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Gazzolo: LSU-Bama trilogy continues

Last Modified: Thursday, November 01, 2012 11:04 AM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Let the hype … continue.

For the third time in less than a year, LSU and Alabama will play.

If you talk to fans of either of these teams you would be led to believe they are the only games that have mattered.

Florida might have a different point of view, but let’s not get caught up in details.

At least this time nobody is even suggesting that Saturday’s battle in Baton Rouge is anything close to a Game of the Century.

I keep hearing deep, echoing voices repeating those words every time I see or write them, as if the football gods are calling down to all of us to prove the importance of this one game.

Last year the regular-season thriller that produced all of 15 points between the two teams was so good we had to do it again.

Alas, the clubs improved so much they combine to score 21 the second time around. You remember, Alabama got 21 and LSU got zippo.

Now the Tide is trying to double down on that blackjack. A win against LSU keeps them in line for a second consecutive national championship.

The Tigers’ have high hopes as well, thought scoring their first touchdown against Alabama’s defense in the past two years would be a good first step.

LSU and its faithful call the type of game the Tigers play as big-boy football.

Watching all the other big boys play, some do seem to think of the end zone as more than quicksand, to be avoided at all costs.

Yet here we are, the perfect storm approaching once again. Wait, make that the perfect Tide is approaching.

LSU, lost its shot at perfection when the Tigers couldn’t find that Florida quicksand.

Still, this is a big game, one with national title implications. Of course there will be others, but not if you are a Tiger or Bama fan.

This is it.

So, what have we learned in the past year since these two first met and LSU won by a 9-6 score that took the duo overtime to get that many points.

Well, we know this much.

It took Nick Saban five weeks to make A.J. McCarron a championship quarterback.

Les Miles couldn’t do that to Jordan Jefferson or Jarrett Lee in five years. He is also having troubling doing it to Zach Mettenberger this fall.

That is about the only real difference in these two teams, the play at quarterback.

McCarron has become the perfect front man for Saban. He is smart, a leader, dependable and has learned how to win the big games. He’s even a Heisman candidate now.

Jefferson, Lee never could do that, Mettenberger isn’t close.

We are also pretty sure Tyrann Mathieu, aka the Honey Badger, isn’t coming back anytime sooner or later to save the day like he did so many times last year. Those hopes have gone completely up in smoke.

But back to the quarterback thing.

Saban seems to have made McCarron the big man on campus when he began to trust him, give him a chance to make plays. The quarterback responded and gave the coach his second national title at Alabama, fitting nicely with the one he also won at LSU.

Miles seems to try and protect his quarterbacks too much, leaving them more likely to make the big mistake instead of the big play.

Perhaps it is as simple as one guy’s QB being better than the other’s. Perhaps there is more to it than that.

One thing is certain, this game is a must win for LSU. A second loss would not only leave the Tigers out of the title picture, but a long shot to get a BCS bowl game at all.

As for Alabama, the Tide could still correct a loss and win out to make a run back into the national title picture.

It could even lead to a fourth game in two years between the two, but let’s not go that far. Three times might be too much already.

Not sure we all could handle even more hype.

•••

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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