The story is told that longtime LSU Football Coach Charlie McClendon (1962-79) was fired despite his 137-59-7 record, a performance that earned him a Hall of Fame spot, because “he couldn’t beat Bear Bryant.” McClendon managed only a 2-14 record against Alabama under Bryant and mused after his firing, “Fellas, nobody can beat Coach Bryant.”
There was something to that. When it was pointed out that some 30 former players and assistant coaches under Bryant (including McClendon, who had played for Bryant at Kentucky) had gone on to be head coaches either in college or professional football, Georgia Coach Vince Dooley said, “I’d like to see the list of those he has put out of coaching.”
Today the onus on Southeastern Conference coaches is the difficulty in beating Alabama and Nick Saban. One of the complaints of the LSU faithful is that Saban’s successor, Les Miles, had a five-game losing streak to Alabama – a situation made worse by Saban having been the coach who raised LSU from the ashes before leaving -- and two years later beginning the building of a dynasty in Tuscaloosa.
With the firing of Miles, Saban – now in his 10th year at Alabama – has seen every other school in the conference change head coaches. Coincidence?
Now there is a belief by many that Miles’s interim successor, Ed Orgeron, will be get the job on a permanent basis if the Tigers can defeat the Crimson Tide this week. And if not…
The 81st edition of Alabama vs. LSU takes place in storied Tiger Stadium – Death Valley to the partisans – at 7 p.m. CDT Saturday with CBS televising the game.
It is difficult to fathom that Alabama leads the all-time football series against LSU with Bama having twice the number of wins as the Tigers. The Crimson Tide has an all-time record of 50-25-5 in the series.
One reason that number is so difficult to get one's head around is because the teams have been on near equal footing as both SEC and national powers in recent years.
Although the Tigers got off to a slow start, going 2-2 in its first four games, since Orgeron replaced Miles following the second loss, the Tigers have gone 3-0 and LSU is 3-1 in SEC games. The Tigers came in at No. 13 in the initial College Football Playoff poll Tuesday.
Alabama is 8-0 overall and 5-0 in SEC games and ranked first in the nation.
As an example of how close the series has been, the last five games in Tiger Stadium have seen the teams score an equal number of combined points – 103 each. There have been two overtime games. The Tide is 3-2 in those five meetings, including a 20-13 win in Bama’s last trip to Baton Rouge in 2014.
Alabama has a five-game winning streak against the Tigers, going back to the 2011 BCS national championship game when the Tide took a 21-0 victory at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Alabama has an all-time record of 26-9-2 in Baton Rouge and has won 20 of the last 25 games in Tiger Stadium.
Since 2005 there have been seven games decided by seven points or less. Since Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007, six of those games have been decided by a touchdown or less and three have been overtime games.
LSU’s last win over Alabama in Tiger Stadium came in 2010, a 24-21 outcome. The Tigers also won the next year in regular season play in Tuscaloosa, a 9-6 overtime decision.
This will be the 11th consecutive game in which both teams are ranked in the top 20.
From 2000-2011, LSU was 9-3 against Alabama, including a five-game winning streak, 2003-07. Saban was head coach of the Tigers from 2000 through 2004 and LSU won four of the five games against Alabama in that time. At Alabama, Saban is 7-3 against his former team.
All four Alabama-LSU overtime games have come since 2005 with each team winning twice.
LSU didn’t beat Alabama in Tiger Stadium from 1971 through 2000 when Saban coached the Tigers to a 30-28 victory to snap an LSU streak of no wins in 15 games against Bama in Baton Rouge.
Since 1996, the home team in the series is 8-12.
In four meetings, 2011-13, one of the teams was ranked No. 1 in the nation – LSU in the 2011 regular season game and in the national championship game, Alabama in 2012 and 2013.
As a head coach, Orgeron is 0-3 against Alabama, all coming when he was at Ole Miss (2005-07). The three games were decided by a total of 9 points.