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Football nation turns eyes to Baton Rouge for LSU-Bama game

Last Modified: Friday, November 02, 2012 8:08 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Some things never change.

So maybe it’s somehow reassuring that, eight years after he left LSU — having added two national championships with Alabama to the crystal ball he got with the Tigers before a brief pit stop in the NFL — Nick Saban’s mantra hasn’t really wavered.

It is still all about the “process,” and it must be front and center whether his No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide is playing LSU or Florida Atlantic.

“The formula and the recipe doesn’t really change,” Saban said earlier this week. “We have to stay with the formula for what helps our players take care of business.”

LSU’s Les Miles, on the other hand, is a little different. He at least is able to admit that tonight’s mega-showdown with Alabama — with the Southeastern Conference, maybe the Bowl Championship Series and perhaps life as Louisiana knows and enjoys it on the line — is a very big game indeed.

It’s certainly no Idaho.

“It’s obvious when you walk into the (team) room that certainly we’re playing a different team,” he said. “It’s a little fuller. There’s a little more attention to detail. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) has pulverized all comers, with a 33-15 win over Ole Miss the only team that has stayed within 26 points of the Tide. Alabama has trailed for a grand total of 15 seconds this season —  the amount of time it took to return the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown after Ole Miss took a shocking 7-6 lead that only annoyed the Tide.

A little luster came off this year’s game when No. 5 LSU (7-1, 3-1) lost at Florida on Oct. 6, and the Tigers have muddled around at times before gutting out victories over South Carolina and Texas A&M in their last two games.

But CBS set aside a prime-time slot months ago, the national media has descended on Baton Rouge in bunches, ESPN might as well have moved its headquarters to LSU and school officials are expecting as many as 150,000 or so to be on campus just to be a part of what has become the nation’s most anticipated rivalry game.

It’s not Towson.

It’s the kind of hoopla Saban disparagingly passes off as “noise” and “periphery stuff” that doesn’t fit into the process.

Of course, Saban cut his teeth as a player at Kent State, whose biggest rival was Akron.

Miles, on the other hand, will always have some Michigan in him — legendary coach Bo Schembechler was his mentor —  and he grew up keeping a wary eye on Ohio State every year — the LSU-Alabama of its day.

“He (Schembechler) always enjoyed rivalry games,” Miles said. “He always enjoyed playing the Buckeyes. It was a joy to be around him.

“The similarities between the Ohio (State) team and Michigan certainly draw the comparison in this conference. It’s a great rivalry. It means so much.”

Miles and Saban don’t appear to have much in common, except that they’re 3-3 head-to-head against each other.

And they both win — Saban by the book (process) and Miles often by the seat of his pants (hook or crook).

“Les Miles, to me, has done as good a job as anybody in our league ever has in terms of what he’s been able to accomplish and the consistency,” Saban said. “This is a great team and a great program we’re playing.”

“It’s always a pleasure professionally to test yourself against someone that’s a very quality and very capable coach,” said Miles, who is the only coach to have beaten Saban more than once since Saban arrived at Alabama. “They look like the No. 1 team in the country.”

Two years ago LSU beat the Tide 24-21, mostly because Miles dialed up a gadget play with a tight end reverse for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth-quarter.

The key play in LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory in Tuscaloosa in last year’s Game of the Century also came on a trick play when the Tigers’ Eric Reid intercepted an attempted Bama halfback pass at the goal line.

Alabama’s 21-0 victory in last January’s BCS title game had none of those shenanigans.

Just a thorough whipping.

But Miles discounted any “revenge” motive.

“It’s the positive end that motivates,” Miles said. “The opportunity … victory, and certainly the opportunity for our football team to advance in the (SEC) western division.”

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