You’d have to go back to the 2005 Orange Bowl, where the USC Trojans thrashed the Oklahoma Sooners 55-19, to find a title game as one-sided, and with as much NFL talent as the rematch of the Game of the Century.
January 5th, 2012 seemingly marked an entirely new era in Alabama football; it was the last year of the vaunted 2008 NSD class that helped build Saban’s dynasty. The young talent on-board had signed on to a well-established machine. But, for the seniors of the 2011 season, it would be their valedictory. They would not be denied. And, together, the old vets and the new kids put together the hardest hitting games you’ll ever see.
The offense for both teams had seen better days, to be sure. But, for all practical purposes, these were two NFL teams meeting in a d-league game, with college coaching and college development. An unreal 45 players suited up in the Sugar Bowl for the rematch.
The defenses, though, on both occasions for both teams was played at high a level as you could possibly expect to see. Through eight quarters and an overtime period, the offenses combined for one solitary touchdown.
That touchdown? It would be the nail in the coffin of LSU’s historic season; it would mark the beginning of a nasty turn in the rivalry; it would launch Alabama to its 14th National Championship; it would be a run that seemingly broke the LSU Tigers for the next half dozen meetings; it would be the beginning of the end of Les Miles’ tenure in Baton Rouge; and, it would launch a Heisman campaign for the player who scored it.
Ladies and gentlemen, the signature moment of the Alabama vs. LSU offensive output for the 2011 season: Trent Richardson’s 34-yard score with just 3:49 to play.
What ever it was about that game and that touchdown, LSU has simply never been the same again. Since losing the Game of the Century on a night where Alabama outplayed the Tigers, the Tide have always dug a little deeper, while the Tigers have, sometimes inexplicably, taken the loss.
The next year, LSU’s offensive line imploded in the second-half of a winnable game, leading to a late rout: 38-17 Tide.
In 2014, again in Baton Rouge, the Tigers would take a ridiculously stupid penalty, blow a touchdown lead, give up an improbable tackle-eligible deep ball, and lose in overtime: 20-13 Tide.
In 2015, LSU walked into Bryant Denny with a No. 2 ranking and the Heisman favorite: Win and the West was theirs. Larger goals were on the horizon. But, Adam Griffith kicked a freakishly long FG to give ‘Bama a 13-10 lead at half, and then LSU got manhandled in the second half. It would be Alabama that got the victory, the No. 2 ranking, and eventually that Heisman trophy: 30-16 Tide.
In 2016, when we though the era of the defensive slugfest was over, Alabama and LSU put on an encore in Tiger Stadium, playing a scoreless game through three and a half quearters. But, as in 2011, LSU’s offense died. And, as in 2012, a superior Alabama athlete weaved his way untouched for the deciding score: 10-0 Tide.
Who knows what’s in store for 2017? It will be hard-hitting, to be sure. It will likely be low-scoring and physical. But, if history is any indication, at some point, the Ghost of Trent Richardson’s Touchdowwn will rise up and the Tigers will mentally and physically lose the BCS championship for the seventh straight time.