Key SEC Match Is Nation's Top Game

Following Alabama's 38-7 win over previously undefeated Mississippi State Saturday, the Crimson Tide held on to its top spot in all major polls. Bama is first in the Associated Press, USA Today, and Harris polls. The AP and Harris polls are components of the BCS Rankings, to be released later.

This week Alabama goes to LSU in what has long been considered the most important game of the 2012 regular season. While Bama is number one in all polls, LSU – the pre-season number one choice – is number five in all polls.

The Crimson Tide and LSU will kick off at 7 p.m. CDT Saturday at Tiger Stadium with television coverage by CBS.

This year's game has been much anticipated since the 2011 season. Last year LSU earned a 6-3 overtime victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide avenged that loss in the BCS National Championship Game in the New Orleans Superdome with a 21-0 win to give Bama its 14th national championship and deprive the Tigers of a perfect season.

Alabama is undefeated this year, 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference games. LSU is 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the conference.

The SEC has seven teams ranked in this week's polls. In addition to number one Alabama and number five LSU in all polls: Georgia is 6th in Coaches and Harris and 7th in AP; Florida 8th in all three polls; South Carolina 11th in all three polls; Mississippi State is 15th in Harris, 71th in AP, and 18th in coaches; and Texas A&M 16th in both AP and Coaches and 18th in Harris.

The secret to Alabama success is no secret. The Crimson Tide of Coach Nick Saban has an outstanding defense.

Two-thirds of the way through the season, Alabama leads the nation in five important defensive statistical categories – the same categories Bama was best in college football in winning the 2011 crown.

Bama is first in scoring defense allowing 8.13 points per game, first in rushing defense allowing 57.25 yards per game, first in pass defense allowing 145.88 yards per game, first in pass defensive efficiency; and first in total defense, permitting just 203.13 yards per game.

LSU is also well-represented in defensive statistics – ninth in scoring defense, eighth in rushing defense, fourth in pass defense, second in pass efficiency defense, and third in total defense.

Alabama is also ranked in other categories.

The Tide is 11th in the nation in scoring at 40.63 points per game, 22nd in rushing (214.38 yards per game), second in passing efficiency, second in turnover margin, 26th in punt returns, and sixth in kickoff returns.

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron ranks first in the nation in pass efficiency. Tide safety Robert Lester is 24th in the nation in pass interceptions.

Saturday's contest between Alabama and LSU will have the teams with two of the three best records in the SEC since 2008. Alabama is 56-6 (.903) and tops in the SEC since 2008 and LSU is third at 48-13 (.787) since 2008. Since 2003, LSU has the SEC's best mark at 104-23 (.819) while Alabama is fourth at 89-36 (.712).

Alabama and LSU are 1-2 in stopping opponents' drives three-and-out. The Tide have held opponents 43.2 per cent (41 of 95) on three plays or less without a first down while LSU is second at 40.4 per cent (44 of 109).

Alabama leads the SEC in overall offensive drive efficiency, scoring on 53.6 per cent of its drives (52 of 97). Texas A&M is second at 49.1 per cent (54 of 110). Alabama (40.2 per cent, 39 of 97) and Texas A&M (40.0 per cent, 44 of 110) are also 1-2 in touchdown drive efficiency.

Alabama leads the SEC in overall defensive drive efficiency with opponents only scoring on 10.5 per cent of its drives (10 of 95). The Tide has allowed only seven touchdowns in 95 drives, a 7.4 per cent rate, which also leads the SEC. LSU is second in overall defensive drive efficiency (18.3 per cent, 20 of 109) while Florida is second in TD defensive drive efficiency (11.2 per cent, 11 of 98).

Alabama and Texas A&M are the only teams in the SEC to score first in all of its games this season. Ole Miss, Georgia and Texas A&M lead the SEC with 5 TDs scored on its opening offensive drives this season.

Missouri and Texas A&M lead the SEC with three defensive scores this season. Missouri also leads the SEC with three punt returns for TDs this season.

More than 4.9 million fans have gone to SEC home games this season. In 67 home games, there have been 36 capacity crowds and an average capacity of 96.86 percent. Last year, SEC home games had an average capacity of 95.75 percent.

SEC teams are now 33-7 (.825) against non-conference foes this year. The league has been over .800 each year since 2009. In 2008, the SEC was at .771 (37-11). Since 1992 (including bowls), the SEC is 765-232-2 (.767) against non-conference competition.

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