"This is Death Valley. This is truly a place where opponents dreams come to die." –LSU head coach Les Miles
It's what every college football fan has been waiting for all season. It's the rematch's rematch. It's two SEC heavyweights punching each other in the mouth for 60 minutes straight. It's sergeant Nick Saban vs. mad hatter Les Miles. It's time for No. 1 Alabama to take on No. 5 LSU in Death Valley at night.
Miles is famous for the aforementioned saying. And it speaks nothing but the truth as LSU has won 22 straight home games. But that streak is currently a piece of meat dangling over an Alabama shark tank.
Crimson Tide strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran—the man who riles up the players before every practice, every weight training session and every game—read that quote to the team this week. Running back Eddie Lacy said Cochran wasn't looking for an immediate reaction from the players, but just wanted to make sure they knew.
"You can talk and say whatever you want," Lacy said. "Its just words. You have to go out and play."
Death Valley packs in 92,542 crazed fans drenched in purple and gold, but that's about 10,000 less than Bryant-Denny Stadium holds. So why is it so tough to play at LSU?
"They hate us," said wide receiver Kevin Norwood. "Death Valley is a tough place to play, especially when they got their crowd behind them and especially when they got a good defense, so we're just going to have to bring our A game and focus on what we gotta do."
Added defensive end Damion Square: "They definitely have a 12th man in Death Valley. Their fans are big. They scream the whole game. They make sure you know that they're in the stadium. I haven't been down there and played in a game that wasn't a classic."
Saturday will be third time in 12 months these rivals square off. Of course last November, then-No. 1 LSU came to Tuscaloosa and beat then-No. 2 Alabama in a battle of the field goals, 9-6. But the Tide came back for blood in the national championship in January and rolled, 21-0.
This time around, Alabama sits atop the rankings, undefeated, having absolutely destroyed every opponent on its schedule. LSU is the highest-ranked one-loss team in the BCS standings.
One might have thought that the Tigers would have been more motivated to start this season considering what happened to their almost perfect one last year. But a too-close-for-comfort 12-10 win over Auburn in Week 4, followed up a couple weeks later with a loss to then-No. 10 Florida on the road showed weakness. Since their trip to the humid Swamp, the Tigers have beaten South Carolina and Texas A&M, but only by a combined seven points.
The Crimson Tide returned less people and had a younger, more inexperienced roster to start the season, but came out of the 2012 gate with their hair on fire—they're outscoring opponents 325-65 and 125 of those points have come off 23 forced turnovers, the offense is almost perfectly balanced (214.38 yards rushing per game, 222 yards passing), and the defense is ranked No. 1 in the country in just about every major statistical category.
But no matter what's happened in the weeks leading up to this one, Saturday night means everything. It will make or break seasons. The game will draw heavy scrutiny and endless debate, and everyone will judge these teams by their performance against each other.
"It pretty much comes down to us and these guys," Square said. "They do what they do and they do it well. There's nothing really fancy. It's football the way it's supposed to be played. We've got to come out and match their intensity."
It's pretty simple: Two of the most physical, athletic and vicious teams with two of the most respected, creative and intelligent coaches will go at it under the lights Saturday with everything at stake. By the end of the night, someone's dream will have died in Death Valley.
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