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LSU vs. Alabama is finally here. How big is this game? Sportscenter has allocated 89 percent of its morning shows this week to covering this game (approximately). There was a segment Thursday in which they offered comparative analysis of the rooms in which coaches speak with new recruits, and not only did it not seem out of place, it was riveting.
The whole season has been building toward this very game. This isn’t the case of the two teams who happen to be at the top two playing each other, LSU and Alabama have been marching toward each other all season.
Before the season began, all of the talk was about the potential dominance of the SEC West. These teams began the season with solid non-conference wins (Oregon, Penn State and West Virginia) and then proceeded to distance themselves from the rest of the SEC West (sorry Arkansas) along with the rest of the country.
Oklahoma began the season No. 1, and both of these schools were so impressive that they overtook the Sooners before they lost to Texas Tech.
Honestly, the buildup to this game has felt scripted. As national contenders dropped out, these teams got stronger. A few weeks into the season it looked like this game and Bedlam would be the two de facto national semifinals. Oklahoma lost, making this game the biggest regular season game of the season.
These teams then both had bye weeks leading into this game. How often does that happen with any matchup during the regular season? For a game like this, the odds of that happening are exceedingly rare. It means we will get both teams at their best and that both teams will be able to include some very interesting wrinkles.
Everything has conspired to maximize the theatrical presentation of this game.
More than that, these teams are mirror images of each other. They have stifling defenses (Alabama’s allowed 6.9 points per game, LSU’s allowed 11.5 – No. 1 and No. 2 in the country respectively) that support solid offenses led by quarterbacks who are essentially game managers.
The onus is not on them, and they’ve not been the linchpins of their teams’ success. For Alabama, the offense has been buoyed by running back Trent Richardson, who has made other teams look silly. LSU, meanwhile, relies on its tremendous team speed, Les Miles’ unorthodox play calling, and playmakers at other positions (The Honey Badger, for example)
If that wasn’t enough, both of these coaches have won BCS Championships at these schools. They appear to know what they’re doing (hesitation induced by Les Miles), and they are both at or near their peaks. Moreover, this rivalry is known as the Saban Bowl. As Games of The Century go, this is about as good as we are going to get.
There’s just a lot going on.
Given how close these teams are, it feels like Richardson should be the difference. The defenses are equally amazing, and there is no one on LSU’s offense who approaches Richardson’s talent.
With that said, I feel like LSU is going to pull this game out.
With two weeks to prepare, the cold tactician that is Nick Saban should be able to come up with a compelling gameplan. Les Miles often wins game in illogical ways, and this should be one of those games.
I can’t explain it, but that’s what I expect to happen.