Wiedmer: It's LSU... perhaps

Wiedmer: It's LSU... perhaps

November 3rd, 2011 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports

Let's face it. When it comes to Saturday night's Game of the Century between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama, we in the media don't KNOW anything.

We think we do. We hope we do. But other than being fairly certain that both the visiting Tigers and Crimson Tide may be even better than our mom's pumpkin pie smothered in whipped cream, we have no idea what will transpire when the two kick it off at 8 p.m.

But Tennessee's Vols do know something, because they've played both super heavyweights, losing to each by remarkably similar scores. LSU won 38-7 in Knoxville. Alabama won 37-6 in Tuscaloosa.

Given the three to five points the home field is supposed to be worth, that would seem to say LSU is the slightly better team. Then again, the Tide pretty much toyed with the Vols in the fourth quarter, basically turning its back on two near-certain late scores.

So maybe Alabama really is worthy of being a five-point favorite, which is where Las Vegas oddsmakers had the Tide on Wednesday.

"I don't know who'll win," said UT tight end Mychal Rivera last week. "But those are two physical teams. There's a lot of big-time NFL guys out there."

There was this from linebacker Austin Johnson, who picked off the first A.J. McCarron pass in the Tide quarterback's last 150 attempts: "They're both great teams. I thought Alabama's coaches made some great halftime adjustments, and they're the home team. But it wouldn't surprise me, either way."

Then there's Vols senior defensive lineman Malik Jackson, who's never at a loss for words or opinions.

"If I had to say, I thought LSU was more physical up front," observed Jackson, "They're a downhill running team, and that's tough to stop over four quarters. Their offensive line really wears on you. So I'd probably pick LSU, but that doesn't mean you can count out Alabama. Those are two great, great teams."

Everything about this game is great unless you're some poor unlucky bloke like Jackson who'll be facing Middle Tennessee inside Neyland for much of the time the LSU-Alabama game is being played.

You half-wonder if UT athletic director Dave Hart wouldn't fill more seats in Neyland if he agreed to televise the LSU-Bama contest on the stadium's giant video screen -- with the sound down, of course.

Sure, it might make for an awkward moment or two if Middle delivered a big play at the same LSU or Alabama excelled, creating an awkward amount of noise when the Vols would least expect it.

But at least the Neyland stands might be full instead of 20,000 or 30,000 shy of capacity because everyone's hunkered down in their dens in front of their 40-inch HDTVs watching the SEC's finest.

And it should be some game, beginning with the uniforms, which haven't changed in more than 50 years and still rank among the SEC's three best with Auburn.

There are the coaches -- Bama's Nick Saban and LSU's Les Miles. Miles eats grass while Saban prefers Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme sandwiches, which is certainly good for the Chattanooga economy. But if Miles upsets Saban and goes on to win the national title, his contract calls for him to be paid $1,000 more than the SEC's highest-paid coach, which is Saban at more than 4.8 million a year.

Finally, there's this: The road team has won 27 of the last 40 meetings between these two and no No. 1 has beaten a No. 2 in a regular-season game since 2006, when Ohio State outlasted Michigan, 42-39.

Then, as now, there was immediate talk of a rematch, though the Buckeyes ultimately lost to Florida in the BCS title game and Michigan fell to Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl.

Even UT coach Derek Dooley -- a former Saban assistant at LSU -- said Monday, "They may play again. It wouldn't surprise me."

It wouldn't surprise most people. But logic says that for there to be a rematch, Bama must win, then LSU knock off Arkansas in the regular-season finale, allowing the Tigers to accumulate enough BCS points for a rematch. If LSU triumphs, Bama's remaining schedule -- despite playing at Auburn -- would make a rematch less likely thanks to a home loss to the Bayou Bengals.

Yet as much as I'd love to see an all-SEC BCS title game, I predict a 17-14 LSU victory and a big raise for Miles.

Now if only UT's Hart would put it on Neyland's big screen so I could watch it while covering the Vols and Blue Raiders.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273.