It was 52 years ago Monday that Billy Cannon ran a punt back for a touchdown on Halloween night in Tiger Stadium.
The touchdown gave Cannon the Heisman Trophy and the No. 1-ranked Tigers a victory against No. 3 Ole Miss. It also became the most famous play in LSU football history.
It’s fitting that the anniversary kicks off the game week of the most significant regular-season game in LSU history.
That’s consistent with a perfect storm of events that have conspired to make Saturday’s game between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as important and as eagerly anticipated a college football game as you can possibly have before Daylight Savings Time ends.
It all started before the season did as the preseason Associated Press poll had both teams high enough — Alabama at No. 2 and LSU at No. 4 — that getting to the top two spots by the first Saturday in November didn’t require a whole lot of help even though the Crimson Tide finished fourth and the Tigers third in the Southeastern Conference West Division last season.
The Tigers’ schedule — opening with No. 3 Oregon — gave them an opportunity to set the wheels in motion, and they took care of the Ducks 40-27 to generate a buzz about their team and start the jostling atop the polls.
Two more victories against ranked teams in September — at then-No. 25 Mississippi State and at then-No. 16 West Virginia — moved LSU into the top spot.
Eventually, the coaches who vote in the USA Today poll, who had stubbornly kept Oklahoma No. 1 since the preseason, had to give in and move LSU to No. 1, while they kept Alabama at No. 2, after the Sooners lost to Texas Tech last week.
That all but guaranteed the Tigers and the Tide would be 1-2 in the BCS rankings when they meet. The fact that both teams had an open date last week set up a Super Bowl-esque two-week buildup.
The television networks did their part to enhance this matchup as CBS and ESPN worked out a deal that enabled CBS to show the game in prime time. The deal also laid the groundwork for a possible repeat of this situation next season when the Tigers and Tide meet in Tiger Stadium.
Part of the network deal guaranteed LSU will have something it didn’t have this year — an SEC night game at home — when it plays Alabama. Given the depth and youth in these two programs, they could find themselves in similar positions at this time next year. But that’s a story for another day.
This one is about one ball game that will likely determine the SEC West Division title, just as likely establish the prohibitive favorite in the SEC Championship Game and set that team up to possibly play for what would be the SEC’s sixth consecutive BCS championship.
Also, both teams are about as healthy as could be expected eight games into a season, enhancing the chances both teams play their best.
Oh, yeah, and there’s that whole Nick Saban-used-to-be-LSU’s-coach thing.
This one has it all, and the anticipation will continue to build until 7:11 p.m. Saturday.
Regardless of what happens in Bryant-Denny Stadium, Cannon’s place in Tigers’ history remains secure. The championship teams of 1958, 2003, and 2007 and the most significant games they played will retain their equally secure niches.
But go ahead and soak up the next six days, folks.
This one might be talked about for the next 52 years.