LSU last threat to Tide’s security

It’s kind of like the scene in that wonderful, thought-provoking movie "Airplane," when Leslie Nielson leans into the cockpit of the doomed airliner.

"I just want to tell you both … good luck. We’re all counting on you."

That’d be your LSU sweating profusely at the pilot controls this week in advance of the Tigers’ football dilemma with Alabama.

Nobody gives the Tigers much of a chance. Not Vegas. Not the horde of national media converging on Baton Rouge. Probably nobody on ESPN’s "GameDay," which is setting up on campus as we speak. A few die-hard fans, maybe.

But this game does always seems to attract the curiosity seekers.

Bama wasn’t scary enough already, but — just as just as everyone feared might happen one day — if you add a bona-fide quarterback to the mix, you end up with a genuine world crisis.

And somehow this terror that is the Nick Saban Process and the Crimson Tide must be stopped before it devours the game and renders the playoffs a mere sideshow.

The fate of college football might hang in the balance.

This isn’t a new development.

But now it’s Godzilla running through the streets of Tokyo.

Why an LSU team that has lost seven straight to the Crimson Tide would be anointed as the great, last hope to save civilization is anybody’s guess.

But almost everybody outside the state of Alabama is suddenly an LSU fan this week, and for once it’s not just for the chance to get fed well in the parking lot.

Mainly, the general consensus seems to be … If not LSU, then who?

The thinking is that LSU, almost alone, at least has comparable athletes to keep from getting overwhelmed (even if one of the best, Devin White, will have to sit out the first half).

And Alabama, for all its success against the Tigers, does seem to respect LSU. That’s why the Tide always schedules its open date a week before this game (LSU reciprocates, but Saban started making it an annual tradition a year before the Tigers did).

And, even during the losing streak, the Tigers for the most part have been competitive, always keeping it close at the half with a few that could have gone either way with a break or two.

Still, I’m having trouble connecting the dots that gets LSU there.

The fact that Alabama hasn’t really played anybody doesn’t do it — not if you’ve seen the normally defensive-minded Tide lead the nation in scoring at 54.1 points per game, even while fighting nothing stiffer than boredom in the second halves.

Tiger Stadium will be rocking for sure. But Alabama has always made itself at home there — four losses in 24 visits since 1969 — usually breaking up the good furniture before leaving.

But work with me here.

Somebody will point out that the Tide haven’t played a defense ranked better than No. 90 in the nation.

I figured out that the Tide offense has been scoring 1.75 times what its opponents normally allow. LSU is giving up 15.1 per game. So the Tide, by this formula, will score 26 on Tigers.

So find 27 points out of the LSU offense and your problem is solved (it last happened against the Tide in 2007).

Well …

Arkansas, probably the worst team in the Southeastern Conference this year, scored 31 points on the Tide — 31 points. OK, Alabama scored something like 65 (and, who knows? Might still be scoring) but hey, 31 points is 31 points, even if 17 of the Hogs’ take came in the second half, by which time Bama, for all we know, might have had been playing Phi Mu’s in their secondary.

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting on those 27 LSU points if they matter to the Tide.

Instead, it might take the best defensive plan that LSU mad genius coordinator Dave Aranda ever devised, which would be saying something.

And the Tigers might have the secondary to pull it off.

Aranda has come back with a vengeance in the last two wins, over Georgia and Mississippi State, after he lost a chess match at Florida.

Two of LSU’s best defensive performances in memory got devalued-played much the way all those wins over top-10 teams did earlier in the season.

The Tigers held Georgia’s Jake Fromm — who came within an eyelash of beating the Tide in last year’s national championship game — to 202 yards with two interceptions, much of it after the fact.

Was anybody impressed? Not really. Suddenly, the talk around Georgia was that it only "exposed" Fromm and the Dawgs needed a change at quarterback.

Same thing happened the next week when LSU held Mississippi State’s quarterbacking freak of nature, Nick Fitzgerald, to 59 yards passing with four interceptions — those Bulldogs, too, were demanding a change at quarterback after netting just one field goal.

Georgia had an open date after Fromm’s LSU travails.

So Fromm and Fitzgerald both had their first games post-LSU last week, and — what do you know? — danged if the two of them weren’t named co-SEC Offensive Players of the Week. Fromm torched Florida’s defense for 240 yards and three touchdowns; Fitzgerald had 329 yards of total offense while accounting for four touchdowns against Texas A&M, which up to now is the best defense Alabama has faced.

LSU was doing something right in those games.

This is a different animal.

Who knows?

But the world is counting on them.

<hr />

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at

<a href="mailto:shobbs@americanpress.com" target="_blank"><strong>shobbs@americanpress.com</strong></a>

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