Tide Can't Look Past Vols To LSU

Almost everyone who follows Southeastern Conference football knows Alabama plays Tennessee this week. (Some traditionalists may have been looking for it last week, the Third Saturday in October, but that customary date was scuttled by the league years ago.) Anyone who had forgotten would likely have been reminded by Nick Saban's national admonition to not look ahead, that this is a rivalry game.

Alabama hosts Tennessee at 6:21 p.m. CDT Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. ESPN2 will televise the game.

From time-to-time, one team or the other is having a down year. That usually means a win for the team having the better year, but not always. This year Alabama is clearly the favorite. Alabama is 7-0 overall and 4-0 in SEC games and ranked second in the nation. Tennessee is 3-3 overall and has lost to all three of its conference opponents – Florida, Georgia, and last week at LSU by 38-7.

It is true that the Crimson Tide's annual meeting with the Volunteers has been the marquee match-up in the SEC almost since the founding of the conference in 1933. It's Alabama number one and Tennessee number two in almost every statistical category, including championships, winning percentage, and wins. About as often as not, the winner of Bama vs. Vols would go on to win the league title.

This year discussion of the league title goes to number one and number two, and it doesn't include Tennessee. In fact, the discussion is not really about the SEC championship. That's because in two weeks it will be Alabama hosting LSU in what many think will be the de facto national championship game.

This week LSU, also 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the SEC, is ranked first in the nation. The Fighting Tigers are hosting the Auburn Tigers Saturday afternoon. That's another game thought to be a mismatch, although a few more LSU suspensions might change the outlook.

Otherwise, it's a sad schedule in the SEC. Kentucky hosts Jacksonville State, Arkansas is at Ole Miss, and Army plays at Vanderbilt.

Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, and South Carolina all have bye weeks.

Alabama and LSU will have open dates next week before what is expected to be one of the most anticipated regular season college football games of all time from Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 9.

For many years, Alabama players lit up cigars following wins over Tennessee. It was a tradition thought to have been begun by Bama trainer Jim Goostree in the 1960s. Goostree was a native of Tennessee.

Because the Surgeon General has determined the cigar smoking is worse for a person than being tackled by Vinnie Sunseri, the NCAA prohibits tobacco use by student-athletes. But I'd bet a Cohiba against a Swisher Sweet that if Bama wins Saturday, there will be some stogies on fire in and around Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama has won its last eight games by 16-or-more points dating back to last season's Capital One Bowl victory over Michigan State. That eight game streak equals the longest such mark in the modern era of Crimson Tide football (since 1950). The other eight-game streak in school history included the final six games of the 1977 season and the first two games of the 1978 campaign. Alabama had seven game streaks in 1961 and 1975.

The streak has one victory by 16 points, at Penn State this year (27-11). The other seven are all substantial routs – starting with the 42-point win over Michigan State (49-7), and followed this year by 41 over Kent State (48-7), 41 over North Texas (41-0), 24 over Arkansas (28-14), 28 over Florida (38-10), 34 over Vanderbilt (34-0), and 45 over Ole Miss (52-7 in the Tide's last outing).

The 52 points against Ole Miss was Bama's most since a 59-28 win over Vanderbilt in 1990.

It is on the other side, however, that Alabama has made its mark. The Tide defense has not allowed an opponent top score more than 14 points this season. In four SEC games the Tide has given up only 31 points.

Bama leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just seven points per game. Alabama also is first nationally in total defense (giving up 184.14 yards per game) and rushing defense (38.14 per game).

Penn State is the only Tide opponent to rush for 100 yards. The Nittany Lions got 107.

Alabama has not allowed a point in the second quarter this year. Bama has a 64-0 advantage in second quarter scoring. Alabama leads in first quarter scoring by only 69-27. It's 86-14 in the third quarter and 59-8 in the fourth for a total of 278-49.

Alabama has shown great discipline. Bama ranks second in the nation in fewest penalties per game, an average of 3.14 per contest. The Tide is third in the nation in fewest penalty yards per game, 28.29.

This is the 56th consecutive week Alabama has been ranked in the Associated Press poll, which is best in the nation.

Here are some SEC statistics of interest:

SEC teams collectively are averaging 38.2 rushes and 28.1 passes per game. The rushes per game is 4th among FBS conferences while the passes per game is 10th. Only the Big Ten averages less pass plays per game than the SEC (27.6).

The gap of 10.1 between rushes and passes per game is second among FBS conferences, trailing only the Big Ten (13.6 / 41.2 rushes vs. 27.6 passes).

South Carolina has scored four defensive touchdowns this season and five non-offensive TDs overall, both of which lead the SEC.

Vanderbilt's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Andre Hal against Georgia was the first allowe by an SEC team this season.

Vanderbilt leads the SEC in red zone touchdowns allowed percentage. The Commodores have allowed just six red zone TDs in 14 chances, a 42.9 percentage. Mississippi State is second at 47.6 percentage (10-of-21).

Auburn's Steven Clark leads SEC punters hitting inside the 20-yardline. Clark is 22-of-44 (50.0 percent) in punts inside the 20. LSU's Brad Wing is second at 44.44 percent (12-of-27).

Auburn's Cody Parkey leads the SEC with 21 touchbacks on kickoffs while Arkansas' Zach Hocker is second with 18.

The defense never rests in the SEC. Comparing 2010 to 2011, SEC offenses have lost 37.4 yards per game offense (400.2 in 2010; 362.8 in 2011). The 20.3 points per game allowed by SEC defenses this season is the lowest since 2006 (19.4).

LSU leads the SEC in points per offensive drive (2.67) while Alabama is second at 2.62. LSU leads the SEC in offensive drive efficiency (overall scoring drives/drives) with 48.8 percent.

LSU has outscored opponents in the fourth quarter by 54 points (75-21), which leads the SEC. Alabama has allowed just eight fourth quarter points and is second in fourth quarter scoring margin with 51 (59-8).

This season, Alabama leads the SEC defenses in three-and-outs at 49.4 percent (44 of 89 opponent drives). South Carolina is second at 43.2 percent (41 of 95).

Opponents have scored only three points on LSU's turnovers while Alabama's opponents have only scored seven points off of Tide turnovers. Meanwhile, South Carolina has scored 80 points off of opponents' turnovers.

SEC football games this season are lasting 3:19 per game. The longest SEC game this season was the Auburn-South Carolina game at 3:59. The shortest was Georgia-Coastal Carolina game at 2:51. The national average is 3:13 per game.

So far this season, nine SEC teams are in the top 31 in total attendance this season, while seven are in the top 30 in average capacity and 11 are in the top 35 in average attendance.

Mississippi State leads the SEC and is 11th in the nation in percent capacity (101.34). Tennessee leads the SEC and is third in the nation in total attendance (480,903). Alabama leads the SEC and is third in the nation in average attendance (101,821).

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