If Tide fans end up celebrating their first National Championship in over 15 years on January 5th, 2009, they should remember to raise their glasses for at least one toast to the scheduling director at CBS Sports.
CBS announced this week that they had picked up the Tide’s November 8 matchup with LSU, and that the game would be scheduled for a 2:30 kickoff. That’s right: Alabama will avoid a dreaded night game in Death Valley.
The Tigers definitely prefer to play under the lights; since 1960, LSU is 201–59–3 (.773) at night in Tiger Stadium. Over the same time period, LSU is 20–22–3 (.476) in day games.
LSU has not lost a Saturday night game in Death Valley since the 2002 season.
‘Bama fans have been eyeing the showdown with LSU since nearly the moment the Tide strolled off the field up 31-0 over the Bulldogs in Athens. The win over Georgia set up an SEC West showdown that, at the time at least, seemed sure to hold National Championship implications for both schools.
Instead, LSU dropped two games to SEC East opponents, and seems to have fallen out of the Championship hunt. LSU’s dismantling at the hands of Georgia and Florida may have hurt them in more ways than they realize.
Were both Alabama and LSU still ranked in the Top 10, CBS may have scheduled their matchup under the lights in prime time. Instead, the Tigers are relegated to spoiler status, as not even the SEC West will be in contention; ‘Bama can lose to LSU and still go to Atlanta with wins over Mississippi State and Auburn.
The game will still have its drama, sure, as Nick Saban returns to Baton Rogue for the first time since he left following the 2004 season. And with homecoming bringing a token Sun Belt opponent to Tuscaloosa this Saturday, you can bet that fans in the Heart of Dixie are cautiously starting to eye what may be one of the last remaining hurdles for the Tide to overcome on its race back to the top.
But with dueling National Championships no longer on the line, the game becomes an afternoon sideshow rather than the game of the week. And with CBS taking away the prospects of a night game in Death Valley, 'Bama's hurdle just got a little bit shorter.