The 2011 season should look familiar to Alabama fans.
It's shouldn't be too unfamiliar to a few 'Bama players either.
Remember? 2009? The season where it felt like CBS had been promoting the SEC Championship game between No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama since the final round of the Masters?
Well, 2011 has not been much different. Everyone that's ever seen a football has been talking about the November 5th Alabama-LSU matchup in Tuscaloosa since at least June.
The 2009 season saw two teams separate themselves from the field and 2011 has been no different. The distance between the two has been more than a simple car length. If LSU and Alabama were in a race from California to New York with the rest of college football, Alabama and LSU would quickly be approaching Chicago while the rest of college football would be just east of Hawaii.
The same thing happened in 2009 when Alabama and Florida spent an entire regular season playing 12 trap games before they finally met as undefeated and unbeatable juggernauts in Atlanta.
This is good news, 'Bama fan, because your story has a happy ending.
The parallels are incredible.
Nick Saban had a pretty good team in 2008 that had it's season ruined in the SEC Championship by Urban Myer and a kid named Tim Tebow. It seemed Alabama had figured out the Gators until Tebow took over in the fourth and turned Alabama's 3-point lead into 11-point victory and eventually a BCS Championship.
Truth be known, Saban more than likely spent the next 364 days obsessing over how his team lost that game and how they should have won it. He knew that his team had just allowed an opportunity of a lifetime slip away in 15 short and dreadful minutes.
Fast forward and take a trip back in time to November 6, 2010. Dateline: Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
No. 6 Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) had lost at South Carolina on October 9, but was on pace to make a 1-loss run to a huge showdown with undefeated Auburn to decide the SEC West. The biggest obstacle was No. 10 LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC).
LSU's lone loss was to Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers. The Tigers of LSU could have been the best team in college football, but the quarterback play of Jordan Jefferson was a great equalizer. Defense and the run game were very solid and good enough to win any game, but even the drummer from Def Leppard felt sympathy for Jefferson's arm -- or lack thereof.
The 'Tide took a 7-3 after a 1-yard touchdown catch by Trent Richardson in the second quarter and held that lead going into halftime. The entire first half and the first three minutes of the third quarter had the feeling that Alabama could put the game away with one more touchdown. A two-possession lead would be nearly insurmountable with the horrendous play of Jefferson.
Jefferson had four touchdown passes for the entire season coming into the game. He had eight interceptions. There was no reason to believe he could do anything more than not get LSU beat.
With 8:17 left in the third quarter, Jefferson summoned the arm-strength of John Elway and the precision of Peyton Manning and threw a laser beam to Reuben Randle who never had to stop and look for the ball as it hit him in stride. Seventy-five yards later the Tigers a 10-7 lead.
Although 'Bama scored on the next possession to take the lead, the secret was out. 'Bama could be beaten. They were young enough to be exploited through the air on big plays and young enough to be too aggressive on a 4th-and-1 play that led to a DEANGLO PETERSON -- not Patrick, but DeAngelo -- 23-yard run on a reverse that was inspired by a blade of Tiger Stadium grass ingested by the Mad Hatter himself, Les Miles.
Alabama trimmed a 10-point deficit to three points late in the fourth quarter. On third-and-Shreveport, Jarrett "Pick-6" Lee threw a magnetic ball that fell in the magnetic hands of Reuben Randle -- AGAIN -- for a game-clinching 47-yard gain.
Alabama loses 24-21 and the season was over. The season still had so much hope coming in to the LSU game, but hope could longer float after the loss in Baton Rouge.
So there's Nick Saban again following a close loss that his team very well could have won.
In the words of poet and entrepreneur, Ludacris, “step back and rewind it back” to 2009. Alabama and Florida spent week-after-week pretending they were not paying attention to the other. Each team ran through the season with relative ease less Florida’s near disaster at home versus Arkansas and Alabama’s memorable drive at Auburn.
Saying these two teams dealt with talk of a rematch of the 2008 SEC Championship Game since September does not do it justice. People began talking about a possible rematch five minutes after the orange and blue confetti quit falling from the Georgia Dome rafters in 2008.
The 2009 SEC Championship Game was considered the de facto national championship game. It was considered the game of the century. This was the biggest game in the history of the SEC Championship to say the least. The nation was ready for a matchup of 12-0 Alabama and 12-0 Florida. Florida was No. 1 and Alabama was No. 2. This was the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 SEC matchup in the history of the league.
Now Alabama and LSU have the same billing. It’s now billed as the game of the century as well as the first-ever regular season No. 1 vs. No 2. meeting between SEC teams. It’s also the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup ever to take place inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
As a coach in the SEC, Nick Saban does not lose to the same team two years in a row. Saban is 13-1 in games against teams he lost to the previous season. The rematch that stands out most is the 2009 Florida game in the Georgia Dome.
The game was expected to be a defensive battle unless Tim Tebow brought the magic that he was known to summon from high above. One team could probably score 17 points and win.
How could Alabama beat Tebow? The guy just doesn’t lose. How could Saban lose to this team AGAIN and have two straight seasons ruined by Urban Myer and Timothy Tebow?
Alabama struck first and they struck hard. Alabama’s swarming defense had an answer for everything Florida’s offense threw at them. Alabama’s offensive line found themselves in the secondary blocking for Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson on more than one occasion.
The ‘Tide was on a mission and it was clear from about midway through the first half that Alabama had one thing on its mind in 2009 and that was not to lose to Florida. It wasn’t a “we are going to play well and hope to win” mentality. It was a “we plan on pounding you in the face and dominate you until you quit” mentality.
The final score was 32-13. It took 364 days for Saban to prepare for this dominating win. It took a little over 12 hours for Nick Saban to reduce Tim Tebow to tears and Urban Myer to
heart problems esophageal spasms that would force him to retire -- TWICE.
Saban loves to drive home a point all the while acting as if he’s just coaching one game at a time and making his players better players day-by-day.
Don’t believe for one second that Saban didn't hear the rumblings that his old job in Baton Rouge may be better off with Les Miles after the 24-21 victory last year. Don’t believe for one second that Saban didn’t hear the critics when they said he was out-coached by Les Miles.
OUT-COACHED. BY. LES. MILES.
Although the 2011 version of LSU and the 2009 version of Florida are complete opposites when it comes to style of play -- 2011's LSU is a mirror image of 2011's Alabama-- they share one common trait that may not bode too well for Les Miles and the Tigers.
They beat Saban one year and had to face him again the next season. Florida faced Saban and the ‘Tide three times since they beat the 'Tide in 2008. Alabama has outscored the Gators 101-29 in those three games.
LSU now has to look under the magical hat of Les Miles and find something that will prevent experiencing a similar fate as the Gators.
Don’t expect Les Miles to go the emergency room in the wee hours of November 6th, but don’t be surprised if the grass isn’t greener -- and tastier -- on Alabama's side of the fence.
Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericfromspfld
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