LSU RB Michael Ford
"The Game of the Century" between Alabama and LSU in Tuscaloosa in November of 2011 was about as old school as it gets.
It was hard-hitting, smashmouth—and if you ask people from outside the SEC—it was boring. I loved it, but certainly understand why it was criticized.
When the two SEC juggernauts meet on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, many of the same storylines will exist that created the "Game of the Century" hoopla a year ago.
Alabama and LSU will still be fighting for a one-game lead in the SEC West, and in all likelihood the winner will play for the SEC Championship in the Georgia Dome. That game, as it turns out, acts more like a de facto national semifinal these days.
Will the 2012 meeting between the Tide and Tigers be more visually appealing than the 9-6 struggle last season? It certainly could be.
Everyone focuses on Alabama's defense, but this Crimson Tide offense can and will move the ball on LSU.
Quarterback AJ McCarron, who leads the nation in passing efficiency with a 182.41 rating, has thrown 18 touchdowns and not a single interception. Coming into this game last season, he had tossed 10 touchdowns and three interceptions, completing 67 percent of his passes.
He certainly wasn't bad heading into last year's matchup, but since then he has shed the "game-manger" label in favor of another one—"Heisman candidate." McCarron's evolution as a quarterback will open up Alabama's offense and put more pressure on LSU's fast, physical defense.
LSU still has some major issues to deal with.
The running game is still solid, and freshman sensation Jeremy Hill is the latest in a stable of Tiger running backs to emerge as a threat. But quarterback Zach Mettenberger hasn't progressed the way that Tiger fans have hoped.
The junior college transfer currently ranks ninth in the SEC with 177.4 passing yards per game and 11th with only seven touchdown passes on the season.
So, pretty much like every other quarterback that has taken snaps for LSU since the start of the 2008 season.
To LSU's credit, it has withstood the shaky quarterback play and remained in the national title hunt. The margin of error, however, is slim.
The loss to Florida earlier in the season has made every game a must-win from here on out, and facing off against a defense like Alabama when you're decidedly one-dimensional isn't exactly ideal.
Who will win on Saturday night?
Maybe—just maybe—LSU head coach Les Miles learned something from last season's BCS National Championship Game debacle. In that game, LSU had a Plan A—run the option with Jordan Jefferson—and didn't have a Plan B.
He'll have to have one this weekend vs. the Crimson Tide, and hopefully it will look a lot like the good ole days when Miles was truly the "Mad Hatter." Remember those times when he was going for it on five straight fourth downs and calling fly routes when all he needed was to center the ball and line up for a field goal?
Hopefully that guy returns this weekend, and this year's "Game of the Century" is a little more appealing nationwide.