 3 wins, 1 loss (75.0%)

Longest winning streak: 3 games, 2012 – 2014         Longest losing streak: 2 games, 2010 – 2011

The Tide having a better record at Tiger Stadium is probably not what most people would expect, given the well-deserved reputation held by the site that Tiger fans affectionately refer to as “Death Valley.” (Try driving through the real Death Valley in summer with one’s family in a 1960 Chevy Bel Air station wagon, complete with leaky canvas water bag strapped to the grill to help cool the radiator core and vultures circling overhead. With all respect to Tiger Stadium, it can’t top that.) Out of the three games in Bama’s longest winning streak, two took place in Baton Rouge.

Scoring and scoring defense breakdown

Bama total points scored, all games: 191                     LSU total points scored, all games: 157

Bama avg points scored, all games: 23.9 ppg             LSU avg points scored, all games: 19.6 ppg

Bama avg points scored, wins: 26.0 ppg                      LSU avg points scored, wins: 24.7 ppg

Bama avg points scored, losses: 20.3 ppg                   LSU avg points scored, losses: 16.6 ppg

Bama avg points scored, home: 25.5 ppg                     LSU avg points scored, home: 18.8 ppg

Bama avg points scored, away: 22.3 ppg                      LSU avg points scored, away: 20.5 ppg

Total point difference, 8 games: 34                                 Avg point difference, 8 games: 4.3 ppg

Evolution of scoring and scoring defense averages

Scored           Allowed          Margin

2007   Bama 34       LSU 41          LOSS             0-1      34.0 ppg        41.0 ppg        -7.0 ppg

2008   Bama 27       LSU 21          WIN                1-1      30.5 ppg        31.0 ppg        -0.5 ppg

2009   Bama 24       LSU 15          WIN                2-1      28.3 ppg        25.7 PPG       +2.6 ppg

2010   Bama 21       LSU 24          LOSS             2-2      26.5 ppg        25.3 ppg        +0.8 ppg

2011   Bama 6         LSU 9            LOSS             2-3      22.4 ppg        22.0 ppg        +.0.4 ppg

2012   Bama 21       LSU 17          WIN                3-3      22.2 ppg        21.2 ppg        +1.0 ppg

2013   Bama 38       LSU 17          WIN                4-3      24.4 ppg        20.6 ppg        +3.8 ppg

2014   Bama 20       LSU 17          WIN                5-3      23.9 ppg        19.6 ppg        +4.3 ppg

Observations…

By the series’ second game, Bama had cut the average margin from one touchdown plus PAT to less than one point: 7-point loss in 2007 followed by 6-point win in 2008. What a difference that one year of first-rate, laser-focused recruiting, training and coaching made!

Bama’s average scoring declined consistently 2007 – 2012, from 34.0 ppg to 22.2 ppg (-11.8 ppg), an average decrease of -1.97 ppg per season. (For those of you into math, this is an example of deceleration and, if we drew a curve, its slope would be negative.) This drop was more than offset by the Tide’s defense cutting down LSU’s scoring at an even faster rate. Over the same time, the Tigers’ scoring average went from 41.0 ppg to 21.2 ppg (-19.8 ppg), which comes out to -3.3 ppg per season.

This is more evidence of Bama’s emphasis on and proficiency in defense under Nick Saban and Kirby Smart, a – probably the – hallmark of the program that has been noted in earlier entries.

2013 and 2014 saw a small uptick in points scored by the Tide, while the Tiger’s scoring average continued to decline.

“Most average” games

In terms of scoring and scoring defense, the “most average” game was the 2012 contest:

  • Bama scoring: 21 points vs. 23.9 ppg average => -2.9 points
  • Bama scoring defense: 17 points vs. 19.6 ppg average => +2.6 points
  • Margin: 4.0 points vs. 4.3 ppg average => -0.3 points

By the same criteria, the “most average” win came in 2009:

  • Bama scoring: 24 points vs. 26.0 ppg => -2.0 points
  • Bama scoring defense: 15 points vs. 16.6 ppg => +1.6 points
  • Margin: 9 points vs 9.4 points => -0.4 points

Bama’s three loses are very interesting…

  • 2007 – a high-scoring affair. Out of 74 points given up by Bama in its three losses to LSU, 31 (41.9%) came in this game.
  • 2011 – game ended 6-9, and is, by wide consensus, one of the truly great defensive struggles in college football history.
  • 2010 – incredibly close to the averages over the three losses. Points scored: 21 vs. 20.3 ppg; points allowed: 24 vs. 24.7 ppg, and margin -3 vs. -4.2 ppg.

So we have two outliers – one in Coach Saban’s first season and one for the ages – and a third result that is somehow highly representative of all losses.   Pretty amazing.

The Outliers

Bama – most points scored, win: 38 (2013)                  Bama – fewest points scored, win: 20 (2014)

Bama – most points scored, loss: 34 (2007)                 Bama – fewest points scored, loss: 6 (2011)

LSU – most points scored, win: 41 (2007)                    LSU – fewest points scored, win: 9 (2011)

LSU – most points scored, loss: 21 (2008)                   LSU – fewest points scored, loss: 13 (2014)

Bama Wins…

In the 2013 game, Bama scored 38 points and won by 21 at Tuscaloosa. Bama’s other four wins over LSU have been by 6, 9, 4 and 7 points, an average of 6.5 ppg.   The margin in the 2013 game is just over 3.2 times that average. The only other game in which the Tide scored more than 30 points was in 34-41 loss to the Tigers in 2007. Both defensive staffs cloistered themselves in their respective film rooms and got down to business after such an uncharacteristic “shootout.” That total of 75 points is pretty much normal one-game production for some Big 12 offenses this season. (How do recruiters pitch Big 12 programs to elite defensive players? “With your help, son, we can build a defense that holds Baylor under 50!” Wow.)

Bama Losses…

For Bama, the 2007 game (Coach Saban’s first season) and the 2011 contest, both losses and both played at Bryant-Denny Stadium stand out. 2007: Bama 34 LSU 41; 2011: Bama 6 LSU 9.

In the 2007 game, Bama scored 34 points. That’s 11.1points higher than its 8-game scoring average and 13.7 points above its scoring average in three losses to LSU. And it’s even 8.0 points higher than the Tide’s average winning score over the Tigers, 26.0 ppg. Since that game, the defense has improved a lot in Tuscaloosa: in the seven games since, LSU has not scored more than 24 points and has averaged 19.6 ppg.

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