LSU versus Alabama has been the most talked about matchup all year long. Legitimately, November 5th on the schedule has been circled since before the season started, and it is finally upon us.
A No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup is always an incredible showdown. But this year the added twist of a bitter SEC rivalry with two coaches and programs that have won national championships in the last five years makes this even more special.
I'm actually struggling to find words to describe this game. The names "LSU" and "Alabama" speak for themselves.
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium; Tuscaloosa, Alabama
When: Saturday, November 5th at 8 p.m. EST
Live Streaming: CBS Sports
Betting Line: Alabama -4.5
Tough to play this game either way. If you are undecided, always take the points or stay away.
But in all honesty, it's really hard to bet against Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa.
Key Storyline: Undefeated Season
These two teams come in unbeaten and absolutely dominant.
Who Is More Likely To Win This Game and Go Undefeated?
The Tide and Tigers, each 8-0 (5-0 in SEC), give up less than 12 points per game (Bama gives up 6.9, LSU gives up 11.2).
This game expects to be the toughest remaining game for both teams, and that includes a probable SEC Championship Game.
No team in the SEC East looks remotely capable of hanging with either of these teams.
In essence, this game (and granted anything can happen in football) is for likely berth in the BCS National Championship Game.
Who Might Not Play For LSU
Spencer Ware (RB), Tryann Mathieu (DB) and Tharold Simon (DB) - All served one-game suspensions last week and listed as probable.
Who Might Not Play for Alabama
Arie Kouandijo, OT - Out for season (knee)
BCS/Top 25 Implications
As discussed earlier, these two are playing for no consolation prizes. A win here means a likely berth in the SEC Championship and a likely berth in the BCS National Championship.
A loss, however, shouldn't send the loser very far down the rankings.
While the winner will likely be playing for it all, there is still a very, very good chance that a one-loss LSU or Alabama will still be invited to a BCS bowl.
What They're Saying
ESPN's Scouts Inc. is drooling over this game. There are a number of potential NFL starters combined between these two defenses and a few on offense as well.
The secondary features the most overall talent, though, and here's what they have to say about those players:
The defensive backfield is the deepest group in this game, and a pair of top cornerbacks lead the way. Morris Claiborne of LSU is the top-rated cornerback on our board, with a combination of size (6-foot, 173 pounds), instincts, fluid hips and impressive ball skills. Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick is a bit bigger (6-2, 190), and while not as fluid Kirkpatrick is good at re-routing receivers in press coverage and is a bit firmer in run support. Claiborne is a first-round prospect and Kirkpatrick grades out in the early second round.
Alabama's DaQuan Menzie is an underrated third-round prospect, and while he's a bit undersized he is a versatile cover man who can slide over the slot in nickel packages. And while they're only sophomores, LSU's Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon are impressive prospects. Mathieu is the most instinctive playmaker in the country and always looking to get the ball, while Simon is a long, rangy corner who's raw but a solid press corner.
At safety, Alabama's Mark Barron is a senior with a wealth of experience and the size (6-1, 223) to be very effective near the box. Barron is good in underneath coverage, shows solid instincts and solid range, and is an exceptional tackler who should come off the board in the second round. His running mate, Robert Lester, plays the point in coverage and has the awareness to read quarterbacks and get off the hash. Lester is solidly in the middle rounds and could work his way up.
The Tigers have an impressive pair of safeties, too, in sophomores Eric Reid and Craig Loston. Both are physical, show solid range and will bring the wood in run support. Other defensive backs to watch include Alabama's Will Lowery and Dee Milliner.
LSU Player to Watch: Tyrann Mathieu, S
Mathieu, also known as the "Honey Badger," is only a sophomore but has made a huge name for himself this season.
Playing alongside likely first-round pick Morris Claiborne, Mathieu has turned into one, if not the best, playmaking safety in the nation.
He's always around the football and can change the tone of a game with a single play. He's the third leading tackler on the team, has seven pass deflections, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions and one-and-a-half sacks.
No. 7 will be all over the field on Saturday night.
Alabama Player to Watch: Trent Richardson, RB
One of the nation's leading Heisman candidates, Richardson is the engine for the entire Crimson Tide offense.
The likely first-round pick is averaging 6.6 yards per carry, is just shy of 1,000 rushing yards on the season, has 17 rushing touchdowns and has also recorded 18 catches.
Richardson can be impossible to tackle at times and can contribute to the offense in a myriad of ways.
The best way for the Tide to neutralize playmakers like the Honey Badger and Claiborne is to pound the Tigers with Richardson.
That is a lot easier said than done considering how good LSU's defense is, but it will be Alabama's point of attack.
Key Matchup: Les Miles vs. Nick Saban
These two don't wear a helmet and pads, but they have as much to do with this game as nearly every player on the field.
Both defenses are absolutely dominant. Both offenses feature great running games. And both teams have quarterbacks (multiple in LSU's case) they are still working towards trusting.
This game could come down to which coach trusts his quarterback more.
These two teams truly could not be more evenly matched. Whichever coach steps to the plate and puts his players in the best position will be win the game.
On the Hotseat: Les Miles
This doesn't have anything to do with Miles losing his job, it has to do with him earning another one.
Earlier this year there was talk of NFL minds coming around at the possibility of Miles running a NFL team.
Some may call him too crazy, or "mad," as his nickname the "Mad Hatter" suggests, but there are some who think he'd be right for today's game.
I have no idea if Miles would ever want to leave the college game for the pros, but winning this game would certainly boost his resume a bit more.
Prediction: Roll Tide - Alabama 28, LSU 21