When they last met, Alabama vs. LSU was all about Nick Saban coaching against his former team.
This year, there’s more pressing business: keeping in the mix to play for the national title.
Two Southeastern Conference titans meet today in Tuscaloosa, Ala., with a pair of formidable defenses and one Heisman Trophy candidate in a game that might be low on points, but should provide plenty of drama.
Third-ranked Alabama (8-0, 5-0) allows the fifth-fewest points per game in the nation and has given up just one touchdown in its last three games. Only Texas is stingier against the run. LSU (7-1, 4-1) sports the No. 7 scoring defense, has given up just 36 points in its last four games and is coming off a shutout of Tulane.
The game could determine who plays No. 1 Florida in the SEC championship game. It will definitely be Alabama if the Tide win. If the Tigers win, they clinch a Gators rematch with wins against Mississippi and Arkansas.
Either way, the survivor is still in the mix for a national title shot.
The key to stopping Alabama’s offense has been to try to slow down Mark Ingram, who had at least 140 yards in three straight games before being held to 99 against Tennessee two weeks ago going into an open date.
Ingram has been impressed by an LSU defense led by linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and defensive backs Chad Jones and Patrick Peterson.
“They are big and fast, strong and physical,’’ he said. “The scheme they play, they do it really well. They are coached up really well. They all do their assignments. They all get to the ball and they make it really hard for offenses to have success.’’
Sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor knows what to expect when he leads No. 15 Ohio State (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) into Beaver Stadium today to take on No. 11 Penn State (8-1, 4-1). Pryor, a native of Western Pennsylvania, spurned the Nittany Lions last year to become a Buckeye. “We’re going [in] as a team, so if I get spit on, they spit on the whole team,’’ said Pryor, who added, “It’s going to be exciting, electric.’’ . . . Cincinnati went to Connecticut last season with a perfect league mark and high expectations. The Bearcats left with a 40-16 loss. Today, the No. 4 Bearcats (8-0, 4-0) are perfect again in the Big East with UConn (4-4, 1-3) paying a visit. “Can we just take that game, not play this one, and just substitute it?’’ joked Huskies coach Randy Edsall.