It was just 10 short months ago that Alabama and LSU met in the national championship game. Everyone remembers what happened—after losing at home to the top-ranked Tigers earlier in the season, the Crimson Tide got revenge and a 14th national title with a 21-0 victory in New Orleans.
Tonight marks the third time in 12 months these rivals will meet on the gridiron, this time in Death Valley. It's undefeated No. 1 Alabama versus one-loss No. 5 LSU, who is riding a 22-game winning streak at home.
"Obviously this is the kind of game that if you're a competitor you enjoy playing in, you enjoy getting ready for," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "The players have done a good job this week so far in the way they've practiced and tried to prepare themselves."
What's so beautiful about these two particular teams going at it is how physical those 60 minutes will be. It's pure strength vs. strength, the survival of the fittest.
"Every time you get the ball, you've got to be ready to hit on defense," said cornerback Dee Milliner. "Up front in the line, in the trenches, you know it's going to be hard on both sides of the ball…It's just a very intense game. You've got to be prepared and focused in and keep all the clutter away from you and just focus on what you're supposed to do."
Matchup: No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) at No. 5 LSU (7-1, 3-1), 7 p.m. CT, CBS
On the line: Everything.
For the Crimson Tide, simply, a perfect season, a trip to the SEC championship and a second consecutive spot in the national title game dangle above the jaws of a hungry Tiger. A loss likely ends all of that.
For LSU, a win means the Tigers will have won 23 straight home games, they've put the season's shaky start behind, will probably go to the SEC championship game for the second year in a row, and barring any other BCS Top 5 losses, a win could mean LSU takes a trip to Miami in January.
When Alabama has the ball…The Tide will head into this game like it does every other with the agenda of being balanced on offense. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon will try to gash LSU's stout rush defense, but if Kevin Minter and Co. load the box, A.J. McCarron will look to go over the top and find Amari Cooper and Kenny Bell down field.
McCarron could be the difference in this game. He is what the Tigers do not have—a leader at quarterback who has taken complete ownership of his offense. He has thrown 18 touchdowns and zero interceptions this season and a stellar performance could push him deeper into the Heisman race.<.p>
But in order for McCarron to have the night of his life, his offensive line must be at its best. LSU's dangerous pass rushing duo of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery vs. Alabama's offensive tackles Cyrus Kouandjio and D.J. Fluker will be a key matchup.
When LSU has the ball… The Tigers have had the most success offensively running the ball with myriad backs. But that will be a tough plan of attack against the nation's best rushing defense. If Alabama makes LSU one-dimensional, the Tigers will have to rely on Zach Mettenberger who really hasn't had a big game yet this season. He's got an arm, but can he use to it exploit Alabama? No quarterback has been able to do that yet.
Prediction:Mettenberger hasn't proved he can win the game, but if he makes mistakes and turns the ball over, he can sure lose it for LSU. If the Tigers' defense can stop Alabama's offense and Mettenberger plays it safe, they have a shot. If McCarron and the Tide can get rolling, it'll be the national championship all over again.
The game will ultimately come down to blocking and tackling and whoever makes the least amount of mistakes. Alabama and LSU are both built on toughness. As linebacker C.J. Mosley said this week, it's "whoever bends and folds first."
Alabama 20, LSU 9
MORE ALABAMA-LSU COVERAGE:
For more Alabama coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!