Between the 346.9 miles separating Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa runs a river of slowly seething eyes.
LSU and Alabama play this Saturday at 7 p.m. local time, for those of you who have been leading productive, everyday lives. For the rest of us, who live and breathe for this weekend's game of all-mankind, preparation is key. After all, it's not enough to know that LSU and 'Bama are increasingly bitter rivals, with a lot of bad blood between both squads.
As good as the Crimson Tide defense is (currently ranked No. 1 in the country in points, rushing and passing yards allowed), the Tigers roll deep on both sides of the ball.
With the returns of running back Spencer Ware and cornerbacks Tharold Simon and Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu, LSU can look forward having a full roster ready to rumble in Tuscaloosa this weekend.
By position, here's how the Tigers stack up.
First, the team was Jefferson's, and he showed significant progress during the offseason. Then he got accused of kicking a guy in the head in public, got arrested, suspended, and lost his spot to fellow senior Lee.
Under superb "Lee-dership" (see what I did there?), the Tigers have excelled, but since Jefferson's return LSU now boasts a potent double quarterback attack. While Jefferson utilizes his speed to push secondaries up, Lee and Jefferson have both led long, backbreaking drives that simply wear defenses out.
Are you listening, Nick?
Third String: Zach Mettenberger
Guess who's back. Back again.
Often imitated and never duplicated, sophomore Spencer Ware shows the kind of toughness rarely seen out of running backs not named Emmitt.
Ware never stops running, never gives up on a play, never shows any sign of weakness on a run. Arguably no LSU player fights as hard on every single down, but under Les Miles' conservative attack, Ware's brute force and never-say-die attitude personify the toughness LSU brings week after week.
Following Ware in his committee are fellow sophomores Michael Ford and Alfred Blue, both stars in their own right were they not following the most effective battering ram the Tigers may have ever seen.
See the one here holding up Ware? That would be the 6'1", 275-pound machine known as J.C. Copeland, easing into his sophomore season. Considering the Tigers run the ball just over twice as often as they throw, having solid blocking is key to a full-throated attack.
With Copeland leading the way, the trio of Ware, Ford and Blue have plenty of holes to exploit in opposing defenses.
Backup: James Stampley
Third String: Connor Neighbors
The pride of Bastrop, LA, Rueben Randle rides into his junior season as the unquestioned top of the receiver corps. With his 6'4" frame outstretching opposing corners, Randle is easily the favorite target of dual QBs Jefferson and Lee, to the tune of seven TD catches. No other Tiger receiver has more than two.
Randle's tenure at LSU has been marked by uncertainty at the QB position, but Randle has proven time and again that the big plays are his for the making, even and especially after so many four and five-yard runs that defenses get caught sitting on their heels.
Yeah, it's safe to say Randle's the main man.
Move over, Peyton and Eli Manning. There's another graduate of Isidore Newman School aiming for the spotlight.
It seems that 92,600 screaming fans fit true freshman Odell Beckham's goals like a glove. He's shown the kind of flashes of brilliance that get tiger fans uber-excited for the future. But Beckham's already getting started in making his name, rising quickly to become the Tigers' second receiver.
The future is Beckham, but he's eager to make his time now.
Third Receiver: Russell Shepard
Fourth Receiver: Kadron Boone
Fifth Receiver: James Wright
Blocking. Catching. Jumping. Running.
Done, done, done and done, courtesy of Deangelo Peterson. As a senior, Peterson's role has become defined by leadership, but his scoring tally has been limited to a single touchdown this season. Granted, the LSU passing game isn't blowing folks out of the water, but Peterson gives QBs Lee and Jefferson a solid go-to in 3rd-and-short situations.
Peterson's leadership and work ethic are irrefutable for the Tigers, and they will succeed in no small part thanks to his play.
Backup: Chase Clement
Third String: Mitch Joseph
When Chris Faulk steps onto the field, he provided ultimate protection for both Lee and Jefferson's back-sides. The 6'6", 316-pound sophomore is coming into his own in replacing Joseph Barksdale, now playing in the NFL. Nothing has been lost from the Tigers' left side, as Faulk continues to progress into a major part of the LSU running game.
Backup: Greg Shaw
Third String: Chris Davenport
The right side of the Tigers' offensive line sits with Alex Hurst, a 6'6", 329-pound junior prepping nicely for his upcoming role as anchor of a solid blocking corps.
Hurst, the pride of Bartlett, TN, is in his second season at right tackle, healthier this season after a lingering leg injury to finish the 2010 campaign. He's known for his prowess in the weight room as one of the strongest Tigers on the team, along with his nickname, "Big Clyde."
Backup: Matt Branch
Third String: Jonah Austin
The heart and soul of the offensive line and a perennial fan favorite, T-Bob Hebert has alternated between guard and center, giving the Tigers much-needed versatility. Standing 6'3", the 304-pound Hebert has not failed to answer the call whenever needed.
Oh yeah, he's also the son of somewhat-legendary New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert. One can only assume the name "T-Bob" came from some version of "Tiny Bob" or something.
For the record, no one would make that mistake now.
Backup: La'el Collins
See the big No. 60 in front of Spencer Ware, clearing up space so he can find the hole?
Look no further than 6'4" senior Will Blackwell, who's had a bumpy ride to the starting right guard role. He was originally a defensive tackle, recruited to LSU as a blue-chip defensive lineman. After making the switch to offensive line, he was set to take his place as a starter, but then broke his leg that ended most of his junior season.
