TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - It's an Alabama-LSU matchup with a dash of mystery and intrigue and involving a pretty well-known guy who spurned the NFL for a return to college football.
Nick Saban vs. Les Miles?
Hardly, it's No. 3 LSU's defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey - if he plays - leading a formidable front against a Crimson Tide offensive line likely to be starting a pair of backups in Saturday's game.
There is plenty of uncertainty in that key confrontation.
Dorsey, who postponed his NFL career to return for his senior season, sprained his right knee on an illegal chop block by Auburn two weeks ago. He has remained coy about his status this week but has practiced in a brace.
Miles, who is facing former NFL and LSU coach Saban, said his star defender wouldn't have been able to play if the game was last week, when the Tigers (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) had an open date. What about this week?
``We're not going to play him unless he's 100 percent,'' Miles said. ``If he's limited, we're not going to put him on the field. The open week gives us that opportunity.''
Dorsey's answer: ``When game time comes, if I play, I play.''
In other words, the fans and No. 17 Alabama will have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, Tide center Antoine Caldwell and right guard Marlon Davis were among five players suspended on the eve of the Tennessee game two weeks ago for impermissible receipt of textbooks. They are not expected to play, though Alabama officials met with the NCAA in Indianapolis on Wednesday regarding the ongoing university investigation.
BJ Stabler started in Davis' spot and Evan Cardwell replaced Caldwell against Tennessee, and the line didn't allow a sack. Quarterback John Parker Wilson takes considerable comfort from that.
``Tennessee had a great defensive front and I think we did fairly well against them,'' Wilson said. ``Tennessee was the best we've seen up to that game, and LSU will be the best we've seen so far. I think we match up good with them. We've got a good chemistry up front even though our first starters aren't starting.''
It is still a bad time to be without two key members of the line. Caldwell had started 32 consecutive games, handling three spots this season.
Co. are the front men of one of the nation's best defenses, which has 22 sacks. Only Vanderbilt (24) has more among SEC teams.
Tackle Marlon Favorite and ends Kirston Pittman and Tyson Jackson have impressed Saban, along with Dorsey.
``Their two inside players have exceptional initial quickness and explosive power,'' he said. ``They're difficult for anybody to block. It will certainly be a challenge for our offensive line. They also have good ends on the edges.''
Tide guard Justin Britt offers even stronger praise. He faced off with Dorsey for much of last year's game, when the Tigers had four sacks, and called him ``a beast.''
``This is without a doubt the best defensive front we've faced this year and that I will ever face,'' Britt said. ``They're extremely talented. It's everything. Glenn Dorsey's fast, he's extremely strong. He's unbelievable.
``He's the best in the country.''
The good news for Alabama is that the offensive line has made big improvements since getting criticism at times the past two seasons and didn't miss a beat with the subs against the Volunteers.
Still, tailback Terry Grant knows he'll be running into that formidable defensive front, especially since LSU's defense is speedy enough to make it hard to run outside, too. Backup Glen Coffee, a more bruising runner, was another player involved in the textbook investigation, along with two reserve defensive backs.
Asked about the defensive front, Grant said: ``They cause problems. A lot of them.''
``When you've got four guys causing the problems they cause, it's crazy,'' he said. ``Then you've got the other guys in the secondary and the linebacking corps. It's amazing.''
As for Dorsey, perhaps he offered a hint on his status when asked if Auburn players had apologized for the play that injured him. He said no, and that no apology was necessary.
``I'm not even worried about it. I've moved on,'' Dorsey said. ``I've got a big game to play this week.''

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