LSU-Alabama an old-fashioned showdown

By John Zenor

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 4 2011 8:10 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2009, file photo, Alabama fans hold up a sign during an NCAA college football game against LSU at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Second-ranked Alabama are slated to host No. 1 LSU on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011.

Dave Martin, File, Associated Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The LSU and Alabama showdown promises to be a throwback of old-school football.

Both the top-ranked and barely tested Tigers and No. 2 and mostly unchallenged Alabama are built on power runs and run-stuffing defenses in a time when spread offenses are en vogue and huddles are optional.

"If you want to see 1970s smashmouth,," Alabama tight end Michael Williams said, "then this is what you want to see right here."

Yes, Saturday night's game will have a retro feel to it.

The vintage philosophies make this one reminiscent of an old Oklahoma-Nebraska or Alabama-Penn State clash. And like those teams, this year's edition of the Tide and Tigers — both 8-0 with five Southeastern Conference wins — have racked up double-digit victories

But neither Alabama's Nick Saban nor LSU's Les Miles is bringing the wishbone back in fashion.

Hitting, and hitting hard, well, that is certainly allowed. Even mandatory.

"It's a type of game that ... you don't necessarily see too often nowadays," LSU offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert said. "It is a little more old-school, so I think that'll be something fun to watch for the fans."

LSU's Jarrett Lee — supplemented by the more mobile Jordan Jefferson — and Alabama sophomore AJ McCarron have been the league's most efficient quarterbacks for the top two scoring offenses. However, Alabama ranks 66th nationally in passing offense, LSU 99th.

The Tigers, who have won on five of their last seven visits to Bryant-Denny. do have a significant deep threat in receiver Rueben Randle. The Tide counters with more of a catch-and-run type in speedy Marquis Maze.

What fans will see:

— A test of wills. Compact, powerful backs Trent Richardson of Alabama and LSU's Spencer Ware will be running between the tackles into defensive fronts that typically yield little ground.

— Playmakers on defense. An all-star defender making big tackles, forcing a timely turnover or just laying a resounding hit on some unsuspecting player. On Alabama, the likely candidates include linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower, and All-America safety Mark Barron. For LSU, it might be ball-stripping Tyrann Mathieu, fellow cornerback Morris Claiborne or pass rushers Barkevious Mingo or Sam Montgomery.

— Coaching eruptions. It might come from the ultra-intense, scowling Saban or Miles with his penchant for making seemingly odd gambles pay off.

With both teams coming off open dates, the hype around the game has been frenzied. Alabama's Williams has heard plenty from friends and family.

"Of course, 1 vs. 2, game of the century and all that type of stuff," he said. "You've got to put out the mental clutter."

Which isn't to say Williams isn't embracing the hype, even while some teammates downplayed it with that "just another game" spiel.

"This is what you come to Alabama for," the tight end said. "Great opportunity for some players. I know the atmosphere will be crazy. This is what you want to play in. It will be one for the ages."

It puts the spotlight on a community that was devastated by a deadly tornado in April but has received a regular Saturday pick-me-up from the Tide this fall.

"Every time we have a major event here, I think it makes people feel more and more normal about the way things are going," Saban said.

This certainly qualifies as major.

If the game lives up to its billing and ends up close, the loser's national championship aspirations might not be totally diminished. The loser could have an outside shot at January rematch in New Orleans that really is for the title.

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