Following Auburn loss, LSU prepares for Alabama

Dave Moormann
LSU’s Stevan Ridley, Craig Loston, Jordan Jefferson and Patrick Peterson enter the field before the McNeese State game.


That was the collective sound of the LSU football team relieved that a much-needed open date followed its emotionally draining 24-17 loss to Auburn.


That was the collective sound of the LSU football fans concerned that much-despised, and always dangerous, Alabama will visit Tiger Stadium in what promises to be an emotionally charged game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

After falling to what became the land’s No. 1 team, LSU licked its wounds and prepared for the invasion of the Crimson Tide.

Alabama has been a sore spot with LSU dating back to the days when Paul “Bear” Bryant regularly got the best of Charles McClendon. Now it’s Alabama coach, and LSU turncoat, Nick Saban, who guides the fortunes of the Crimson Tide. Les Miles is the new McClendon, and like his predecessor of yesteryear, Miles has run into criticism for his staid offense and two-quarterback system.

Those same fans who vilified Saban when he left LSU and wound up at Alabama after a short NFL stint now must question their misguided frustration.  True, Miles won the 2007 BCS national championship, but Alabama is the defending national champion and has been the better team each of the past two years.

After sharing open dates, LSU and Alabama will collide with identical records at 7-1 overall, including 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference Western Division. The outcome of this game isn’t the end-all for either team, but a victory certainly would make the season much more acceptable no matter the final record.

What’s more, a victory would bring a 10-win season closer to reality. Such a figure is the benchmark for an excellent year and easily would be within LSU’s grasp given that the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Ole Miss and Arkansas are LSU’s last three opponents.

But first things first. Alabama is no slouch and would be the equal of Auburn if not for the blip on its record against South Carolina. Alabama runs a more traditional offense than did Auburn with mercurial quarterback Cam Newton. LSU’s once-vaunted defense doesn’t figure to surrender the 526 yards total offense it did against Auburn.

Then, again, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, and running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, would make any offense better. McElroy is the only SEC quarterback to have more career victories than LSU junior Jordan Jefferson, and yet the Alabama senior has shown himself to be far more effective at moving his team downfield on a consistent basis.

LSU junior Stevan Ridley can hold his own against the likes of Ingram and Richardson, but Ridley doesn’t have a teammate to relieve the pressure as does Alabama with its dynamic duo. Furthermore, Ridley may have needed the open date more than anyone given the brutal pounding he’s taken with his hard-charging style.

Alabama has a quarterback and a line that LSU might gladly trade for, which is why the Crimson Tide gets the nod when it comes to offensive production. Defensively, consider the comparison between the two a wash even if LSU stalwarts Patrick Peterson, Kelvin Sheppard and Drake Nevis were no match for Newton.

During the off week, Nevis was one of 12 players named to the semifinalist list for the Lombardi Award, which goes to the nation’s top offensive or defensive linemen.  Peterson and Sheppard are in line for numerous honors, as well, and their play against Alabama should indicate why the recognition is warranted.

There is no shame in being a lesser coach than Saban, who has won two of the three meetings with Miles since Saban’s return to the SEC. Every game has been a struggle for the winner and figures to be so again this year.

Whatever is said of Miles, no coach gets his players more enthusiastically ready to play. The Tigers and their fans will be jacked for what promises to be as intense and dramatic as any SEC game played this season.