Alabama-LSU Preview

LSU will be seeking redemption in the latest colossal clash with

fellow SEC West power Alabama.

Sure, there’s the standard matter of national and Southeastern

Conference title prospects. The loser, after all, can’t count on a

rematch in Miami for a do-over like the top-ranked Crimson Tide got

last season.

The fifth-ranked Tigers (7-1, 3-1) say they are taking even more

motivation from that 21-0 BCS championship shutout in January when

Alabama comes calling Saturday night with the stakes at their usual

heights.

”There are a lot of scars from that national championship

game,” LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. ”You will see it

on the field. The loss in the national championship game had a big

impact on us. Going into last season, we had set goals like winning

the national championship. Bama took that from us. They took that

national championship ring. We want to show the world that we have

bounced back from that loss.”

Chances are the world will be watching, or at least a sizable

chunk of college football fans. Last year’s initial 1 vs. 2 matchup

brought CBS its highest ratings for a college football game since

Notre Dame-Miami in 1989. The network will air it in primetime

instead of its normal afternoon slot after working out a deal with

ESPN.

It’s not drawing ”Game of the Century” billing like the

meeting 363 days before, which LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo

called ”one of the fiercest games I’ve played in.” Game of the

year is certainly possible.

That 9-6 overtime loss last season cost Alabama (8-0, 5-0) the

SEC West, and maybe SEC, title if not the biggest prize.

Even the Tide is manufacturing a little redemption storyline for

Round 3.

”LSU is the SEC championship team or whatever, and not us,

we’re just the national championship team,” Alabama wide receiver

Kevin Norwood said on Monday. ”And that’s one of our goals, to be

the SEC championship team.”

”To me, I like to fulfill all my goals, and that’s one we

didn’t, so it’s motivation for us.”

Mostly, Alabama players insist they’re not getting caught up in

the hype and they’re treating it as just another game, etc.

Clearly, it’s not, however. The teams have a combined three

losses the past two seasons, and two of them were head-to-head.

Tide coach Nick Saban said his players got a little too amped up

by all the hype before last season’s regular season meeting when

both teams had an open date to let the emotions simmer. It’s not

his preferred recipe.

”When you play in games like this, everybody would say it’s

really critical you play your best in a game like this,” Saban

said. ”But the formula and the recipe for what that is doesn’t

really change. Even though you’d like to change it, and put a

little more sugar in the cake to make it taste better, it usually

makes it taste worse.

”We have to stay with the formula that helps our players take

care of business the best way they can.”

Both teams employ similar formulas: Stout defense and strong

running games and quarterbacks who try to avoid mistakes.

The Tigers have been more tested. This is their fourth straight

game against a ranked team, starting with a loss at No. 8

Florida.

Alabama is coming off its only victory over a team currently in

the Top 25, 38-7 over No. 17 Mississippi State

It just so happens LSU was off last weekend, so coach Les Miles

got to watch that game from start to finish. He came away

impressed.

”I watched every snap of the Alabama-Mississippi State game

Saturday,” Miles said. ”It looked just as bad on the coach’s

copy. That Alabama team is pretty good. They look like the No. 1

team in the country. Coach Saban has done a great job there. Their

team is deserving to be the No. 1 team in the country. I look

forward to playing that team.

”We need to play for ourselves. We need to play better because

we didn’t” in January.

Players from both sides used the word ”hate” to describe

feelings among the fans, especially in Baton Rouge.

”I’m pretty sure they hate us because of what happened last

year and stuff like that,” Norwood said.

LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, who is from Georgia, said he was

surprised by how much ”people hate Bama down here.”

”Being around the students and the fans, there is real genuine

hate,” Minter said. ”All the fans worry about is us winning that

game.”