Both the top-ranked and barely-tested Tigers, and No. 2 and mostly-unchallenged Alabama, are built on power runs and run-stuffing defenses in a time when spread offenses are en vogue and huddles are optional.
“If you want to see 1970s smashmouth,” Alabama tight end Michael Williams said, “then this is what you want to see right here.”
Yes, Saturday night’s game will have a retro look to it.
The vintage philosophies make this one reminiscent of an old Oklahoma-Nebraska or Alabama-Penn State clash. Like those teams, this year’s edition of the Crimson Tide and Tigers – both 8-0 with five Southeastern Conference wins – have racked up double-digit victories.
But neither Alabama’s Nick Saban nor LSU’s Les Miles is bringing the wishbone back in fashion.
Hitting, and hitting hard, well, that is certainly allowed – even mandatory.
“It’s a type of game that … you don’t necessarily see too often nowadays,” LSU offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert said. “It is a little more old-school, so I think that’ll be something fun to watch for the fans.”
LSU’s Jarrett Lee – supplemented by the more mobile Jordan Jefferson – and Alabama sophomore AJ McCarron have been the league’s most efficient quarterbacks for the top two scoring offenses. However, Alabama ranks 66th nationally in passing offense, LSU 99th.
The Tigers, who have won on five of their last seven visits to Bryant-Denny, do have a significant deep threat in receiver Rueben Randle. The Tide counters with more of a catch-and-run type in speedy Marquis Maze.
Former Florida coach Urban Meyer, who was opposite Saban and Alabama in a pair of 1 vs. 2, SEC championship game matchups, figures McCarron is going to have to hit Maze or some other receiver downfield.
“LSU is going to put nine guys (near the line of scrimmage) and try to stop Trent Richardson, and they have the corners to do it,” said Meyer, now an ESPN analyst who will be in Tuscaloosa. “At the end of the day, for Alabama to score they are going to have to throw it over the top and challenge those LSU corners.”
With both teams coming off open dates, the hype around the game has been frenzied. Alabama’s Williams has heard plenty from friends and family.
“This is what you come to Alabama for,” the tight end said. “Great opportunity for some players. I know the atmosphere will be crazy. This is what you want to play in. It will be one for the ages.”