By Ray Glier
Alabama plays a big game Saturday against LSU. It’s just too bad for the rest of college football that Alabama is impervious to looking in the mirror and admiring itself and not being ready for that big game. Bama is the Hare that crushed the Tortoise; there are no naps on the side of the road, no fairy tales.
LSU is not going to get any help. So it better score first and keep its crowd enthused. It better rush for 175 yards so it keeps the ball from the Bama quarterback Tua Tagovolia. It better have five whiz-bang blitzes dialed up. It better be ready for the run on first down. Alabama has been throwing it all over the yard on first down. Here comes the Tide run game.
LSU leads the SEC in turnover margin. It better win the turnover margin plus-two in this game.
LSU has to accomplish a lot on the field because it cannot count on help. It’s just not Alabama’s style to be charitable.
Phil Savage and I wrote about the ethos of the program in our book “Fourth and Goal Every Day.”
Alabama is always portrayed as the bully, the Goliath that just runs over your team. The Crimson Tide, in just about every game it plays, has the bigger, faster, and stronger players. I understand that. NFL scouts have labeled Bama the thirty-third NFL franchise. That abundance of talent there leads to resentment across college football because of that abundance of talent.
But that’s not the measure of the program. There is natural ability is on the roster, to be sure, but there is one dimension that is often overlooked and never compromised regardless of opponent: preparation. The Crimson Tide can get out-played (rarely), and it can get out-coached (still more rarely), but it does not get out-hustled in the film room or on the practice field.
Saban handles the distractions that can come from abrupt news flashes, or “big game hype”. He manages the tedious questions of Alabama’s place in all that is college football. Everyone else____coaches, players, personnel staff___can focus on the task at hand, which is winning games, because Saban’s force of will slams the window on any sideshows. He has the playbook and the experience to manage a crisis.
That’s why LSU has to “win” Saturday night. It is not going to be handed anything, not a letdown by Alabama, not over-confidence, anything. If LSU wins Saturday night, it will be because it has earned it.