LSU vs. Alabama: 11 Stats You Must Know About the Game of the Century
Every preseason the prognosticators sit down and attempt to predict which matchups will be the most meaningful as the season develops.
In many cases the forecasters are proven incorrect, but in the case of the November 5 blockbuster clash between Alabama and LSU, the analysts were absolutely accurate.
It’s definitely the game of the 2011 season.
Both teams are a perfect 8-0, and seem to be mirror images of each other in many ways. This leaves even the most thoughtful onlooker wondering if either squad truly has an advantage coming into Saturday’s showcase showdown.
The following slideshow crunches a myriad of statistical data and produces 11 critical differences between LSU and Alabama’s 2011 teams that may prove decisive in who walks away with all the marbles on Saturday night.
To wrap up the statistical wizardry, we’ll close with a final slide that utilizes the given data to predict a winner in the 2011 Game of the Century.
Alabama’s Offense Produces More Yardage
Even though the two teams are virtually tied in point production (LSU has scored 39.5 points per game while Alabama has 39.4), the Crimson Tide has come out ahead in terms of both rushing and passing yards.
Alabama: 229.3 yards per game rushing/228.4 yards per game passing.
LSU: 189 yards per game rushing/183.1 yards per game passing.
That’s roughly 100 yards per game more total in production for Alabama.
Alabama’s Defense Has Allowed Less Yardage
Both teams have been stingy in terms of opponents scoring (the Tide have allowed only 6.9 points per game while LSU has allowed 11.5), but Alabama has the upper hand in opponents’ yards per game both on the ground and through the air.
Alabama: 44.88 rushing yards per game allowed/135.6 passing yards per game allowed.
LSU: 76.63 rushing yards per game allowed/174.8 passing yards per game allowed.
That’s approximately 70 yards less per game allowed in favor of the Crimson Tide.
LSU Has Played Better Opponents
With both teams so close from a statistical standpoint, it’s important to gauge who has played the stiffer schedule coming into this “winner takes all” meeting.
To be precise, we’ll look at this question in three different ways: ranked opponents played, overall current records of teams played and average offensive/defensive rankings of the foes thus far.
In terms of ranked opponents, LSU has faced five so far while Alabama has faced only three—both have two ranked foes left on their slate (this includes the game between the two).
Moving on to the current win/loss records of the total group of opponents faced, LSU’s bunch has won 58 percent of their games (combined) while Alabama’s adversaries have a 50 percent record.
Lastly, and perhaps most intriguing, LSU has faced opponents that on average rank 65.71 nationally in scoring offense and 45 in scoring defense, while the Tide’s foes rank 87.12 in scoring offense and 48.62 in scoring defense.
LSU clearly has played a more formidable set of opponents thus far in 2011, in all three areas.
LSU Doesn’t Turn the Ball Over
The Tigers have only lost the ball THREE TOTAL times in 2011, a stat that is breathtaking to the point that it makes Alabama’s eight total turnovers look a bit careless.
Combined with their 18 take-aways, LSU’s turnover margin is plus-15 while Alabama’s 14 take-aways earn the Tide a plus-six turnover margin.
LSU has the upper hand in all three categories: turnovers, take-aways and turnover margin.
LSU Commits More Penalties
Though the Tigers are more careful with the ball, they have been substantially more prone to being slapped with penalties.
LSU’s total penalty yards thus far in 2011 are 444 while Alabama has only been docked 236 yards.
That’s over 200 yards in eight games and a clear advantage for Alabama.
LSU Is More Successful in Field-Goal Attempts
In what could very well be a closely contested game, special teams, and more specifically field-goal kicking, could be crucial.
In terms of field goals, LSU is 10/12 for 83.3 percent in 2011 while Alabama is 12/16 for 75 percent.
Again, this really isn’t a big deal until, well, it is…
LSU’s Offense is Better in the Red Zone
Even though Alabama looks to have an edge offensively from a yardage standpoint (both are wickedly balanced), LSU has a clear advantage in the red zone this season.
The Tigers are a sizzling 97.44 percent in red zone scoring this year and have found the end zone in 79.49 percent of their red zone visits.
The Crimson Tide, on the other hand, are less impressively 85.37 in red-zone scoring and substantially lower with a 58.54 percent mark in red-zone TDs.
Another clear plus for Les Miles’ boys.
Alabama Has Allowed Fewer First Downs
The Crimson Tide’s defense has been nothing short of dominant in 2011, a fact that is bolstered by the fact that they’ve only allowed 79 first downs all season.
Alabama has a clear defensive advantage in this stat by virtue of LSU allowing 115 opponent first downs thus far this year.
Alabama’s Defense is Better in the Red Zone
Another example of the Tide’s edge defensively is illustrated by the fact that they’ve held their combined 2011 opponents to a mere 66.67 percent in terms of red-zone scoring.
LSU, on the other hand, has allowed points within their 20-yard line a whopping 93.75 percent of the time.
This is the widest statistical gap between the two in a major category, and really causes you to wonder about the possibility of its impact on the game.
Another defensive point for Alabama.
Tuscaloosa Has Little Historical Advantage for the Tide
Logically, the fact that this game is being played in Tuscaloosa should present an advantage for the Crimson Tide—though this makes good sense, history doesn’t really support the claim.
Though Alabama has a 45-24-5 all-time advantage in the series, the Tide are 3-7 in the last 10 meetings and only 4-6 in the last 10 games played in Tuscaloosa.
How about the last five games?
Well, Alabama is 2-3 in the last five total and 1-4 in the last five played in Bryant Denny.
Really, the home-field “advantage” is a draw with no clear winner.
Nick Saban is Better Against Ranked Teams
Over his career and at his present institution, Nick Saban has had more success against Top 10 teams than Les Miles.
Saban is 19-15 vs. Top 10 teams in his career and 9-4 at Alabama, while Miles is 12-12 all-time career and 10-8 against Top 10 foes at LSU.
Alabama has the edge in this category.
Who Wins the Game of the Century?
Though it seems borderline irresponsible to prematurely declare a winner based on a mere 11 sets of statistical comparisons, we have to remember that LSU and Alabama are neck-in-neck in almost every other major line item.
Included in the areas where the Tigers and Tide almost mirror one another, are points scored (38.4 vs. 39.5), yardage in kick-off and punt returns, average first downs (21.9 vs. 20.8), sacks (17 vs. 19), tackles for a loss (both have 61), time of possession (32:43 vs. 33:52), opponents' kickoff returns (19.93 vs. 19.78) and average margin of victory (28.625 vs. 27.75).
So, if we really can use the 11 categories where there is a difference between the two to determine the team that has a better chance of winning the game, who is that team?
Alabama has the upper hand in six categories including yardage gained, yardage allowed, penalties committed, red-zone defense, defense on first downs and past coaching success.
LSU has the upper hand in five categories including having faced more difficult opponents, turnovers, field goals and red-zone offense, and they don’t seem to lose much from having to play the game on the road.
Intriguingly, Alabama has a slight lead when we break it down by the sheer number of advantages, but that doesn’t completely take into account the individual importance of the categories themselves.
For me, LSU has a slight edge due to two huge facts: one, they’ve earned their stats with stiffer competition (which would realistically level the playing field statistically in some areas), and secondly, the turnover category which in reality is three numbers in one.
The Tigers lead in fewest turnovers, most take-aways and, therefore, turnover margin, which combined with the opponent resume (another three prong category) gives LSU a narrow advantage in the game of the century.
Very, very, very slim…and this is why the 2011 LSU-at-Alabama extravaganza has all the right stuff to be one for the ages.