Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Friday, November 08, 2013 7:30 PM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — OK, maybe not quite the Game of the Century.
Probably not even the Game of the Week.
Maybe not even the day.
But even if it’s only the Game of the Night when LSU and Alabama square off in Bryant-Denny Stadium, it still figures to bring out the best of the two teams that have dominated the Southeastern Conference in recent years.
Even Alabama coach Nick Saban, who began the week vowing to follow his famed “process” and treat it like any other week, had changed his tune by Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference.
He said he’d like his players to follow the normal routine.
“But based on the history of this game, the quality of the team that LSU has, the guys that have been in the programs and played against them — the very physical, difficult battles we’ve been in — it’s hard for them, hard for me, probably hard for LSU’s players, hard for everybody to think this is just another game.”
For Saban and the unbeaten Tide, (8-0, 5-0 SEC) the stakes are the same — Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings with an eye on Saban’s third consecutive national championship, the fourth in five years.
One famously came at the expense of LSU when the Tide used a rematch in the BCS title game to avenge the Tigers’ 9-6 overtime victory here in the 2012 Game of the Century.
Two prior losses have LSU (7-2, 3-2) reduced to playing the spoiler role this time.
But it’s still Alabama.
“It’s a great challenge,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “If you enjoy competition, if you’re a person who grew up competing, start to finish, you want to line up against your finest opponents and play your best. This is that style of game. We look forward to playing Alabama.”
Alabama is favored by 12 1/2 points, making the Tigers a double-digit underdog for the first time more than a decade.
That’s not the only difference from the Tigers’ last visit here for that mega-hyped 2012 showdown.
In a world of spread-options and zone reads and a hyper-hectic pace, LSU and Alabama are both traditional pro-style offenses with drop-back passing games and a heavy dependency on a two-back running game.
“I like this kind of game,” said Saban, noted critic of the up-tempo style. “I guess this is more the kind of football that we grew up with.”
“This is offense and a style of play that they’ve grown up with, Miles added of the players. “Yeah, I bet they enjoy it.”
Neither coach, however, expects a touchdown-free game like the Tigers’ 9-6 victory here two years ago.
“I suspect that’s the case,” Miles said of more scoring. “Both (schools’) quarterbacks have evolved and have the ability to throw it. I still think there’s tremendous defenses on the field, but there’s more offense as well.”
Added Saban, “I think both teams are probably a little more geared up to score points, and have scored a little more consistently than that year.”