Friday, July 6, 2012
SEC impact game: Western Division
By Chris Low
Not only has this one become the impact game in the Western Division, but it's the impact game in all of college football.
The West's impact game: Alabama at LSU, Nov. 3.
For starters, one of these two teams has won the BCS national championship three of the past five years. LSU won in 2007, while Alabama won in 2009 and 2011. And not that anybody really needs to be reminded, but Alabama beat LSU last season in the BCS National Championship Game. That's after the two teams played a much ballyhooed No. 1 versus No. 2 game in Tuscaloosa during the regular season, with LSU winning 9-6 in overtime.
What can we expect this season? Well, both teams will be ranked anywhere from No. 1 to No. 3 when the preseason polls come out, and both teams fully expect to be in the national championship equation when they meet Nov. 3 in Baton Rouge.
Both teams lost a ton of talent to the NFL draft. Alabama had four players go in the first round, and three of those players still had eligibility remaining. LSU had two players go in the first round, and both were underclassmen. The Tigers also lost junior receiver Rueben Randle in the second round.
But even with that much young talent taking off for the NFL, Alabama and LSU will again be among the most talented teams in the country. LSU has three potential first-rounders on its defensive line alone -- tackle Bennie Logan and ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo -- while Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu and All-SEC safety Eric Reid are back in the secondary. Alabama has to retool a little more on defense, but the Crimson Tide coaches feel good about the talent level of the players waiting in the wings. Don't be surprised if such players as Jesse Williams, Dee Milliner, Adrian Hubbard and C.J. Mosley become stars this season.
Both teams may throw the football a little more in 2012, and both quarterbacks will have dominant, experienced offensive lines in front of them. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was tremendous in the BCS National Championship Game last season. He has all the tools to become an elite quarterback this season. LSU's Zach Mettenberger steps in as a first-time starter with the kind of arm strength that should make the Tigers much more balanced on offense this fall.
Alabama lost its last trip to Baton Rouge, and the game this season will be at night -- never a good thing for the opponent at Tiger Stadium. Rarely does a season go the way you think it will during the summer, but it's hard to imagine the winner of this game not playing for it all in January.