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Alabama head coach Nick Saban. (Associated Press)<br>

Alabama head coach Nick Saban. (Associated Press)

Hobbs Column: Saban-fueled Bama machine pulling away from LSU

Last Modified: Monday, November 11, 2013 11:04 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Short of donating to the University of Texas’ rumor-fueled “Find Terry Saban a house in Austin” fund, I don’t know what the answer is.

Alabama is a machine grinding up everything in its path, and as long as Terry’s husband is running the show, it’s not going away.

The Tide is not totally invincible, but right now any game it loses is probably going to be a fluke.

LSU came away thinking it did some good things Saturday night — and still got stung with a 38-17 loss.

That’s the same 21-point margin, you’ll recall, by which Alabama beat LSU in the infamous complete dud of a BCS championship game two years ago.

This was nothing like that. This was a really good, competitive game — for two and a half, maybe three full quarters.

In fact, at halftime there was a genuine buzz in Bryant-Denny Stadium — it was “Game On” for a rivalry that has come to define the SEC.

It didn’t take, although at least this time Alabama knew the Tigers were there.

But in some ways it’s worse than that fateful 21-point loss in the Superdome.

In stark contrast to that night, this time LSU came to play, had an excellent game plan, particularly on offense where coordinator Cam Cameron was able to attack some of the Tide’s relative weaknesses and Zach Mettenberger was as sharp as ever. The Tigers looked like they had practiced in advance and even did some really good things early and was fun to watch Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry go at it with the Tide secondary.

In the end, it didn’t matter. It was still 38-17.

It had to be demoralizing to the whole SEC, really, to see LSU limp away from this latest encounter.

Omigosh, it’s worse than we thought.

This was the game everybody in the SEC who fears Saban’s eventual annihilation of the football world was waiting on, cautiously hopeful.

The Tigers are supposedly the SEC team that recruits in the same neighborhood as Saban and LSU isn’t afraid to get physical with the Tide ... and woulda, coulda, shoulda have beaten Saban last year.

LSU was relishing this game as a welcome break from the gadgets and pop guns of the spread offenses. This was real football.

And the Tigers, despite some early hope and encouragement, came away battered and bruised and mostly reduced to playing the what-if game.

It was mostly mistakes, of course, that bane of any team not named Bama, a team which earlier this season actually played a penalty-free, turnover-free game.

LSU could bemoan the 10-point swing on two turnovers to open the game, or the momentum change of a fake punt or that all of its penalties seemed to come on third down when the Tigers had a chance to get off the field.

“Easily correctable,” I’m sure we’ll hear Miles say at some point.

If the idea is to keep pace with Alabama, if that’s the measuring stick — and, for better or worse these days, it is — this is going to take more than some tweaking and cleaning up of mistakes.

This may call for the good old-fashioned Cajun solution to any tricky maintenance job — in other words, get a bigger hammer.

Right now, I’m not sure LSU would switch most of its skill position players with the Tide.

But gosh, up front where it matters ... that was eye-opening.

It was most startling in the way, in the second half, Alabama’s offensive line just shoved the Tigers’ defensive front around.

You could cite many examples, but go to early in the fourth quarter with the game still up for grabs and Bama holding a 7-point lead. The Tide ran four straight running plays — 10, 13, 9 and 9 yards. The next play gained only one yard, but conveniently that’s where the goal line was.

That’s a gashing.

Yeah, yeah, we all know LSU’s always-proud defense was all but picked clean by graduation and early NFL dreams. It’s young and still learning and blah, blah, blah.

But, if you’re trying to keep pace with Alabama, this should have been a fair fight.

This should have been a good comparison.

The Alabama offensive line that won that national championship last year was just as decimated to start this season as LSU’s defensive front was.

It required the same major overhaul. Early on this year, it struggled some. Even had trouble breaking free T.J. Yeldon, a strapping lad who doesn’t need much daylight.

Now, again, it appears Alabama has been recruiting up front from your local Caterpillar and John Deere dealerships.

It looked like a well-oiled machine churning away and plowing under the Tigers.

The LSU defensive drop-off wasn’t totally unexpected.

But that’s just the thing — the most incriminating thing.

“Graduation happens,” Miles said afterwards. “Leaving early to the NFL certainly happens. We get good players and we expect those guys to step up and play.”

They haven’t.

LSU’s defense hasn’t gotten noticeably better, now 10 games into the season.

They still get pushed around up front and miss tackles on the edge and often get lost in the secondary.

And falling further behind Saban.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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