For 'Bama, LSU, another epic showdown
BATON ROUGE, La. — OK, maybe it's not the Game of the Century.
No disputing it's the game of the year. Nothing new about that.
Alabama-LSU has become the greatest rivalry in college football, supplanting Michigan-Ohio State, Florida-Florida State and any of those other annual showdowns with historic overtones. Last year these SEC powerhouses met twice — once with the Crimson Tide ranked No. 1 and the Tigers No. 2, the second time with the roles reversed.
Another epic showdown looms Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. Top-ranked Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) is looking to stay on course for its second straight national title, but a familiar foe — No. 5 LSU (7-1, 3-1) — stands in the way.
“You've got your Michigan-Ohio States and stuff like that, but I feel like those games are not what they used to be,” LSU linebacker Kevin Minter said. “This is the gusto right here.”
The teams have long been SEC rivals, but it was a largely overlooked game on the national stage. That changed in 2007, when former LSU coach Nick Saban, after a brief stint in the NFL, returned to the college game — at Alabama.
Suddenly, the series took on a new level of nastiness.
“I grew up watching LSU-Bama, and it was always a good game, but since I got here it's definitely gotten way bigger,” LSU safety Eric Reid said. “Whenever we play each other, everybody expects a big game.”
Indeed, these are two modern dynasties. LSU, guided by Saban successor Les Miles, won the national title in 2007. Alabama finished on top in 2009, then again last season — by beating the Tigers, 21-0, in the title game.
“It'll definitely be the most physical game we play all year,” Alabama center Barrett Jones said. “The most physical games I've played in my life have been against them. We really respect the way they play football.”
When the teams met last year in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the buildup was so intense that everyone broke out the “Game of the Century” moniker. Alabama was the favorite, but LSU pulled out a 9-6 victory in overtime, winning a battle of the field goals.
The Crimson Tide climbed back to No. 2 in the BCS standings to earn a rematch in the national title game, then limited the Tigers to 92 yards and five first downs en route to the title.