TIDE, TAKE THREE
• 1. This is the eighth straight season in which Alabama and LSU have met as ranked opponents, the longest such streak in the SEC.
• 2. Alabama leads the series with LSU 48-25-5 and has been more effective against the Tigers in Louisiana (27-9-3) than in Alabama (21-16-2).
• 3. The Crimson Tide lead the SEC and rank second nationally in run defense, allowing 78.1 yards per game.
There has been no shortage throughout the years of matchups between Southeastern Conference head football coaches with national championships.
Bear Bryant and Shug Jordan squared off 18 times in the Iron Bowl, and Steve Spurrier and Phillip Fulmer met 14 times. The SEC possessed five coaches with national titles in 2010, with former Auburn coach Gene Chizik becoming the fifth that season, and the most prominent such pairing in recent years adds another chapter Saturday night when Nick Saban and Alabama visit LSU and Les Miles.
"We don't really look at it like it's a personal thing," Saban said. "They've got a really good team, and they've got good players. What they've done a good job of through the years is that they do what their players can do well, and that's always very difficult to defend.
"We have respect for their players, their program and their coaches. Les has done a fabulous job there recruiting as well as developing players."
Saban, who coached LSU to the 2003 national championship and returned to the league in 2007, has a 5-3 record against Miles. Saban was 2-3 until evening the tally in January 2012, when the No. 2 Crimson Tide thumped the No. 1 Tigers 21-0 in the Louisiana Superdome to win the 2011 national title.
Alabama pulled out a 21-17 thriller in Baton Rouge two seasons ago and broke free for a 38-17 win last season in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The only other league team to be as competitive against Saban's Crimson Tide is Auburn, which is 3-4 against the Tide since 2007.
"I think there is an enjoyment of playing Alabama," Miles said Monday in his weekly news conference. "You enjoy competition, and you enjoy playing at a high level. Our football team tends to play biggest on a big stage, and we're looking forward to getting in Tiger Stadium and having our fans rock the place.
"This is the kind of game you come to LSU to play in."
Miles replaced Saban in Baton Rouge in 2005 and led the Tigers to the 2007 national championship, which included a 41-34 escape of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In 2008, Saban got his first victory over his former team with a 27-21 road triumph in overtime.
One of LSU's biggest wins under Miles was a 9-6 overtime victory in Tuscaloosa in 2011, a defeat the Crimson Tide avenged two months later.
"I think there is certainly a mutual respect from me to him," Miles said. "He's a very talented coach, and I suspect he feels the same."
Alabama and LSU have a slew of similarities, ranging from their ability to compile five-star prospects each winter to their ability to blow opponents off the line of scrimmage each season. Another common thread arrives each spring with an exodus to the NFL.
"They have a little bit of the same issue we have sometimes with having a lot of guys go out early for the draft," Saban said. "It makes you a younger team, and your team has to develop through the season, but they have developed nicely this year and are playing their best football right now."
LSU lost its first two SEC games this season to Mississippi State and Auburn but regrouped to defeat Florida, Kentucky and Ole Miss in the past three weeks. The Tigers (7-2, 3-2) fell from the Top 25 after their 41-7 loss at Auburn but are No. 14 this week, moving up two positions from last week despite having Saturday off.
Alabama (7-1, 4-1) was off this past weekend as well. The No. 4 Crimson Tide last played Oct. 25, when they won 34-20 at Tennessee.
Crimson Tide freshman left tackle Cam Robinson sprained his ankle early in the third quarter against the Volunteers, and Saban said last week that he would miss "a couple of weeks." On Monday, however, Robinson participated in practice.
"We haven't ruled him out of this game," Saban said. "We'll have to see how he progresses this week. He has run on the treadmill and has done well at that, and if he continues to make progress, he could be a guy who will be available for the game."
Alabama's home game next week against No. 1 Mississippi State will be televised by CBS at 3:30 p.m. or ESPN at 7:15. ... Junior receiver Amari Cooper was named Monday as a Maxwell Award semifinalist, and junior safety Landon Collins was tabbed a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award. ... Saban said Monday that the suspension of redshirt freshman tailback Tyren Jones is over.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.