This year, Blackwell is, well, back well.
Backup: Josh Williford
Third String: Evans Washington
The apex of the O-Line, P.J. Lonergan is a second-generation Tiger. His father, Pat, was a letterman in 1978, while P.J. currently holds the LSU clean record with a 374-pound lift, a mere 69 pounds heavier than his 6'4" frame.
Lonergan started every game in 2010, and entered 2011 as one of the top centers in the country. A string of sloppy play diminished that star, but he still maintains an unmistakable force to the middle of the offensive line.
Not bad for a Tiger legacy.
Backup: T-Bob Hebert
The seminal picture of the Tigers' victory over the Auburn Tigers is sophomore defensive end Barkevious Mingo, who already has the best name of any LSU football player.
But his play can only really be described in one word: fearsome.
His line in 2010: 35 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, six pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. As a freshman.
Fearsome. Just be glad your name ain't Moseley.
Backup: Kendrick Adams
Does it really matter who Bear Bryant is when you're eating quarterbacks week after week?
Not to sophomore defensive end Sam Montgomery.
According to CBSSports.com, Montgomery didn't know who the legendary Alabama coach was when asked. "I don't know anything about Bear Bryant," Montgomery said. "I really haven’t looked at film that much. Oh, their coach. I have no idea. I thought Bear Bryant was a player."
We guarantee he's seen film of Nick Saban, though.
Backup: Lavar Edwards
Third String: Justin Maclin
Freshman. Fricasseed. Freak.
Words that describe Anthony Johnson.
In his first season, Johnson's built a steady repertoire of oohs and ahs from the Tiger faithful. As one of the most touted prospects in recent memory, the 6'3", 294-pound Johnson possesses the talent only capable of shining on a top-tier defense.
But for opposing quarterbacks, fair warning: The Freak runs a 4.7 40. As a defensive tackle.
Backup: Bennie Logan
Third String: Quinten Thomas
When you're a smaller, inferior Ole Miss running back, you have to watch out for big, freaking arms.
Josh Downs has them. Standing 6'1" and weighing a svelte 278 pounds, Downs gets just that: downs. Many, many downs. This photo should be proof enough that the Crimson Tide have another thing coming if they think they can run through this D-Line.
They're bound to turn the ball over. On Downs.
Look what just happened there.
Backup: Michael Brockers
Francois has come on strong in his senior season, providing guidance to a young, largely inexperienced linebacker corps. But the 6'1", 215-pound Sam linebacker is all heart, with no chance of slowing or losing energy or passion.
Funny thing about Francois: he was born on Christmas day.
Sure was a present for the Tiger defense.
Backup: Tahj Jones
Third String: Trevon Randle
What do you do with a high school senior who recorded 113 tackles in 10 games?
Put him on a world-class defense.
The 6'1", 225-pound Minter is settling in nicely in his role at Mike linebacker (in the middle), and he has already asserted himself on the field, most notably in LSU's thrashing of Louisiana-Monroe last year.
I mean, be honest: you'd run too, huh?
Backup: Karnell Hatcher
Third String: D.J. Welter
No. 22 in your playbooks, No. 1 in your hearts. As far as Will Linebackers go.
Ryan Baker, hailing from Grand Ridge, FL, provides senior leadership and probably the toughest resume on the roster. In 2010, for the first month of the season, Baker played games with his jaw wired shut, thanks to a broken jaw.
It certainly didn't stop him from bringing the pain. Last year he was second on the team and 12th in the SEC in tackles, and he's brought the same intensity to his game this season.
Running backs, be warned.
Backup: Lamin Barrow
Third String: Luke Muncie
We've reached the fun part: LSU secondary. Starting with the tested veteran.
Mo Claiborne: 6'0'', 177 pounds, senior. Amped. Pumped. Interception machine. Incredibly fast. Excellent student of the game. Great cover corner. Better motivational engine. The only member of last year's secondary expected to fully take over for the graduated Patrick Peterson.
Claiborne is but one cornerback, though. LSU does have another. And he's blond.
Backup: Tharold Simon (back from suspension)
Third String: Ron Brooks
Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu.
Enough said. Just watch the video. He's the one who looks like he doesn't give a $%^#.
Backup: Ron Brooks
If Honey Badger doesn't take what he wants, look out for Eric Reid.
Literally, look out.
When it's the first play of the game, and you get knocked out of the game, you'll probably find out later who it was that clocked you.
Last year against Mississippi State, it was Craig Loston.
Replacing a legend is never easy. Josh Jasper was a legend.
Chances are, Drew Alleman might be better than Jasper.
Alleman has already earned Lou Groza honors for his performance this year against Mississippi State, but the consistency and range will be tested against Alabama. He should expect a couple of deafening kicks against the Crimson Tide, and it will be deafening.
Here's hoping he's up to the challenge. And can kick it in the face.
Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb rule. Stupid, no good all bad rule. Whoever made up the rule will live in infamy as the creator of an all-idiot, no-intelligence, stupid dumb rule. Stupid, dumb rules make stupid, dumb moments, like this one. Buncha people somewhere introduced this stupid, dumb rule, and made this moment slightly less than it was. Dumb, stupid rule.
LSU punter Brad Wing has more swagger than you.