University of Alabama

Top 10 SEC football games to watch in 2010: No. 4 is Alabama at LSU

The three-day bonanza that is SEC Football Media Days begins in Hoover, Ala., on July 21, ending the summer drought of college football news.

In the 10 days leading up to the event, the Ledger-Enquirer is counting down the top 10 SEC games to watch in 2010.

Date: Nov. 6

Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.

Last meeting: The No. 3 Crimson Tide rallied for 14 points in the fourth quarter, getting a 73-yard touchdown catch by Julio Jones in a 24-15 victory against the No. 9 Tigers in Tuscaloosa and clinching a spot in the SEC title game. LSU built an early lead but struggled offensively in the second half after losing quarterback Jordan Jefferson and running back Charles Scott to injuries.

Recent history: The Tigers won five straight in the series from 2003-07, in part due to the man currently standing on Alabama’s sideline — Nick Saban. But since Saban’s arrival in Tuscaloosa, the results have changed. The Crimson Tide have won the past two games in the series, including a 27-21 overtime thriller in Baton Rouge in 2008.

What’s at stake: These have been the two best programs in the SEC West in recent memory, with one of the two representing the West in the SEC championship game four times in the past five years. Alabama is the prohibitive favorite to win the division again, but LSU is only two years removed from a 12-win season. The Tigers have some company in the West’s second tier (Arkansas, Auburn), but they have played the Tide as tough as anybody the past two years.

Subplots: Any time Saban returns to his former stomping grounds in Baton Rouge, it’s going to make headlines. That’s especially true with the mounting criticism Les Miles is facing at LSU, where, fair or not, there is a perception that his success was due to the players Saban recruited. Alabama ran for 176 yards last year against LSU and will be looking for more against a Tigers front seven that must replace five starters. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, backup Trent Richardson and three offensive linemen return for the Tide, in addition to quarterback Greg McElroy and Jones, giving Alabama a versatile and veteran offense. LSU, meanwhile, hopes Jefferson, who was 10-for-17 for 114 yards and a score last year before getting hurt, will have shaken his Jekyll and Hyde performances by this point in the season.

— Andy Bitter