TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Louisiana State University will be seeking redemption in the latest colossal clash with fellow Southeastern Conference Western Division power Alabama.
Sure, there’s the standard matter of national and SEC title prospects. The loser, after all, can’t count on a rematch in Miami for a do-over like the top-ranked Crimson Tide got last season.
The fifth-ranked Tigers say they are taking even more motivation from that 21-0 BCS championship shutout in January when Alabama comes calling Saturday night with the stakes at their usual heights.
“There are a lot of scars from that national championship game,” LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan said. “You will see it on the field. The loss in the national championship game had a big impact on us. Going into last season, we had set goals like winning the national championship. Bama took that from us. They took that national championship ring. We want to show the world that we have bounced back from that loss.”
Chances are the world will be watching, or at least a sizable chunk of college football fans. Last year’s initial 1 vs. 2 matchup brought CBS its highest ratings for a college football game since Notre Dame-Miami in 1989. The network will air it in primetime instead of its normal afternoon slot after working out a deal with ESPN.
It’s not drawing “Game of the Century” billing like the meeting 363 days before, which LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo called “one of the fiercest games I’ve played in.” Game of the year is certainly possible.
That 9-6 overtime loss last season cost Alabama (8-0, 5-0) the SEC West, and maybe SEC, title if not the biggest prize.
Even the Tide is manufacturing a little redemption storyline for Round 3.
“LSU is the SEC championship team or whatever, and not us, we’re just the national championship team,” Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood said on Monday. “And that’s one of our goals, to be the SEC championship team.”
“To me, I like to fulfill all my goals, and that’s one we didn’t, so it’s motivation for us.”
Mostly, Alabama players insist they’re not getting caught up in the hype and they’re treating it as just another game.
The Tigers have been more tested. This is their fourth straight game against a ranked team, starting with a loss at No. 8 Florida.
Alabama is coming off its only victory over a team currently in the Top 25, 38-7 over No. 17 Mississippi State.
It just so happens LSU was off last weekend, so coach Les Miles got to watch that game from start to finish. He came away impressed.
“I watched every snap of the Alabama-Mississippi State game Saturday,” Miles said. “It looked just as bad on the coach’s copy. That Alabama team is pretty good. They look like the No. 1 team in the country. Coach Saban has done a great job there. Their team is deserving to be the No. 1 team in the country. I look forward to playing that team.
“We need to play for ourselves. We need to play better because we didn’t” in January.
Players from both sides used the word “hate” to describe feelings among the fans, especially in Baton Rouge.
“I’m pretty sure they hate us because of what happened last year and stuff like that,” Norwood said.
LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, who is from Georgia, said he was surprised by how much “people hate Bama down here.”
‘’Being around the students and the fans, there is real genuine hate,” Minter said. “All the fans worry about is us winning that game.”