SEC Showdown in 'Bama

Four years ago, Nick Saban led Louisiana State to its first national title in 45 years. On Saturday, Saban, now the coach of Alabama, hopes to put an end to the Tigers' national title hopes.

In the highly anticipated matchup of his first meeting against his former team, Saban and the 17th-ranked Crimson Tide look to gain the inside track to the SEC West as they host No. 3 LSU in a battle of first-place teams.

Oddsmakers from have made LSU -7.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 54% of bets for this game have been placed on Alabama +7.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

Alabama (6-2, 4-1) and the Tigers (7-1, 4-1) are tied atop the West, and each program has been eagerly awaiting this showdown after having a bye last week.

While one team will move into first place in the division after this game, there has been much off-the-field hype surrounding the contest.

"The focus on the game should be about the players, not about anything else,'' Saban insisted.

"I don't know what people are saying. I don't know what's going on out there. I know you guys (the media) are busy creating it. Unfortunately, I'm not interested in trying to be a part of it.''

Saban, however, has been the dominant storyline heading into this contest.

He led LSU to two SEC titles and the 2003 BCS national championship - the school's first title since 1958 - during five seasons in Baton Rouge, and recruited 17 of the team's current starters. Saban then bolted to coach the Miami Dolphins for two disappointing seasons before bitterly ending ties with that franchise and returning to the SEC West.

"I've been hearing it ever since he took the job here,'' Alabama receiver Matt Caddell said. "That's probably been the biggest story of the year ever since he took the job. We're not going to let that be a factor with us. We're just going to go out there and do what we have to do.''

The Tide have lost four straight to the Tigers since a 31-0 win on Nov. 16, 2002, and have dropped their last three home games against them.

Alabama has won four of five at Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2007, though, and coming off its best game of the season.

The Tide racked up 510 yards - their most in a conference game since gaining 552 against Arkansas in 2002 - in a 41-17 rout of then-No. 20 Tennessee on Oct. 20 to win their third straight game. The win moved Alabama into the AP Top 25, and it jumped another five spots after last week's bye. It is also 17th in the BCS standings.

Against the Volunteers, John Parker Wilson completed a school record-tying 32 passes in 46 attempts for a career-high 363 yards and three touchdowns. The junior quarterback has thrown for 628 yards in the last two games, and has 1,876 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions on the season.

Wilson's favorite target DJ Hall, the school's all-time leading receiver, had a school-record 13 catches for 185 yards against Tennessee. Wilson has 24 receptions for 325 yards in the past two games and leads the SEC with 764 yards receiving and also has five touchdowns.

"He gets open,'' Wilson said. "I just kept feeding him the ball.''

In last season's 28-14 loss at LSU, Wilson was 22-for-35 for 291 yards, two TDs and one interception, and Hall had eight receptions for 142 yards. It was the most passing yards allowed by LSU all last season, and the Tigers have not given up as many passing yards in their 11 games since then.

LSU is second in the conference in passing defense (160.6 yards per game) and third with 13 interceptions.

The Tigers haven't played since their dramatic 30-24 last-second victory over then-No. 18 Auburn on Oct. 20.

Down by a point on Auburn's 22-yard line with 12 seconds remaining and one timeout left, LSU attempted a dangerous pass to the back of the end zone, bypassing a safer play could have created a closer potential game-winning field goal attempt.

The risky call paid off, however, as Matt Flynn connected with Demetrius Byrd for the game-winning touchdown with one second to play.

"When the game is on the line, this team knows how to compete," Tigers coach Les Miles said. "I think that there are some positives to derive from that."

Flynn finished with a career-high 319 yards passing and a season-high three touchdowns.

LSU racked up 488 total yards and is third in the SEC at 435.4 per game.

The Tigers had been the No. 1 team in the nation, but their 43-37 triple-overtime loss at then-No. 14 Kentucky on Oct. 13 dropped them to No. 5. Their win over Auburn moved them back to No. 3, and they are still in the national title hunt as the third-ranked team in the BCS standings.

"I enjoy the position our football team is in. We control our own destiny," Miles said. "We just have to take care of our business. Focus on one game at a time and get to the back end of this thing and see where we stand."

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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