LSU vs. Alabama: 10 Reasons the Game Will Live Up to the Hype
It was the game circled on the calendar since before the season started. Both teams had national championship aspirations, but neither could get there without a win in this game.
There were supposed to be major hurdles that would stand in opposition; they all were conquered, but one more giant lies in the way.
This is not a battle of David and Goliath. There is no small warrior in this matchup. These are two of the most talented football teams ever to take the field and 60 minutes of game time will change history forever.
Can this game possibly live up to the hype? We have seen this story line before but left disappointed and empty. This will not be the case in this year's version of the game of the decade.
This game will match the hype and even more.
Alabama Will Not Come out Flat This Game
Alabama has only had one major flaw that I have observed this season. In the last three games against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Tennessee, the Tide has come out flat. In their last game against Tennessee, they were tied 6-6 against a team who had lost their top two players to injury.
In my opinion, this was because they knew inside that their scout teams could have possibly beaten these teams. The lackluster approach that they have had recently will not be present this weekend.
Alabama knows that they cannot come out half-hearted against LSU or they will dig themselves a hole. Nick Saban will give his most inspiring speech since the Auburn game last season when the Tide came out and dominated the Tigers in the first half.
In the Tide's last three games, they did not look emotionally invested in the first half. This time their goal will be not to become too emotional. The players on both teams will both be focused and dialed in to what needs to be done.
Both teams have been here before and will know how to conduct themselves.
Alabama Is Great at Home, but LSU Is Great on the Road
Under Nick Saban, Alabama has been amazing at home. Since 2008, the Crimson Tide have a home record of 25-1. Their only loss came last season at the hands of the Auburn Tigers, who would go on to win the national championship.
If any team is up for the task of winning a ball game at Bryant-Denny Stadium this season, it is the LSU Tigers. Les Miles has led the Bayou Bengals outside of Tiger Stadium three times this season against teams that were ranked.- All three times they were victorious.
This is important because Bryant Denny Stadium might host the loudest crowd in Alabama history this week. While nothing can fully prepare you for that experience, LSU is battle tested on the road.
As electric as Tuscaloosa might be Saturday night, the Tigers will not be intimidated. I believe there are only two teams that could play in an atmosphere like the one that the Tigers will face Saturday, and they are LSU and Boise State.
While Miles might come off as a tad eccentric, he is the perfect coach for this environment.
No One Injury Can Stop Either Team
Most games that are over-hyped are done so because of the star power of a handful of players who are participating in the game. The problem with this type of game is that if the star player goes down, then the game loses its excitement.
We observed this in the 2009 National championship game when Texas star quarterback Colt McCoy left the game with an injury. It cheapened the game.
The LSU-Alabama game will not be at risk for this type of letdown. Alabama’s Trent Richardson and LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu are the game’s most recognized players. However, either team could lose these two stars and not miss much of a beat.
The depth of both teams is nothing short of astonishing. If Richardson goes down with an injury, he will be replaced by one of next season's Heisman favorites Eddie Lacy. If LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee goes down, he will be replaced by a quarterback who has amassed a record of 20-7 as a starter.
Alabama and LSU are stacked with seasoned and experienced players at almost every position. This is what sets these two teams apart from the other top teams this year.
If Andrew Luck goes down, Stanford becomes mediocre. If Kellen Moore goes down, Boise State is just another WAC team. This example is true across the board.
Too Many Playmakers on Defense for a Blowout
Both teams are filled with future NFL players on the defensive side of the football. Even if one player is having a bad game, the other 10players on the field are going to help cover his deficiencies.
Alabama is No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense. LSU, on the other hand, is No. 3. Alabama and LSU are in the top five in both pass defense and rushing defense.
People have debated to nausea about which team is better defensively. The general consensus is that one is more physical and the other is more disruptive, but they are both dominant. Alabama makes teams lie down and quit, while LSU forces teams into one mistake after another.
As you look at these defenses, you can find areas which are stronger than others, but neither defensive unit has a visible weakness.
Even if one offensive unit finds a rhythm Saturday night, neither will be able to do it for 60 minutes. In fact, even if one team jumps out to a double-digit lead, both teams have defensive players who get their team back into the game with one play.
There is too much talent and too much pride for both units for either to get blown out.
Too Many Playmakers on Offense for Either Team to Be Shut Down
Those who are predicting a single-digit ball game will be wrong in their predictions. Yes, both teams have dynamic defenses. However, there are too many playmakers on offense for these units to be shut down.
Alabama is first in the SEC with 315 points scored this season (39.4), and LSU is second with 314 points (39.2)
LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee is No. 1 in the SEC with a passing rating of 157.4. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is second with a pass rating of 150.4.
Alabama has a running back in Trent Richardson who can break a long run on any carry. LSU has a wide receiver who can lead his team to a score with one catch on any drive.
