Bye week is perfect for Tide and Tigers
October, 25, 2011
By Edward Aschoff | ESPN.com
Getty ImagesLes Miles and Nick Saban have extra time to rest their teams and prepare for their Nov. 5 showdown.Talk about the scheduling gurus getting it right.
Nearly everyone in America is counting down the days until the seismic bout between No. 1 LSU (8-0, 5-0) and No. 2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0).
While fans are itching to see these two behemoths play, both teams are ready for some time off. We might not be able to wait, but they sure are.
“The No. 1 thing we need to do right now is rest, get healed up,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We had a lot of guys banged up going into this game and we gotta get healthy.”
Alabama will need that extra time to work some guys in on the offensive line. Barrett Jones dealt with an injury last week before playing against Tennessee and now backup Cyrus Kouandjo is out for the year with a knee injury. While Jones looked fine against the Vols, getting a couple other bodies ready to go is a must.
This is also a chance for right guard Anthony Steen to regroup even more from the concussion he suffered against Ole Miss. Alfred McCullough started in Steen’s place against Tennessee.
As far as implementing the LSU game plan, Saban said he won’t get that going early. He wants his players to concentrate on this being a regular conference game -- which it most certainly isn’t -- in order to keep their focus.
“We need to fundamentally improve and we will not start preparation [during the early part of the bye] on that game because I’m not big on preparing for too long because I think that’s where players get bored with what you’re doing,” he said.
The Tigers are also relieved to have an extra week off before their trip to Tuscaloosa. LSU can heal its bumps and bruises and get in some extra work on the Crimson Tide.
But could taking time away from the field hurt LSU’s production? LSU is red hot and seems to grow more so each week, especially considering that off-field distractions haven't come close to slowing the Tigers. Maybe a bye could halt the Tigers’ momentum.
Quarterback Jarrett Lee isn’t buying that. To him, the more rest and time to scheme, the better.
“It’s gonna be a huge game. We’ve got another week to prepare for them because they’re that good,” Lee said. “We’re going to have to bring our A-game for sure. Preparation is going to be key.”
It will be for both squads, no matter how good each is. Neither team has faced an opponent close to the one it will meet on Nov. 5. Saban insists he won’t bog his players down with Tiger talk, but any extra planning is a must.
But beyond more work and healing physically, healing mentally is a focus as well. Playing eight straight games can really wear on a team and Saban can see it. Just look at Alabama’s lazy first half against Tennessee.
“I think we need it,” he said of the break. “It’s a tough run when you have eight games in a row. We don’t have a bye week anywhere in there, which I think can help your players heal up and sort of recover a little bit from an injury level. This is a good time for us to be having a bye week.”
This game will carry Super Bowl-like hype and having a week off from both squads will only intensify it. It keeps both teams at the top of the polls and destroys any chance of a scare for either.
It’s perfect in the long run, but it will sting not seeing either this weekend.
“I’m excited about getting to play Alabama,” LSU cornerback Ron Brooks said.
“It’s been nicknamed a couple things -- 'Armageddon' and 'Clash of the Titans.' I’m looking forward to it.”
We all are, and the wait will only make it that much more special.