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51 Days ‘Til Alabama Football: The hard-hitting Alabama vs. LSU rivalry

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A hot-and-cold, high stakes affair

NCAA Football: Alabama at Louisiana State
Having fun against that defense, Leonard?
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron was brutally honest about the goal for a Tigers’ program -- “I know that the LSU head coach has to beat Alabama.” And, for Alabama, this is the physical testing ground: standing toe to toe with the only team in the country that can match them physically.

Ole Miss may be a more loathed rivalry for LSU, and the Auburn-LSU hate is long-standing, but, for over a century, the Tigers have had one goal: to meet or exceed the standard of Alabama football (and beat them in everything else possible.) And, for the Tide, the LSU series has been a hard-hitting proving ground though some times lacking the animus of Tennessee or Auburn. For the past decade, these two programs have determined the fate of the West far more than any other matchup, and that is true despite Auburn playing for two national titles.

Alabama and LSU first played a mere three years into their respective existences, in 1895, a meeting won by the Tigers 12-6. The two would swap wins over the next two meetings before one of the most bizarre trends in college football emerged in 1904, with the visitors winning the majority of the games. Only 42% of the time has the home team posted the W. It is unlike anything else in college football. And, it still endures. In the last decade, the Tigers have won 40% of their meetings in Bryant-Denny. The Tide, meanwhile, have won 80% of their meetings in Baton Rouge.

The series record is 51-25-5 in favor of the Tide, with the Tide holding a brutal, coach-firing, six-game winning streak over LSU. The Game of the Century was the last time LSU tasted success against ‘Bama. The series record streak is 11 games, posted by the Alabama juggernaut of the ‘70s. LSU, meanwhile, had its most sustained success in the 2000s, winning five straight at one point and seven-of-eight. And, unlike some other wild or heated SEC series this has usually been a contest of brutality, low scores, and old school throwback football (After 81 meetings over 120 years, the series average score is still Alabama 19 LSU 12.)

Here is Alabama’s record per decade versus the Tigers.

Per decade W L T PFPG PAPG

2010's 6 2 0 20.9 12.0

2000's 3 7 0 20.5 23.9

1990's 8 2 0 20.4 12.8

1980's 5 4 1 20.4 14.9

1970's 9 1 0 21.8 8.9

1960's 5 1 0 17.8 8.2

1950's 2 3 1 8.3 13.5

1940's 2 2 1 24.2 20.6

1930's 1 0 0 33.0 0.0

1920's 6 0 2 23.0 1.6

1910's 1 0 0 23.0 0.0

1900's 3 2 0 8.2 5.4

1890's 0 1 0 6.0 12.0

The hiring of Nick Saban, the Tide’s success in recruiting the usually-closed borders of Louisiana, the exceptional competition in other sports, the Tide’s razor-thin and often-improbable victories in Baton Rouge, and above all, winning a rematch that no LSU fan believes should have been made possible, have only stoked the fires of the hardest-hitting game in the country.

I, for one, await this game more than any other on the schedule. The intensity of the two fan bases, the inebriated bonhomie, and the tailgating environment when the two meet cannot be beat. And, the violence and physicality of the scrums on the field aren’t much more different in 2017 than they were in the game’s 19th century infancy.

But, of course, I most look forward to tearing their hearts out and adding to Alabama’s 51 series wins.

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51 days ‘til Alabama football.

Roll Tide