LSU uses a running back by committee approach. Alabama uses a herd of wide receivers to attack defenses. Both teams have too many playmakers not to break a few plays over the course of a game.
It might be a combination of Richardson and Marquise Maze for Alabama or Spencer Ware and Rueben Randle for LSU, but both teams will make enough big plays on offense to keep their team in the game.
Regardless of the Score, There Will Be Hits Galore
In my opinion, Alabama is the hardest-hitting defense in the nation. However, LSU knows how to lay the lumber as well. Moreover, both teams have physical players on offense as well.
Even in a slow-paced game, big hits can make the game must-see TV. This season, when LSU played Mississippi State, I came close to changing the channel several times. But every time I picked up the remote to change the channel, there was a jaw-dropping hit.
That game will seem like an elementary pillow fight in comparison to this heavyweight slugfest. Not just the plays on the ball, but away from the ball as well.
It will sound like a shotgun firing in Bryant Denny Stadium when LSU fullback JC Copeland and linebacker Courtney Upshaw engage during a running play.
The louder the crowd gets, the more physical these teams will become. This is a war, and the last man standing will win.
Both Teams Had an Extra Week to Prepare
I recently wrote a story on the impact that a grueling season can have on players in the SEC. As a result, bye weeks are of great importance for SEC teams. It is during this time that players are able to give their bodies a small break from the grind of the season.
This week takes on even greater significance when you consider that Nick Saban is one of the greatest coaches at strategizing in the nation and Les Miles has an extra week to channel his inner mad-hatter.
The Alabama coaching staff has likely dissected every play that LSU has run this season. If you are on the Tide’s sidelines you have forfeited any life outside of football during the season. Miles, on the other hand, is probably drawing up plays that the Tigers have never run.
This is the ultimate matchup of contrasting styles. Saban preaches consistency and uniformity. Miles is the captain of creativity. Both coaches have their hands full during the bye week and both would not want it any other way.
Did I mention this game is for a shot at the national championship?
Les Miles and Nick Saban Coaching for Their Legacies
Make no mistake about it: one coach this weekend will add to his legacy. For Les Miles, a win would lead many to put him on equal footing with Nick Saban. For Saban, he could further enhance the media's perception of him being the nation’s premier coach.
Last season, when push came to shove, Les Miles outcoached Saban in the fourth quarter. This has likely sat in the back of his mind since that time.
Every coach gets outcoached from time to time. However, last season’s matchup for Saban was like getting beaten up in front of your ex-girlfriend by her new man.
Some will argue that Saban has not given last season’s game another thought. However, that would be denying one of his greatest strengths—his ego.
Saban wants revenge, and Miles wants to step out of his shadow once and for all. Some would argue that this has already happened, but a victory this week would put it to rest forever.
The shadow is unfair when you consider the records. In five seasons, Saban had one top-five finish and two top-10 finishes. In Miles' first six seasons, he has recorded three top-five finishes and four top-ten finishes.
Saban has an overall coaching record of 48-16 (.750). Miles, on the other hand, has an overall record of 65-17 (.793).
One coach is looking to enhance his legacy; the other coach is looking to carve out his own legacy.
Good Old-Fashioned Hate
This phrase has been associated with the rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. However, it readily applies to the game this weekend and the series in general.
This series had its moments in the past. However, when former LSU coach Nick Saban left the NFL to return to the SEC West, this series got much more heated.
Each season it gets more intense, and this weekend’s game is the ultimate rivalry game. Both fan bases have grown mutual disdain for one another, and each team is tired of being compared to one another.
This game will not only be a battle of the nation’s top two teams but it will also be a battle of two of the nation’s premier fan bases.
One team and fan base will be able to point back to this game for decades to come. The other team and fan base will be reminded and humiliated over it for the rest of their lives.
Can LSU prove to Alabama that the past is over and LSU is the new? Or will Alabama be able to prove that the more things change, the more they stay the same?
Either way, the hatred will only grow from here.
The Greatest Hurdle Is in Front of Them
A win in this game does not guarantee a shot at the national championship. It does, however, clear the largest hurdle for the victorious team. The season is long and grueling, and there are smaller hurdles in both teams' paths.
None will be more difficult than the team they will line up against this weekend. After this week, the winning team will have some battles remaining. However, none of those battles will compare to the giant they just slayed.
As I wrote in this article—Auburn, Mississippi State, Arkansas, and Georgia can possibly play spoiler depending on the victor of this game. But LSU and Alabama are clearly the top two teams in the SEC and roadblocks for each other.
In other words, this game is a battle of two great teams. The remainder of the season will be an inner battle. If the victorious team can keep themselves motivated and hungry, they will play for the national championship.
One will leave with the goal of greatness. The other will leave with the lasting memory of what could have been.