Pasquali’s Pix: Vols to prevail on the Bayou; Saban to rout Jimbo

LSU Athletics photo / LSU tight end Robert Royal comes up with the deciding touchdown reception on a 25-yard pass from Rohan Davey in a 38-31 overtime win by the Tigers over Tennessee in 2000.

Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher may not agree on whether Texas A&M's 2022 signing class was bought and paid for by name, image and likeness opportunities as the two coaches head into Saturday night's showdown in Tuscaloosa.

What is certain is that the two packed quite the 1-2 punch back in the day in Baton Rouge.

LSU had seven losing records during the 1990s and went 7-15 during the 1998-99 seasons before hiring Saban from Michigan State, who in turn hired Fisher as offensive coordinator. The Tigers went from an eight-loss season in 1999 to an eight-win season in 2000, and they would go on to win the Southeastern Conference championship in 2001 and SEC and BCS national titles in 2003.

That rapid ascension transpired to a large degree at the expense of Tennessee, with the first significant win of the Saban era coming his initial season via a 38-31 overtime win over the No. 11 Volunteers.

"The thing I remember about that game was that I never had any policemen when I was a coach up north," Saban said Wednesday, "so I wasn't used to having two guys kind of guard me. I actually asked them, 'Why do you guys do this?'

"When we won this game and they stormed the field, I certainly had a great appreciation for those two cops getting me out of there. I still have a great appreciation for them."

The Tigers took their 38-31 lead on a 25-yard pass from Rohan Davey to tight end Robert Royal and sealed the triumph by forcing an A.J. Suggs incompletion on fourth-and-3 from the LSU 4.

"I can remember it to this day," Fisher said. "It was on the right hash, and Robert caught a double-move corner post. We hit it on the first play of overtime."

Leading up to the 2001 SEC championship against the Vols, Fisher had designed some quarterback draws for Davey that wound up being used by Matt Mauck after Davey got injured in the first half.

"We had some empty (backfield) stuff that we wanted to run, and it wasn't just draws," Fisher said. "There were some quarterback powers and some quarterback counters, a lot of the stuff that people do today. We got in two tight ends and three wideouts and mixed that in, and we wanted a package to where if Matt had to play, he could do very well.

"We lost Ro and (running back LaBrandon) Toefield both in that game and were down 17-7 at halftime, but we came back and scored five out of six drives and won 31-20. We were big underdogs. They were going to play for the national championship. They had one heck of a team."

The 2001 SEC title game occurred weeks before Steve Spurrier announced his retirement at Florida. The prevailing thought was that Phillip Fulmer's Vols might replace the Gators as the league's dominant program moving forward, but Saban had a say in that and still obviously does to this day.


The biggest point spread in the history of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry accompanies Saturday's 127th chapter, as Georgia is favored over Auburn by 29.5 points, but Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart continues to consider this a very special series.

"It's the overlap through history, whether it was Vince Dooley went to school there or Pat Dye went to school here," Smart said. "They're both icons of their schools, and they crossed over. There is a lot of geographic connectedness there in terms of how far we are from them and they are from us.

"There are a lot of Auburn fans and people who go to school there from our state, which makes for a link there, and there have been some classic, meaningful battles over the years."


Arkansas senior linebacker Bumper Pool has averaged 14.3 tackles in his past three meetings against Mississippi State University, and the Razorbacks head to Starkville this weekend with the 6-foot-2, 232-pounder needing 14 to surpass Tony Bua's school career mark of 408.

"I think he's good," MSU coach Mike Leach said. "I think he's got one of the greatest college football names ever, especially for his position."

Pasquali's Pix

Tennessee at LSU: The Tigers are 13-1 against SEC East foes in Baton Rouge since 2010, a run that began that year with their wacky 16-14 topping of Tennessee. Vols 38, Tigers 30.

Arkansas at Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are 16 of 17 in red-zone opportunities this season with 15 touchdowns. The Hogs could be without quarterback KJ Jefferson. Bulldogs 27, Razorbacks 24.

Missouri at Florida: These two programs are 5-5 versus one another since the Tigers joined the league in 2012. Gators 31, Tigers 16.

Auburn at Georgia: The average score of a Georgia game this season is 39-11. The average score of an Auburn game is 22-22. Bulldogs 37, Tigers 6.

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt: Lane Kiffin is 20-8 with the Rebels through his first 28 games. The legendary Johnny Vaught was 20-7-1. Rebels 30, Commodores 13.

Duke at Georgia Tech: Mike Elko is winning at an 80% clip as Blue Devils coach. Brent Key is winning at a 100% clip as Yellow Jackets interim coach. Blue Devils 28, Yellow Jackets 21.

South Carolina at Kentucky: The Wildcats have won seven of the past eight series meetings after losing 13 of the previous 14. Wildcats 30, Gamecocks 17.

Texas A&M at Alabama: It's the most expensive showdown in college football history, with Alabama's Saban making $10.7 million this year and A&M's Fisher $9 million. Crimson Tide 41, Aggies 10.

Other picks:

Memphis 31, Houston 24

Michigan 35, Indiana 16

Louisville 26, Virginia 23

Oklahoma State 38, Texas Tech 31

Pitt 22, Virginia Tech 19

UAB 34, Middle Tennessee 27

Ohio State 49, Michigan State 28

Miami 27, North Carolina 20

Clemson 30, Boston College 22

USC 33, Washington State 15

Wake Forest 29, Army 10

Notre Dame 24, BYU 17

Oregon 37, Arizona 30

N.C. State 20, Florida State 13

TCU 32, Kansas 29

Texas 28, Oklahoma 21

Washington 45, Arizona State 26

Last week:

Winners — 20

Mizzou field goals — 5

Pasquali is 108-17 overall (86.4%) this season.

Contact David Paschall at