Blue Bayou

Alabama at LSU
SEC Game of the Week
November 8th at 3:30 ET CBS
by Bob Epling

(article originally appeared in 11.3.08 Game Day Weekly)

“I’m going back someday, come what may, to blue bayou.”
Linda Ronstadt

Did your state go red or blue?

With Election 2008 finally ending this week (when did it start … around 2005?), count on political pundits to provide commentary about the presidential race, and all the national, state, and local contests too.

They’ll even break out those nifty color-coded maps to show us the red and blue states.

In the race for the SEC West, no such map is needed.

Alabama is definitely a red state.

LSU might be trending a bit blue on the bayou.

Alabama fans certainly are feeling red … as in red-hot. The Crimson Tide rolls into the LSU game on a ten-game winning streak that dates back to last season’s Independence Bowl.

Saturday’s 35-0 homecoming victory over Arkansas State exemplified the Alabama fall campaign.

The Tide continued a stunning record of getting off to fast starts by scoring on its first possession against A-State and taking a 14-0 lead into halftime.

For the season, Alabama has outscored opponents 198-26 in the first half.

The last time a team scored a touchdown in the first half against the Tide was back on September 20th when Arkansas posted a TD pass.

Alabama rushed for 205 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday’s game, passed for another 152, and chipped in a defensive touchdown on an interception return by Rashad Johnson. Such balance has been a hallmark of this team.

As if Alabama backers needed more good news, the Crimson Tide will roll into Baton Rouge as the nation’s #1 ranked team following the Texas Tech upset of Texas late Saturday night.

Tide coach (and former LSU head man) Nick Saban is going back to find the Bengal Tigers looking forward to happier times on a blue bayou.

The defending national champions are a respectable 6-2 on the season, but the two losses loom much larger than the six wins.

On October 11, LSU got swamped 51-21 on the road by the Florida Gators in a battle of the past two national champions. Two weeks ago, Georgia blasted the Tigers 52-38 at Baton Rouge.

When the only two really good teams on the schedule each romp to half a hundred points … welcome to blue bayou.

Those two LSU losses dimmed the spotlight shining on Saban’s return to red stick.

St. Nick led the Tiger program from 2000 to 2004, his five-year reign highlighted by the 2003 national championship. Saban left for the Miami Dolphins after the 2004 season.

Tiger fans could forgive Saban for leaving the program to chase his NFL dreams, but cannot so easily pardon him for returning to the college ranks only two years later, on the campus of a division rival no less.

Emotions will play a role in the game, but execution will mean more in the end.

Here are a couple of keys to watch:

1. The play of the quarterbacks: Alabama’s John Parker Wilson has been as steady as you’d expect a senior leader to be for the most part, but must maintain his composure in the most hostile arena he’ll face all season. For LSU, freshman Jarrett Lee shows flashes of excellence, but has been as erratic as you’d expect from a first-year starter. Handling the talented Tide defense will be a challenge.

2. The play of the defensive fronts: Both teams love to pound the ball on the ground. Alabama’s front has not been whipped all season, but the LSU offensive line is large. The LSU defensive front came into the season highly rated, but has been taken to the woodshed by the two best teams the Tigers played. If either of these units dominates, their team stands a great chance of winning.

A team going undefeated in the SEC seems unlikely. The Tide figures to lose one at some point. Let’s make it this one … on a blue bayou.

Game Ball: LSU

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