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Best Games of 2011: Game of the Century, No. 1 LSU tops No. 2 Alabama

It was billed as the Game of the Century, an idiom that seems to surface every time we have a regular season game between the top two teams in the country. Top-ranked LSU traveled to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to face SEC West rival Alabama in the first weekend of November. National title hopes would continue for one and possibly be dashed for the other, depending on who you asked at the time.

Before we continue with a look back at the Baylor’s big win, and in case you have missed any of the previous segments, here are the games we have already reflected on:

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 1 LSU
November 5, 2011

The Quick Slant: LSU wins a battle of field goals in overtime to remain undefeated and on top of the college football world.

Game in Brief: LSU 9, Alabama 6 

If you wanted defense, this was the textbook example of how it should be played at its finest. LSU and Alabama entered the game outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 629-147 (LSU 314-92, Alabama 315-55). Neither team had allowed more than 14 points in SEC play, and that trend would continue on this day as the Crimson Tide and Tigers had a battle decided by field goal kicking.

As expected, the game was played pretty evenly. Both offenses struggled to do much of anything all game long. Each team turned the football over twice and neither offense generated 300 yards of offense. Alabama had an advantage in the passing game but LSU had the upper hand in running the football. Penalties were nearly even, although the Tide were penalized more yards on one fewer penalty. The time of possession was six seconds away from being split 50/50.

Alabama took a slim 6-3 lead in to the fourth quarter, but LSU’s Drew Alleman kicked a 30-yard field goal on the second play of the quarter and the defenses and special teams took it from there once again, forcing overtime.

Alabama was first up in the overtime, and things did not go well. A.J. McCarron’s first pass attempt was incomplete and to further complicate things a substitution penalty was called for a five-yard penalty. McCarron’s second pass attempt also fell incomplete, and on 3rd and 15 McCarron was sacked by LSU’s Sam Montgomery for another five yard loss, setting up what would be a futile 52-yard field goal attempt. Advantage, LSU.

LSU used their running game to ensure they held on to the football while moving up closer to the goal post. A 15-yard run by Michael Ford to the Alabama 7-yard line put the Tigers in great position, and three plays later Alleman ended it all with a 25-yard field goal to seal the victory for LSU.

“I’d be honored to face that team again,” LSU head coach Les Miles said after the game.

“They only beat us by three,” Alabama’s Marquis Maze said. “I hope we get that chance.”

Very well then…

What We Said Then (Full Story)

There were some questionable decisions made in this game by Saban. Going for a 52-yard field goal on a night when your kicking game clearly is struggling and having Maze back to return a punt when his ankle is causing some problems are the two that stand out to me. I don’t think I’d go so far as to say Saban was out-coached in this game, because it still went to overtime and his special teams failed him more than anything else with missed field goals, but there were few moments Saturday night where I saw a play by Alabama and thought, “That is such a smart decision by Saban.”

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Saban was more unlucky than out-coached in my opinion. Unlucky that his kicker Cade Foster couldn’t hit three of the field goals he sent him out there to convert. Unlucky that Marquis Maze couldn’t put a little more zip on that pass to get the Tide a touchdown, which ultimately resulted in an interception.

Hindsight is 20/20

977fe8828c8830a9e302e3a0299acd56-getty-136649940Just two months later college football got a rematch for the BCS Championship, like i or not. Was it the right match-up? If the idea of the BCS is to get the two best teams in to the championship game, and nothing else, then it is hard to argue against the rematch. Sure, Oklahoma State had a case for playing in the game, but Alabama proved that they were more than deserving of their opportunity as well.

Where does this Game of the Century rank among previous Games of the Century? It may take some time to fully appreciate this game for what it was, a defensive marvel. The lack of offense either turned you off completely from the game or was something you appreciated as something that makes the game so great. Going in to the game

LSU would go on to win the SEC championship, remaining undefeated heading in to the BCS championship game, and Alabama would not lose again. Now the question is which team is most likely to return to the BCS Championship game in 2013? Both teams will lose some top talent to the NFL once again this season, but if there is one thing we know about Alabama and LSU it is that they do not rebuild, just reload.

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Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Managing editor of Crystal Ball Run and contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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