Stats show physicality of Alabama, LSU has minimal impact the next week

Over the past four seasons, LSU and Alabama are a combined 5-2 the week following their annual regular-season showdown. John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports

If you have followed SEC football in the past decade, you have probably heard some version of this assertion: If your team can play an opponent the week after it plays Alabama or LSU, your team’s chances of victory will improve because of the physical toll playing one of those two SEC West heavyweights can exact.

And if your team can take on Alabama or LSU the week after they play each other, all the better.

"LSU-Alabama has always been a physical matchup, and I guess most people feel like, either win or lose, that team’s going to be pretty beat up because of the physicality of that game," LSU offensive lineman Will Clapp said. "And then both teams invest so much into that game that either way it’s big emotion for either side, win or lose."

That’s a common perception that seems logical, but is there really an Alabama-LSU effect? Although it's difficult to quantify, we’ll provide some statistics today that seem to say no.

We examined Alabama and LSU’s regular-season opponents in the past four years and compared how the Tigers and Crimson Tide fared the week after the big showdown to their full-season averages from that year. Here are some of those findings:

After playing each other

Alabama is 4-1 against LSU in the regular season dating to 2011. In that time, both teams have lost a game the Saturday after their annual slugfest -- LSU lost 17-0 at Arkansas last season after losing to Alabama in overtime a week earlier, and Alabama lost 29-24 to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M a week after an emotional comeback win at Tiger Stadium.

Entering Saturday’s meeting with Mississippi State, Alabama is 3-1 the week after the past four LSU games. The Tide scored an average of 19.9 points per game fewer than its season averages the week after LSU and gained an average of 70.4 fewer yards. The defense surrendered 2.6 points per game more than its season trend and gave up 47.9 more yards in that small sample size.

LSU is 2-1 the week after the past four Alabama games -- a span that includes an open date after their 2013 meeting -- with games against Western Kentucky, Mississippi State and Arkansas. Thanks in large part to last season’s dismal performance against Arkansas, the Tigers scored 3.2 points fewer than their season average the week after Alabama and gained 42.6 fewer yards. On defense, they allowed 1.1 points less than their season average a week after Alabama and 20.2 fewer yards.

Opponents after facing Alabama

Teams who played regular-season games a week after playing Alabama won 54 percent of their games (269-229) overall since 2011. Believe it or not, however, those teams had a slightly better winning percentage the week after facing the Crimson Tide: 56.1 percent (23-18).

They scored 2.1 points above their season averages the week after playing Alabama and gained 15.5 more yards. Their defenses essentially performed the same the week after Alabama as they did over the full season, allowing 0.01 points fewer and 21.6 more yards than their season averages.

It should be noted, however, that there was a noticeable difference in weeks after playing Alabama in 2011 and 2012: the seasons when the Tide’s defensive and offensive fronts were particularly dominant. In particular, defenses coming off facing Alabama in 2012 surrendered 68.9 more yards than their season averages the following Saturday.

Opponents after facing LSU

Statistically, there is little difference between teams’ performances over a full season and their performances the week after facing LSU.

Tigers opponents since 2011 who played regular-season games the week after LSU won 58.4 percent of their games (319-227) overall. In only their games the Saturday after playing LSU, they won 54.5 percent (24-20).

Those opposing offenses scored 0.8 fewer points than their season averages and averaged 11.9 fewer yards. Their defenses allowed 0.4 more points than their season averages and surrendered 5.6 fewer yards.

In other words, Mississippi State and Arkansas fans hoping for an emotional letdown by either Alabama or LSU might have their wishes granted. It has happened before -- most notably last season when the Tigers produced a flat effort in Fayetteville. But the numbers over the past five seasons don’t show huge differences between Alabama and LSU's performances after playing each other compared to their season-long production, nor do they indicate that opponents have greater difficulty playing to their norms a week after facing Nick Saban's Tide or Les Miles' Tigers.

"I feel like each game in the SEC is a physical game," LSU defensive back Dwayne Thomas said. "As you can see, we played Auburn and then those guys had to play somebody tough the following week and we had to play somebody tough the following week. It’s going to keep happening. After we play Arkansas, we play Ole Miss. After we play Ole Miss, we play Texas A&M. It’s just going to get harder and harder."