BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU’s Patrick Peterson has been a lonely soul for most of this season on defense.
Teams typically haven’t thrown his way. In fact, they’ve made it a point to avoid No. 7.
That’s what happens when you’re the best cornerback in college football.
“Still, you can’t let them lull you to sleep,” Peterson said.
He doesn’t expect that to be problem Saturday at Tiger Stadium. His old nemesis, Alabama’s Julio Jones, is coming to town.
They’ve been going at it since they were true freshmen, and this will likely be their last battle as college players.
“He’s going to bring his “A” game, and I’m definitely going to bring my “A” game,” Peterson said. “This is our third year going against each other. He knows how I play by now, and I know how he plays by now. It’s going to be a fun game, a fun matchup. I can’t wait until he gets here.
“It’s going to be something the whole country will want to see.”
There aren’t many cornerbacks on the planet who can match up one-on-one physically with the 6-4, 220-pound Jones. He’s fought off double teams, even a broken bone in his right hand, to lead the No. 6 Crimson Tide with 45 catches for 669 yards.
In his last game, he put on a show – literally. Jones had 12 catches for a school-record 221 yards in a 41-10 win over Tennessee two weeks ago.
He’s playing some of his best football.
But so is the 6-1, 218-pound Peterson, who’s moved up to No. 4 overall on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s Big Board of NFL draft prospects. Jones is No. 13 on Kiper’s most recent Big Board.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for Patrick Peterson, as well as the other LSU players, but he’s one of the finest players at his position in the country,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Two plays, in particular, stick in Peterson’s mind from last season’s game.
One was the pass on the sideline in the fourth quarter that he appeared to intercept, but wasn’t ruled an interception by the officials on the field or the replay official in the booth. It was determined that he didn’t get a foot down before going out of bounds, even though replays appeared to show that he did.
The other play, as fate would have it, was one Peterson watched from the sideline.
He’d been out of the game with cramps and was about to run back onto the field.
“One of the coaches pulled me back off,” Peterson said. “The ball was on the other side, and Alabama had already gotten the play in. I guess they didn’t feel like I would be able to get in there in time.”
Sure enough, Alabama threw a little screen over on the left side to Jones. He broke a tackle, made a nifty move and was gone for a 73-yard touchdown that was the difference for Alabama in its 24-15 victory.
“I wasn’t out there helping my guys,” Peterson lamented. “I felt bad about not being out there. I wouldn’t say it haunts me, but it sticks in my memory.”
When Peterson was out there, he shut Jones down a year ago. Alabama targeted Jones seven times when Peterson was covering, and all seven passes were incomplete.
But Alabama was able to move Jones into the slot several times and get him the football when Peterson wasn’t covering.
“The thing about them is that they have a lot more players on that offense than just Julio,” Peterson said. “We have to be sound across the board.”
The Tigers were anything but sound the last time they played. Auburn and Cam Newton thrashed them to the tune of 440 rushing yards two weeks ago on the Plains.
“That game two Saturdays ago was an eye-opener,” Peterson said. “We didn’t play to the best of our ability, but we’re excited to get back onto the field again against an Alabama team that takes great pride in being physical.
“We know what they’re going to try and do to us, but we’re ready to get back out there and get rolling again.”
Peterson, who has two interceptions this season, says he’s a smarter player and a better all-around cornerback than he was a year ago.
“You’re not going to see me get beat on any double moves,” Peterson said.
You’re also not going to see him hold anything back in what will almost certainly be his last shot at the Crimson Tide.
“What it’s come down to is that we just haven’t been able to finish games against these guys,” said Peterson, who leads the SEC in punt return average (19.7 yards) and has taken two back for touchdowns this season.
“It’s going to be another fistfight, and I have no doubt it will come down to the wire again. We just need to make sure we’re the ones there at the end.”