It reads like a Hollywood script – you know, if someone in Hollywood were inclined to craft some pre-cinematic material about regular-season college football.
Underdog lies in wait. Talented but outcast and essentially forgotten, it is seen as no threat … if it is seen at all.
The big dog arrives in town. It’s undeterred and believed to be unbeatable. Nothing can alter its path to the ultimate prize.
Then comes kickoff …
With 92,000-plus cheering on LSU Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La., this SEC battle between a pair of top-five teams figures to be everything fans across the country expected it to be before the season ever started – a duel to determine bragging rights, not just in a league or region, but nationwide.
But will it?
The reality since the two met last season in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and the visiting Tigers outlasted the Tide for a 9-6 victory is that the distance between them has only expanded. ’Bama won the rematch in a 21-0 whitewashing as the teams squared off in the BCS title game and, really, has been the far more dominant squad in 2012.
Though LSU has one of the nation’s best defenses and boasts one of its more acclaimed defenders in end Barkevious Mingo (why is not exactly evident since the junior has just 23 tackles and three sacks in seven games), its offense isn’t overpowering in terms of production and, well, even that defense ranks far behind the one the Tide rolls out there each week.
While the Tigers (7-1) have struggled against the likes of one-win Auburn and FCS member Towson and lost at Florida, ’Bama (8-0) has blown out every team it comes across. That being said, LSU has performed well in its past two games, beating then-unbeaten South Carolina and at Texas A&M.
The emergence of freshman RB Jeremy Hill played a major factor. He busted out for 251 yards and three TDs combined in those contests, averaging 7.2 yards per carry.
The showdown is supposed to be between the Tide O-line and the Tigers’ D-line. Just don’t be surprised if it comes down to which team has the better stable of backs … big backs built to wear down opposing defenses.
Eddie Lacey and T.J. Yeldon, a couple of 220-pounders, pace the ’Bama ground game, totaling more than 1,200 yards combined in eight games. Hill, fellow 215-pounder Michael Ford and 240-pound bowling ball Kenny Hilliard spark LSU and have combined for more than 1,100 in eight games.
Well, put it this way – the Tigers better hope the game comes down to that, because if it reverts to other spots, such as QB, where the Tide has Heisman contender AJ McCarron at the controls and LSU has Zach Mettenberger, they could be in trouble.
Not a script doctor in the world could save them then.
In other key Top 25 matchups:
No. 24 Oklahoma State (5-2) at No. 2 Kansas State (8-0) – Rankings aside, this is the toughest opponent the Wildcats have faced this fall. The Cowboys are as balanced offensively as any team in the country, headlined by RB Joseph Randle. K-State’s D will be tested. Of course, Okie State’s will, too, as any team that faces Heisman hopeful/’Cats QB Collin Klein is in for a long, physically taxing day.
Pittsburgh (4-4) at No. 3 Notre Dame (8-0) – If anyone out there has this guttural feeling that the Irish face a bigger challenge this week than they did last week at overrated Oklahoma, you are not alone. The Panthers, underachievers for much of the season, have talent and a quality QB in senior Tino Sunseri.
No. 4 Oregon (8-0) at No. 17 Southern Cal (6-2) – For the Trojans, who had national-title hopes to start the season, this is THE game now. Just a small problem, though: the Ducks, at this point, are just better, and have supplanted them as the staple for Pac-12 excellence.
No. 16 Texas A&M (6-2) at No. 15 Mississippi State (7-1) – The Bulldogs never even flinched at No. 1 Alabama last week, and still lost by 31. They won’t be able to catch their breath this week with highlight-reel, dual-threat QB Johnny Manziel coming to town.
No. 23 Texas (6-2) at No. 18 Texas Tech (6-2) – OK, “key” may be stretching it with regard to this one, which will be nothing more than trying to position for a half-decent bowl game.