TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Ed Orgeron isn’t the least bit interested in point spreads. Blocking, tackling and turnovers are what’s on his mind.
So what if his 19th-ranked LSU Tigers are 21-point underdogs to No. 1 Alabama Saturday night, a perception chasm that would have been unthinkable back when they were waging 2011’s ”Game of the Century.”
”That don’t mean anything to us,” Orgeron said. ”I mean, it’s the way you play the game. I think Syracuse didn’t listen to that when they played Clemson. It’s just the way you play the game. You never can tell. We go in there with the mind-set we’re going to win the football game.”
In fact, Clemson was favored by 22-1/2 points over the Orangemen and lost.
This one is a Southeastern Conference Western Division rivalry game that has only ratcheted up in intensity since former Tigers coach Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa and rebuilt a national power. That’s exactly what Orgeron is trying to do.
Alabama, though, has won the last six meetings since the national championship game in January 2012.
Orgeron called this a ”very important game” for the state of Louisiana, the fans and the Tigers (7-2, 3-1 SEC). An upset would make quite a statement.
The Tide (8-0, 5-0) has been scarcely challenged so far in SEC games but trailed Georgia in the initial playoff rankings released Tuesday night, coming in at No. 2.
Safe to presume Saban wasn’t ”wasting” – his word – his time watching that broadcast. More likely, he was scrutinizing film of a Derrius Guice-led offense trying to figure out how to stuff another star LSU tailback.
The Tigers have reeled off three straight wins since a stunning loss to Troy .
”LSU has played really, really well in their last three or four games,” Saban said. ”They’re on the rise.”
This one will put that trajectory to the test more than any other game on LSU’s schedule, of course. The Tigers’ final three SEC opponents have a combined 4-11 record, potentially making them the team to beat in the West if they can pull off the upset of the Tide.
”They’re on top of the world right now,” Orgeron said. ”This is the benchmark.”
Some other things to watch in Saturday’s LSU-Alabama matchup:
STAR TAILBACKS: The game will feature two – at least – of the SEC’s top tailbacks. LSU’s Derrius Guice is coming off his third career 250-yard performance and is the league’s No. 2 rusher. Alabama’s Damien Harris splits carries in a deep backfield, but still is averaging 8.6 yards per attempt with 10 touchdowns. The Tide held Leonard Fournette to 66 yards on 36 carries combined the past two seasons.
STREAKS: Beyond LSU’s six-game losing streak in the series, Orgeron is 0-4 as a head coach against Alabama, dating back to his days at Mississippi. Saban is 8-3 against his former team. The Tide has already pushed winning streaks against Arkansas and Tennessee to 11 games.
PASSING TIME: Alabama’s Jalen Hurts and LSU’s Danny Etling combined for 199 passing yards in last season’s meeting – a 10-0 Tide victory. They’ve still been up and down passing but for Etling, especially, having some production through the air is important. The Tigers did just beat Mississippi without completing a pass to a wide receiver, but Alabama leads the nation in rushing, scoring and total defense.
”First of all, Danny has to be very, very patient,” Orgeron said. ”He has to make the right throws, the right decisions in a big game. This is his test. He knows it.”
TURNOVERS: Both teams have been good at protecting the ball. Alabama leads the SEC in turnover margin, forcing 15 and losing only five. The Tigers have lost just three fumbles and three interceptions while picking off seven passes.
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