Alabama, LSU to battle next week

Published 12:01am Sunday, October 30, 2011

I told myself I wouldn’t write a column about this game.

But the Nov. 5 matchup between LSU and Alabama is one of the most talked-about topics not just in our region, but the entire Southeast.

As an Alabama graduate, I’m probably more familiar with the Crimson Tide than I am the LSU Tigers, but I do know that both teams are quite strong, both offensively and defensively. (LSU easily has the edge in the kicking game, for what it’s worth.)

Many college football fans are viewing this game as a de facto national championship game. I have to agree: Whichever team loses, I still think they are the clear No. 2 team in the country. When both of these teams are playing up to their capabilities, no one else can beat them.

I won’t make any predictions on this game, but I will say that both teams have weaknesses that the other one can exploit. Specifically, Alabama has a rookie quarterback at the helm, and when LSU’s running backs are healthy — they weren’t in 2009 when the Tide won — the Tigers have never had problems running on Alabama. Alabama is also prone to giving up big plays in the passing game on defense.

In LSU’s case, the Tigers have had problems against teams with a strong passing game, such as West Virginia and Oregon. I also wonder whether LSU’s defense, which isn’t very big outside of its two defensive tackles, can stop Alabama’s power running game for four quarters.

Games like this are what make college football fun — the discussion leading up to them, and the actual games themselves. There’s almost a romantic quality to a regular-season bout between the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams. With Alabama versus LSU, it’s almost a playoff-like atmosphere, with the winner in the driver’s seat to represent the SEC West in Atlanta, and eventually in the Sugar Bowl in January.

Everyone seems to be clamoring for a college football playoff, with anywhere from the top four to the top 16 teams going at it in January before determining a true national champion.

To those people, I would argue that this clash of the titans between Alabama and LSU is the best kind of “playoff” game a fan could hope for.

After all, this game has a bit of a sudden death feel to it, where the winner has a clear path to New Orleans, while the loser is likely on the outside looking in. Let’s say LSU wins, and both teams win out. Outside of the unlikely event every other team in the top 10 also has one loss, Alabama isn’t making it to the Sugar Bowl for a rematch.

It’s almost ironic that both the Tide and the Tigers had a bye week prior to this weekend’s matchup. After the two are done beating up on each other, you might argue that each team could afford another one.

Neither team believes it will do anything but win every time it takes the field, and neither team has been doing anything but winning. Perhaps we’re about to see what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object — in between a thousand or so commercials on CBS.

MICHAEL KEREKES is the sports editor for The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or at michael.kerekes@natchezdemocrat.com.