So it's not the "Game of the Century," or maybe even the game of the week. But No. 1 Alabama versus No. 10 LSU is still a made-for-prime-time matchup.
Photo by Kyle Zedaker
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - So it's not the "Game of the Century," or maybe even the game of the week.
No. 1 Alabama versus No. 10 LSU is still a made-for-prime-time matchup in the Southeastern Conference Saturday night and maybe even a must-win in the Crimson Tide's bid for a third consecutive national championship.
Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) has overcome down-to-the-wire November defeats the past two seasons - to Texas A&M and the Tigers - and still managed to claim the title, thanks to timely losses by other contenders.
Now, four other unbeaten teams are lined up just waiting for the Tide to falter, making perfection the only guaranteed ticket to the BCS title game in Pasadena, Calif. AJ McCarron isn't banking on one loss cutting it this time - or worrying about it.
"Probably not, but I'm not thinking about everybody else," the Alabama quarterback said Monday. "I could care less about what their record is. It's no disrespect to them. They're all having great seasons, but we're worried about us and what we need to do to take care of business."
That doesn't mean some Tide fans won't be tuning in Thursday night for No. 2 Oregon's visit to No. 6 Stanford in the rare game that casts a bigger shadow during Alabama-LSU week. Or taking a peek at what's happening with No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Baylor.
Just in case.
Tide coach Nick Saban dismisses that one-loss scenario as one of those hypotheticals not worth thinking about. But this is one of the two biggest obstacles to perfection remaining for Alabama in the regular season.
The Tide will be heavily favored in at least two of its last three regular-season games against Chattanooga and Mississippi State before facing No. 7 Auburn. Alabama is an 11-point favorite over LSU.
"This is not the kind of game that anybody could not get excited about playing in," Saban said.
The Tigers (7-2, 3-2) already have a pair of three-point road losses to unranked Georgia and Mississippi, but have recovered well enough to make this the fourth consecutive meeting when both Alabama and LSU are ranked in the Top 10.
"I can tell you that our guys are in college football for these kind of games," LSU coach Les Miles said. "We look forward to playing in them. It's a great opportunity for all. Any time you line up against Alabama, there's a rivalry. There's national prestige.
"I think the greatest compliment that we can pay an opponent is our best efforts, and certainly Alabama will get that."
Besides the stakes, this game has been notable in recent meetings for dramatic finishes and tight games, the national title rematch in January 2012 when Alabama won 21-0 being a notable exception.
The last three regular-season meetings have been decided by four points or less, and LSU won two of them.
Last season, T.J. Yeldon took McCarron's screen pass 28 yards for a touchdown with 51 seconds remaining for a 21-17 victory.
"Last year's game hurt," LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson said. "We played a great game until the last minute. Now, I'm just getting ready for this game. Every year we play, it's a huge game, a rivalry game. Everybody is doubting us. I just want to prove them wrong. We play better when everybody is against us.
"This is a chance to showcase our talent. It's like an Ali-Foreman fight every time we play. The intensity level is like no other game. "
In 2011, the 1 versus 2 so-called "Game of the Century" came down to the kickers with LSU winning 9-6 in overtime.
"Great defense on both sides, people making plays left and right," Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley said
The 2010 meeting was notable for Miles enjoying his tradition of nibbling on a blade of grass before DeAngelo Peterson went 23 yards on a fourth-down reverse in the fourth quarter to set up a go-ahead touchdown in LSU's 24-21 victory.
Clearly when it comes to this game, "pretty good" won't likely be enough.
"Coach always tells us to go out and play our best game," Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood said. "We don't look for pretty good, we look for the best that we can play."