Alabama head coach Nick Saban. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Monday, October 29, 2012 7:39 PM
Yeah, it is probably too soon for another, full-blown Game of the Century anyway.
So we give you ... LSU-Alabama, the usual suspects.
LSU will just have to settle for a chance to rescue its season from the depths of a 7-1 start that, for the most part, has looked better on paper than on the actual greensward.
CBS pulled a few strings and went to the trouble of reserving Tiger Stadium long in advance for a prime time spectacle.
It will be promoted as such — remember, LSU is being assured that it still controls its own destiny toward another BCS national championship game.
But it’s definitely not quite the same natural buzz as a year ago.
Games of the Century do not, as a general rule, have a double-digit (10 points) road favorite.
Last year at this time LSU and Alabama were clearly the two best teams in the SEC, and, apparently, the country.
They dominated the college conversation most of the season and, of course, actually played two games.
The first one, the Tide fans will tell you, never happened. The second, LSU fans will claim, never should have happened, at least not with Alabama in it with the natural advantage of the revenge factor.
Now Alabama stands alone.
Game of the Century?
More like, If Not LSU, then who?
This year, the feeling seems to be that LSU has fallen back into a very good group of two or three next-tier SEC teams that might, on a good night with moons aligning just right and a break or two, somehow derail the runaway Tide under the perfectionist Nick Saban.
LSU’s best two wins weren’t secured until the Tigers recovered on-sides kicks against South Carolina and Texas A&M. Nobody has played within 19 points of Alabama, and that Ole Miss effort is widely viewed as a fluke.
LSU has played the tougher SEC schedule, but it’s not Alabama’s fault that Michigan didn’t really pan out to match the summer hype of the Tide’s season-opening victory.
It was much like LSU did last year in walloping Oregon in the opener, basically putting the country on alert that the Tigers were the team to beat. Alabama soon joined them by moving methodically up through the ranks.
You could see the collision course they were on about two games into the season, and nobody tripped over anything. Nor even really stumbled.
The only perceived clear advantage the Tide had going in was the homefield advantage of Bryant-Denny (why not Bryant-Denny-Saban?) Stadium.
Otherwise, it looked like a classic even match, surely a defensive bare-knuckles match.
By that regard, the first game lived up to the hype.
It reminded you why college football, for all the whining and wailing about a playoff, still has the grandest regular season in all of sports.
Mainly, the tailgating atmosphere before the game topped anything I’d ever seen, and it wasn’t my first rodeo.
Tide fans, of course, easily had the superior numbers, but there enough pockets of Tiger fans to have sparked some good old SEC confrontations.
You’re talking about two of the brashest, self-important (spoiled) fan bases in the world. One had always claimed to have invented college football, the other had recently decided they perfected it merely by adding an odd tilt to a ballcap.
They weren’t strangers. They had been yacking at each for years and years.
But there was none of that in Tuscaloosa last year. It was actually kind of strange, almost Twilight Zone stuff.
In the parking lots and the expansive tailgate-ready courtyards on the Bama campus, there was nothing remotely related to trash-talking.
Not really a lot of yelling and breast-beating, either.
They actually seemed to have the utmost respect for each other and their chosen programs, maybe a first in SEC tailgating lore.
There was a lot of anxious pacing, some nervous laughter, a whole lot of sighing and checking of watches to see if, maybe, it might finally be time to head over toward Bryant-Denny.
They cautiously mingled, to a degree, but it was more the chance “after-yous” at the street crossings, the edging past one another in the tight quarters en route to the stadium.
Wandering around out there, you’d see it over and over, that moment when their eyes would meet and no words were needed.
Instead, they’d just nod at each other silently, with a stern, respectful glare that seemed to say, “Let’s go have a good one, show the world how this game is played down here.”
For that matter, I’ve never seen a stadium, even for national title games, where, a good 40-45 minutes before kickoff, it looked like everybody had already found their seats.
Fans of pinball football, the frivolous crowd with the short attention-span, were appalled (bored) at the 9-6 overtime final that LSU somehow got out of Tuscaloosa with.
But nobody said it didn’t live up to the hype.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org