How can LSU beat Nick Saban and Alabama in Tuscaloosa? Most tremendous a capture few know – ESPN
1:00 AM ETChris LowESPN Senior Staff Writer Close College football reporter Joined ESPN.com in 2007 Graduate of the University of TennesseeTUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Since his first season at Alabama in 2007 when the Crimson Tide just barely made a bowl game, Nick Saban hasn't lost many games.He's a staggering 147-15.LSU knows that. The Tigers have…
1:00 AM ET

  • Chris LowESPN Senior Workers Author

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    • College football reporter
    • Joined ESPN.com in 2007
    • Graduate of the College of Tennessee

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Since his first season at Alabama in 2007 when the Crimson Tide factual barely made a bowl game, Nick Saban hasn’t lost many video games.

He is a staggering 147-15.

LSU is aware of that. The Tigers include squared off in some memorable matchups against their damaged-down coach. Nonetheless this year, No. 2 LSU arrives in Tuscaloosa with quite of extra scoot at the abet of its quiet offense led by Heisman candidate Joe Burrow ready to opt out on the No. 3 Crimson Tide (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, CBS).

The Tigers will need all of their newfound firepower at Bryant-Denny Stadium. To actually keep the Crimson Tide’s dwelling dominance below Saban in perspective, mediate about this: They’ve won one extra nationwide championship below Saban since his first season (five) than they’ve lost football video games (four) at dwelling.

Dispose of coronary heart, Tigers. It be a elaborate, nonetheless no longer no longer ability, task. We requested key figures from these four wins why it be so great to opt out down the Tide — and the procedure in which they did it.

“It be a distinct atmosphere. Everybody in that building is confident they’re about to kick your ass,” mentioned Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who was once Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator in 2012 when Johnny Manziel and the Aggies raced out to a 3-touchdown lead and then held on to beat Alabama 29-24 in Tuscaloosa.

“You factual truly feel the expectation of that fan immoral, that they are going to dominate you. You gotta overcome that as a street opponent and factual reduce it loose. We got out on them 20-zero, and even when that it is doubtless you’ll presumably also very properly be rolling, it be coming.

“You gotta be obvious guys dart in there believing they’ve an opportunity to opt out that game.”

That is lots more straightforward mentioned than performed.

Alabama hasn’t lost a dwelling football game since a 43-37 loss to No. 15 Ole Streak over on Sept. 19, 2015, a bound of 31 video games, the longest dwelling a hit bound within the nation. The Crimson Tide’s previous 28 wins at dwelling include been by no longer much less than 14 capabilities, and no-one has near inner three touchdowns of Alabama in Tuscaloosa since they beat No. 19 LSU 24-10 in 2017.

As opposed to Ole Streak over and Texas A&M, the perfect other two colleges to beat Saban at Bryant-Denny Stadium since his first season were LSU in 2011, in a 9-6 triple-time beyond law slugfest, and Auburn in 2010, when the Tigers and Cam Newton rallied from a 24-zero second-quarter deficit to opt out 28-27.

The four dwelling losses by Saban within the direction of that span were by a blended total of 15 capabilities, and all four coaches who beat him are in diversified locales now.

“For Alabama to be that consistent, it speaks volumes referring to the depth chart Nick has built, his coaches and the atmosphere and custom there at Bryant-Denny,” mentioned Hugh Freeze, who suggested Ole Streak over to abet-to-abet wins over Alabama in 2014 and 2015 and is now the pinnacle coach at Liberty College. “In that league, that it is doubtless you’ll simply hump up and include a immoral day and any individual has ample gamers to beat you on extra than one Saturday.

“Nonetheless that factual would no longer occur to Nick. His anecdote speaks for itself. It takes a distinct knowing and a distinct perception that that it is doubtless you’ll fabricate it, especially to enter their location and opt.”

When LSU won in Tuscaloosa in 2011, the Tigers were ranked No. 1 nationally and the Crimson Tide No. 2. LSU will return because the nation’s top-ranked crew on Saturday night, even though no one expects the extra or much less defensive fight that gripped that 2011 affair, which featured 28 defensive gamers — 14 on each and every aspect — who would dart on to be chosen within the NFL draft, including 10 first-rounders.

One in every of these first-rounders was once LSU safety Eric Reid, who’s now in his seventh season within the NFL.

“I include in thoughts they known as it the ‘Game of the Century.’ Did any one even ranking a touchdown?” requested Reid, who wrestled the ball faraway from Alabama tight cease Michael Williams at the operate line for a fourth-quarter interception that saved a touchdown. “We got out of there with a opt. It didn’t imply great, even though, because they got an opportunity to play us again within the nationwide championship [and won].

“We were the SEC West champions, the SEC champions, and they were the nationwide champions. That was once unfamiliar.”

Reid, now with the Carolina Panthers, couldn’t face up to throwing quite of color Alabama’s procedure when requested why the Tide include been so perfect at dwelling below Saban, simplest extra illustrating that the Alabama-LSU competition endures long after gamers dart away the 2 campuses.

“They pay the refs,” Reid mentioned, laughing. “Nah, their machine works, and clearly they win gargantuan gamers yearly, and they’re a disciplined football crew. They don’t form many mistakes.”

One in every of Reid’s LSU teammates that season, receiver Odell Beckham Jr., mentioned it begins and ends with Saban.

“You respect, Nick Saban, he is the Bill Belichick, in my eyes, of what’s occurring. They remind me of each and every other. He is factual got a machine, and Alabama gets gamers,” mentioned Beckham, now with the Cleveland Browns.

Freeze is of the same opinion with Kingsbury that having a edifying perception that it is doubtless you’ll opt in Tuscaloosa is as major as something else. The Crimson Tide include won their 31 straight video games at dwelling by an moderate margin of 32.3 capabilities per game, even though simplest six of these opponents within the direction of that a hit bound include been nationally ranked.

