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LSU Focused and Ready for ‘Game of the Century’ at Alabama

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Photo courtesy of LSU and LSUsports.net

The hype heading into Saturday’s epic SEC showdown is undeniably palpable.

The nation’s attention will be squarely on AP No. 1 ranked LSU Tigers (8-0, 4-0) and No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0) when the rivals clash in Tuscaloosa. Even the president of the United States is expected to be in attendance for the Game of the Century, according to ESPN.

LSU and Alabama are both coming off a bye week and will clash in a matchup significant to the SEC West and College Football Playoff.

LSU enters on an eight-game losing streak vs. Alabama. However, victories this season against three top-10 teams (No. 9 Auburn, No. 9 Texas, No. 7 Florida) provide optimism that the skid can be snapped.

“We have had some tests this year, we’ve answered the bell,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “And I do believe we have tremendous leadership, I do believe we’re well equipped to compete with these guys, I believe it’s going to be a great game.”

Coincidentally, the last victory for the Tigers in the series was when No. 1 LSU defeated No. 2 Alabama 9-6 (OT) in 2011. Flash forward to 2019 and offensive fireworks could ensue this time.

In terms of scoring offense, Alabama is No. 2 and LSU is No. 4 nationally. Alabama is No. 2 and LSU is No. 5 nationally in yards per play. Alabama is No. 2 and LSU is No. 3 nationally in pass efficiency rating.

Those lofty rankings have plenty to do with a pair of quarterbacks vying for the Heisman Trophy: LSU’s Joe Burrow (2,805 yards, 30 touchdowns, four interceptions) and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (2,166 yards, 27 touchdowns, 2 interceptions). ESPN’s Heisman Watch has Burrow at No. 1 and Tagovailoa at No. 3.

“[Burrow] has no fear throwing the ball there: 5 yards, 15 yards, 50 yards. I think he’ll have a big game. This kid lives for this. That’s who he is. He wants that stage,” SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic said.

Tagovailoa missed Alabama’s victory vs. Arkansas with a sprained ankle. While Alabama coach Nick Saban is playing it coy, LSU is preparing with the expectation that Tagovailoa will be under center.

“Been pretty consistent on the message with Tua. If he can play in the game, it will be a game-time decision,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “He did practice two days last week. We’ll see where he’s at today, and then we’ll manage the reps accordingly.”

Orgeron explains what it’ll take for LSU to get over the hump and emerge victorious at Alabama.

“Last year we didn’t win the line of scrimmage, they ran the ball on us. The year before they threw the ball on us. So we are going to have to play well in every area and in every football team,” Orgeron said. “But it just goes back to fundamentals and this week tackling is going to be a premium. They’re very dangerous with yards after contact. That’s where they make most of their plays.”

Saban discusses Alabama’s mentality going up against the nation’s No. 1 team.

“I don’t talk to them about that. I don’t talk about rankings. It doesn’t matter where you rank if you don’t have success in what you’re doing, you’re not going to be ranked there long,” Saban said. “So you need to focus on what you need to do to play well and how to do the best job that you can so you have the best opportunity to have success. And that’s what we’d rather have our players focused on.”

Per the AP, this will be the 26th regular-season meeting between No. 1 and No. 2 teams, including conference championship matchups. No. 1 teams hold a 15-8-2 edge vs. No. 2 teams. Altogether, No. 1 teams are 28-21-2 all-time vs. No. 2 teams.

Alabama holds a 53-25-5 edge vs. LSU in the all-time series.

Yet, history won’t matter when both squads line up on Saturday. Orgeron believes this is a new and improved LSU that can send a bold statement to the college football world.

“I like our quarterback, obviously. I like the way our offense is putting points on the board. We have gotten better on the line of scrimmage on the offensive side of the football. I feel like our guys have been tested against Auburn, they have been tested against Florida, obviously they are going to be tested again this week,” Orgeron said. “I do believe we have better depth on the defensive line. I think that our guys are equipped and this is the best football team we have had going into this game.”