Goliath vs. Goliath: Part II

Clarence Promise Holmes Sr.
December 31, 2011
LSU could be best of all-time with win
January 3, 2012
Clarence Promise Holmes Sr.
December 31, 2011
LSU could be best of all-time with win
January 3, 2012

Two college football titans will walk into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Jan. 9 and do battle for at least 60 minutes.

The crowd will be somewhat split with some crimson and white splattered across a mass of mostly purple and gold on this Mardi Gras-like night in the Big Easy. Those in the dome will be rowdy and noisy in this Coliseum-like battle – they always are when these hated Goliaths meet in combat.

Those in the city’s streets will be just as lively as the entire sporting world will be looking at the giant party that will be New Orleans.

The hits will be fierce, future NFL players will be streaking across the field both left and right and the best college coaching generals will be signaling commands for their respective teams throughout the battle.

There will be Heisman Trophy contenders, All-Americans and a man they call Saint Nick in Tuscaloosa and a man they call Honey Badger in Baton Rouge – all in action during this festive event.

Oh yeah, did we mention the winner of this herculean matchup will be college football’s national champion?

Are you excited yet?

The entire Tri-parish area seems to be, as Louisiana sports fans are sitting on their collective hands in anticipation of Jan. 9’s epic showdown in the BCS National Championship Game between undefeated No. 1 LSU and hated rival No. 2 Alabama.

The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast to the world on ESPN. Both sides vow to do their best to make this night as magical as advertised.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity knowing that you are in the last game,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “You get to watch all the other teams in the country play their bowl games. … There is a want to do well in New Orleans. It is nice to play a significant game close to where you go to school and close to home at the end of the season.”

“We’re preparing to play our best game,” Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker said. “And we’re going to have to go out there and play our best game [to win].”

Jan. 9’s showdown isn’t the first time these two titans do battle this year in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown.

The first installment came in Nov. 5’s “Battle of the Century” in Tuscaloosa.

LSU won that hard-hitting, defensive showdown in overtime 9-6, executing better than the Tide in special teams to secure the win.

But this time around, who knows what might happen, as both teams anticipate wrinkles that were not part of the team’s first meeting.

Logic would tend to back up that line of thought as the teams will both have had more than a month to get ready for the meeting thanks to college football’s prolonged bowl system.

But players maintain their focus in preparation is the basics and wanting it more than their opponent.

“It was a tough game the first time, with the way we ended up winning,” LSU safety Eric Reid said. “I know that Alabama is going to be extremely motivated to get their ‘revenge,’ if you want to use that word. We just have to come out with the mentality that they will be hyped up and we have to match their intensity.

“Being that we’ve played each other already, they know us, and we know them. We know each other’s weapons, so we just have to prepare that much more and make sure we can be as mistake free as possible.”

“Just go out there and play,” Fluker added with a smile, agreeing with the talk that fundamentals are key to victory.

With the layoff serving as a source of rust for both teams, both LSU and Alabama have shifted the early portion of preparation toward regaining their form.

Both the Tigers and Tide were unquestionably the best defensive teams in the country, ranking No. 1 and No. 2 in virtually every major defensive metric.

With names like Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne, Ryan Baker, Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo on the purple side and Mark Barron, Dont’a Hightower, Dre Kirkpatrick and Courtney Upshaw donning crimson, it’s easy to see where points might be hard to come by.

Against one another, those numbers held true as neither team scored a touchdown in the grueling battle, despite the team’s offenses each averaging well more than 30 points per game on the season.

“I think Alabama is identical to us,” Reid said.

“LSU is a great team,” Alabama coach Nick Saban added. “And it all starts with their defense.”

But bowl game preparations haven’t always been quite as crisp and whoever overcomes the rust just might emerge as the victor in round two.

Both Miles and counterpart Saban believe things are progressing nicely with the big one looming.

“Because of the amount of time we had off, [we knew] it was going to be a lot like fall camp getting started,” Saban said. “[Players] would get sore. They would get tired, and they would have to work their way through that. I am pleased with the progress we have made and pleased with the work that we have gotten done.”

“We started a little rusty but that is why we get them back early,” Miles said following LSU’s first post Christmas practice. “They had a lot of retention and we ran well after practice. We were able to get a lot accomplished. We are still working on the game plan and going LSU vs. LSU.”

It might be LSU vs. LSU and Alabama vs. Alabama on the practice field, but the Herculean forces will collide Monday, ending the month-long wait.

All eyes will be on New Orleans that night.

The winner will be this year’s king of college football.

Again it should be asked, are you excited yet?

“This is what the world wants to see,” said LSU senior safety Brandon Taylor. “This is a heavy-weight fight. This will be a big game, the Super Bowl of college football. It’s going to be great playing against the second-best team in the country. Both teams will be able to go out there and show the world how two great defenses play and see a lot of hard hits out there on the field.”

LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson tosses a pass during a game
last season. The Tigers will be relying heavily on the senior
quarterback against Alabama.

Steve Franz