Saban: Bama-LSU clash likely to come down to ‘three or four plays’
That’s how many close contests top-ranked Alabama (8-0 overall, 5-0 in SEC) has had this season. And it came back on Sept. 14 against Texas A&M. The Tide hung on to win that shootout 49-42. Besides that memorable game seven weeks ago, Alabama has dispatched of foe after foe in dominating fashion.
Now comes No. 13 LSU (7-2, 3-2).
And one close game in 2013 for Alabama has a very good chance of increasing to two. Every Alabama-LSU regular season game since 2008 has been a tight, hard-fought, big boy-against-big boy affair.
And the chances of that trend continuing? Probably pretty good. Sure, LSU’s record has already been blemished with a couple of losses (44-41 to Georgia and 27-24 to Ole Miss), but that doesn’t make Alabama head coach Nick Saban feel any better.
“This team could very easily be 9-0,” Saban said of LSU Monday. “They lost two games on the road by three points to very good teams in very tough environments.”
Translation? Alabama’s streak of six-straight blowout wins (no margin has been fewer than 25 points) is likely to end Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama would be happy with a one-point win when these two teams tangle in five days.
“I don’t think — since the first year — we’ve ever had a game where it’s not two really good teams playing,” Saban said. “I’m talking about that first year (2007) when we probably weren’t all that great, and they had a really, really good team.”
The only Bama-LSU game since ’08 that didn’t come down to the wire was the 2012 BCS title game in New Orleans. Alabama won that one 21-0. Saban fully expects this Saturday’s Alabama-LSU contest to be more like the other five Alabama-LSU games that have taken place since ’08.
“In all these games it comes down to three or four plays, and you never know when those plays are coming up so you gotta be in the right place every play,” Saban said. “And you gotta do it with a whole lot of effort and a whole lot of toughness because I can only tell you that every one of these games we’ve played with these guys has been very, very physical. It’s been a little bit like a heavyweight fight, and you certainly can’t fade in any round.”
No one would argue with Saban’s heavyweight fight analogy. Both these teams look and play like college football heavyweight contenders — year-in and year-out. They win. They win a lot. And they win with similar styles. Their players look very similar from a sheer physicality standpoint and the philosophies each coaching staff employs on both offense and defense are very similar.
So what’s going to separate the two on Saturday?
“I think it’s going to come down to basic execution,” Saban said. “The more emotion you have doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to execute better. So you gotta stay in the right place for who you are and what you do so that the choices and decisions and discipline that you play with is going to enhance your opportunity to be successful.”
This is one of those games where the teams are so similar, in fact, that some in-depth self-scouting followed by some minor tweaking and adjusting can prove quite valuable in gaining a slight advantage. Anything to throw off the other side just a little bit.
And both coaching staffs have had an extra week to work on throwing — to borrow some baseball terminology — a change-up at its foe come Saturday.
“We do (self-scouting) on a week-to-week basis,” Saban said. “Obviously when you don’t have a game it gives you a little more time to do that and kind of see what your tendencies are — offensively, defensively, special teams. I think self analysis is really important because to understand what the other team really knows about you based on what you do I think is really important.
“Now I think to go change everything that you do is probably not very smart either. But to do things that complement those things that the players can sort of adjust to probably is a smart thing to do to try to not give the other team an advantage.”
Yes, the coaching chess match is under way.
And so is the increased emotion among players and fans on both sides and the increased attention from the national media. It’s Alabama-LSU week. What else would anyone expect?
The two SEC Western Division rivals are set to clash Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Central. CBS will televise the game.
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