31 October 2011
For the first time since the invention of the BCS there will be a #1 vs. #2 matchup in the SEC. If you've been living under a rock for the last six weeks or so, you might not know that LSU will visit Alabama this weekend. CBS has negotiated to get the game into prime time. ESPN is doing Game Day from Tuscaloosa despite the fact that it will be advertising for a CBS game. If you watched a game on television this past weekend, you likely saw a video package about the game. At the least, the announcers made a reference to the game.
Simply put, it's a big game.
Both teams are coming off a bye week, which has been standard practice for the last several years. I honestly can't speak much about the condition of LSU entering the bye week, other than to know that several key players are coming off of two bye weeks after missing the Auburn game due to suspensions. Suspensions that, by the way, have been served completely. In a move that shocked absolutely no one, the three key LSU players who were caught smoking synthetic marijuana have been reinstated and will make the trip to Tuscaloosa.
Good for them. Alabama is good enough to not worry about who is suspended or injured on the other team. Alabama is good enough to worry about Alabama. Because if the Tide does what it is capable of doing, it won't matter whether a Honey Badger or a Parsley Meerkat is playing for the other team.
The off week for the Tide came at a great time. Anthony Steen missed the Tennessee game, but is expected back. Eddie Lacey and Barrett Jones have missed practice time, but should be considerably closer to 100% than they have been in weeks. Lots of guys like Nick Gentry and Courtney Upshaw have been dealing with nagging injuries that have had time to heal. More so than anything else, though, the guys got a weekend off mentally. They were able to simply get away from the mental focus needed to play at a high level.
There was some bad injury news during the off week, as it was announced that true freshman Cyrus Kouandjio had surgery to repair a torn ACL. Cyrus had begun to play more as the season wore on, especially in short yardage and goal line situations. He should be fully recovered by the beginning of the 2012 season, but could be limited during spring drills. Tyler Love was taking snaps with the second unit at left tackle during last week's practice, though I feel confident in saying that Alfred McCullough would be the backup if something happened to Barrett Jones.
Alex Watkins left the Tennessee game with a fractured arm. He has a cast on his arm, but was able to practice on a limited basis last week. He wore a black no contact jersey, but the fact that he was going through individual drills is an encouraging sign for a guy who has been a major part of Bama's special teams.
Otherwise, what we'll see on Monday is likely what we'll see on Saturday. Coach Saban will address the media on Monday, and I am guessing you'll hear him talk about "clutter" and "distractions". I am also guessing that he'll try to deflect as much attention away from the pressure being put on his players as possible. I would guess that we would see the same from Les Miles, but I gave up trying to predict crazy several years back.
Either way, this is likely to be an extremely long week, capped by an extremely long Saturday. The good news is that I think it will be well worth the wait.
This game is likely to determine one of the participants in the BCS Championship Game - and a rematch isn't totally out of the question. It will almost certainly determine who wins the SEC West. Most of all, though, it should be a hell of a lot of fun game to watch.