The Rebels had already overwhelmed the Crimson Tide in Oxford the year before they won in Tuscaloosa, and Freeze mentioned that was once mountainous for his crew’s self perception.

“I aloof include in thoughts my pregame advise in 2014 when we beat them at our location,” Freeze recounted. “I told them, ‘We are going to opt out the sport. The operate posts are coming down and don’t let them fall on you.’ Those were my final words to them. Then that next year, I preached to them that we were the higher crew. I do no longer know if we entirely were, nonetheless they believed that and went out and performed that procedure.”

Ole Streak over won the turnover fight 5-zero within the direction of its 2015 opt over Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and Freeze acknowledged that was once a gargantuan key to the opt, a game that seen the Rebels play without one amongst their simplest gamers, suspended offensive take care of Laremy Tunsil. Freeze mentioned the different key, while you occur to would possibly perchance perhaps also very properly be going to opt out in Tuscaloosa, is having a distinction-maker at quarterback.

“Even as you occur to identify no longer need a guy who can form plays thru the air, it be almost no longer ability to beat them,” mentioned Freeze, whose quarterback in 2015 (Chad Kelly) threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns. “You are factual no longer going to switch in there, withhold watch over the ground game and be one-dimensional and beat them. It begins with a quarterback who can form plays within the passing game, and clearly LSU has that this year in Joe Burrow.”

Texas A&M had that in Manziel, who passed for 253 yards and rushed for ninety two against Alabama. And in 2010, Auburn had the final distinction-maker in Newton, because the eventual nationwide champion Tigers snapped a 20-game dwelling a hit bound by the Crimson Tide.

The Tigers, unbeaten and ranked No. 2 within the nation, were down 24-7 at the half of and didn’t ranking a touchdown within the principle half of till there was once 5:08 to play when Newton hit Emory Blake for 36 yards to total a 78-yard scoring pressure.

In the locker room at halftime, Auburn coach Gene Chizik had a really pointed message for his crew.

“I would possibly provide an explanation for you what’s going to occur,” Chizik told his crew. “We’re getting the ball popping out. We are going to opt out the principle possession down and ranking, and this game is on!”

Even now, Chizik can characterize some of these “I’m no longer truly obvious about this” appears as he glanced around the locker room, and that’s when he became it over to Newton — within the locker room and then on the discipline within the second half of.

“He was once pissed. We were all pissed, and we got after them within the locker room. We didn’t pull any punches,” Chizik mentioned.

And factual as Chizik predicted, Auburn scored a minute into the third quarter on Newton’s 70-yard touchdown scamper to Terrell Zachery, one amongst three touchdowns Newton accounted for within the second half of, and a comeback for the ages was once on.

“It be great to beat Alabama, duration. I don’t care the put you play them,” mentioned Chizik, who now works as an ESPN/SEC Network analyst. “Nick has performed what I mediate goes to be an unparalleled job wherever. Nonetheless while you couple the incontrovertible truth that that it is doubtless you’ll presumably also very properly be continuously going to switch against an Alabama football crew that’s loaded with skills, coached as properly as any one within the nation and then you stroll into that atmosphere… that atmosphere is beautiful breathtaking on these sorts of days.

“Even as you occur to let (the followers) win into the sport early, that atmosphere turns into truly great to beat. You watched about these three things. You’ve gotten got got the entire skills assembled. You’ve gotten got got one of the most perfect coaching within the nation, and also you’ve got an environment perfect now that would possibly perchance perhaps also be a feeding frenzy on success. Those three things perfect there form it truly, truly great to opt accessible.”

Having damaged-down gamers helps, too, especially a senior chief who makes a form of never-give-up plays factual before halftime. Alabama’s Imprint Ingram broke free for what appeared to be a touchdown on a immediate scamper, a ranking that can include given the Tide a 28-zero lead. Nonetheless senior defensive cease Antoine Carter got right here out of nowhere to punch the ball out of Ingram’s fingers from at the abet of, and the ball squirted thru the cease zone for a touchback.

“That play swung the momentum of the football game,” mentioned Ted Roof, who was once the Auburn defensive coordinator in 2010 and is now the defensive coordinator at Appalachian Order. “It was once a gargantuan testament to that crew’s aggressive will. After that, the momentum swung. We performed lights out the the relaxation of the sport.”

Roof mentioned Carter’s hustle play moreover helped set the tone for a halftime locker room that was once extra about correcting mistakes than it was once pointing fingers.

“You do no longer ever turn in your gamers. You perfect them great, nonetheless you never turn on them,” Roof mentioned. “They knew what was once at stake, too. If (Carter) would no longer dart Ingram down, there would doubtlessly be no SEC championship and no nationwide championship. We had such solid leadership from our seniors. They got it. They knew it was once a 60-minute football game.”

It be moreover no longer ability to over-emphasize the psychological phase while you occur to would possibly perchance perhaps also very properly be going to beat Saban in Bryant-Denny Stadium, even while you occur to include to drop Ivan Drago analogies.

Yes, Ivan Drago.

Outdated to Texas A&M a hit in Tuscaloosa in 2012, Kingsbury mentioned the coaches showed tape to the offensive gamers all week of Georgia Southern rushing for 302 yards the outdated season against an Alabama defense ranked first nationally against the dart.

It was once a web insist out of Rocky Balboa’s camp before he fought the gruesome Russian.

“It was once your entire ‘Rocky’ component,” Kingsbury mentioned. “We actually showed three touchdown runs by Georgia Southern to the crew factual to prove, ‘Yeah, they’re no longer a machine,'” Kingsbury mentioned. “We wished to prove to them that they are able to truly mediate.”