Rivalry With A New Wrinkle

By Adam Caparell - November 02, 2007

Down South this weekend, specifically in Alabama and Louisiana, you'd have no idea there are any other football games on the schedule.

That's because it's Alabama-LSU weekend. Nothing else matters. No other event takes precedence. No game all season will be bigger than this one. And for many different reasons.

It's Nick Saban vs. Les Miles. It's bitter Tigers fans vs. rejuvenated Crimson Tide followers in a battle for not only bragging rights and regional pride, but also the lead in the SEC West and the inside track to the conference championship game in Atlanta. It's a big matchup with equally big hype surrounding it thanks to the big names commanding each sideline.

"I certainly understand the interest of the game with a former coach," LSU coach Les Miles said. "I think that is natural."

The $4 million man, otherwise known as Nick Saban, faces off against his former team that he brought to prominence with a 2003 national championship. He squares off with many of his former players that he recruited to LSU while his team goes through some growing pains, yet shows considerable promise. Saban just wishes the focus could be strictly on the players.

"It's the kind of game that you probably come to the University of Alabama or a place like this in the SEC to have the opportunity to play - a nationally televised game, a game that has a lot of attention for all of the players," Saban said. "And a lot of the focus on the game should be about the players, not about anything else. A lot of guys have worked hard to make their teams be successful and have the opportunity to play in a game like this, and I think that's where the focus should be."

But it's not that simple when you're considered a traitor by many of your former supporters. Saban is the enemy, hated for his move to Tuscaloosa by the throngs of Tigers fans, and it adds yet one more flavor to what already is a great rivalry.

"I think rivalries happen naturally and have to do with the conference standings," Miles said. "Key contests make for rivalry games. Certainly this is a key contest. I don't know if focusing hatred is good for anything. I enjoy playing in significant games and certainly this is one."

Saban does, too. He knows what's on the line. Knows all the angles that have been unearthed by the media. He just can't stomach the attention. After all, as he told everyone during SEC Media Days this summer, he's just a shy guy.

Weekly Picks

Last Week: 2-3 | Season: 20-25

Ohio State (-15.5) over Wisconsin
Totally dependent on P.J. Hill. If he goes, you give Wisconsin a chance. If he doesn't then forget about it. He's a game time decision, but if he can't go there's going to be too much placed on Tyler Donovan. And I don't think he's talented enough to beat the Buckeyes on his own. James Laurinaitis shows up after a relatively quiet game against Penn State last week.

Colorado (+3.5) over Missouri
We've already seen Colorado put the clamps on a powerful and explosive offense. That win over Oklahoma showed the Buffs can play with the Big 12's big boys and this week they pull off another upset at home. Missouri has struggled historically in the month of November and after that horrendous debut season, Dan Hawkins needs only two more wins to become bowl eligible. The Buffs can smell the postseason and take a step closer.

BC (-6.5) over Florida State
We saw what an athletic defense can do against Boston College last week when Virginia Tech should have beaten the No. 2 team in the nation. FSU has a front seven that can pressure Matt Ryan and force him to move around more than he wants to in the pocket. The only problem is the Florida State offense, which will have Drew Weatherford back at quarterback because Xavier Lee has been suspended. Only chance Seminoles have of winning this game is if it's low scoring.

LSU (-7) over Alabama
Lot of points to give up for Alabama, especially at home. But it comes down to talent and the Tigers have more of it. Both teams had the week off, but LSU needed it more to get Glenn Dorsey, Matt Flynn, Early Doucet, Ali Highsmith, Chevis Jackson and Tyson Jackson healthy. They all should be well rested and ready to stop Alabama. Bama's success is going to rest heavily on Terry Grant. If he can get some yards then that will open up things for John Parker Wilson. If he plays well, Alabama usually wins. He won't Saturday, even at home.

Oregon (-7.5) over Arizona State
ASU has one of the better defenses statistically. But it's not going to be able to stop the rushing attack of Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart. Some people were won over with the Sun Devils performance against Cal. I'm still not sold on ASU. And just how healthy is Rudy Carpenter?

Posted by Adam Caparell at 05:27 PM on November 02, 2007

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