SEC: LSU-103012

Inside the Program: Down to business

October, 30, 2012
While the cameras were rolling for player interviews in LSU's weight room Tuesday, assistant coaches John Chavis and Brick Haley were in the far corner of the room, sweating on elliptical walkers.

It was a sign that just because ESPN was in town for an all-access day, it didn't mean the work stopped.

Indeed, the mood around the LSU football building was very business-like Tuesday. The biggest game of the year against Alabama was just four days away and while things looked normal around the campus and nearby neighborhoods, one could sense the excitement brewing just below the surface.

There was also a sense of trepidation. One student told me he was a little subdued because the first time since he's been an LSU student, he's not expecting the Tigers to win.

LSU players hear that, too. Bennie Logan talked Monday about not listening to what outsiders say. Zach Mettenberger spoke of keeping it "on the perimeter."

"All we can do," he said, "is keep going to work."

And that's what they did. Even before the visiting TV cameras loaded up the tour bus and hit the road, the work was well under way. The Tigers know that with an opponent like Alabama, it can never stop.

Inside the Program: LSU DE Mingo

October, 30, 2012
Barkevious Mingo is one of the most feared pass-rushers in college football, a defensive end with a basketball forward's length and a sprinter's speed.

In person, however, he's personable and quick with a smile, hardly one who exudes the intensity of a search-and-destroy defensive stalwart.

Even with Alabama coming to town this week, he's been his usual nearly jovial self at media gatherings. But just below the surface, one senses something brewing.

"Not just me, but this whole team, we want it bad," Mingo said Tuesday when he was asked about getting revenge on Alabama, which beat the Tigers 21-0 for last year's BCS National Championship.

It was said with typical Mingo ease. But the sincerity came through.

Mingo, after all, is used to winning. He played his high school ball at Louisiana powerhouse West Monroe, the dominant program in Louisiana's largest enrollment class, reaching the state championship game as a senior.

After redshirting for a year at LSU then playing as a reserve in his redshirt freshman year, Mingo helped the Tigers reach the BCS Championship Game, only to lose again.

For Mingo, getting to a championship game hasn't been a problem. Winning it has. He might only have one more shot at it if he departs for the NFL after this season. And only if the Tigers can win in Tuscaloosa.

Inside the Program: LSU DB Reid

October, 30, 2012
Eric Reid has been hearing the question all week and he'll keep hearing it until Saturday when Alabama rolls into LSU's Tiger Stadium.

"AJ McCarron has not thrown an interception this season," the questioner will say. "How do you expect to change that?"

And the LSU free safety does what he's trained to do and what's probably the respectable thing to do. He compliments the Crimson Tide quarterback whose numbers -- 18 touchdowns vs. no interceptions -- have him being mentioned in the Heisman Trophy race.

"He's doing a great job this season," Reid will answer. "He's very efficient. He takes care of the ball for his team. That's what you want from your quarterback."

Reid knows as well as anybody that McCarron, and Alabama in general, can be forced into turnovers. In last year's 9-6 LSU overtime win over the Tide in the regular season, LSU had two interceptions, including Morris Claiborne's interception of McCarron.

But it was Reid's spectacular pick of a Marquis Maze pass on a wide receiver reverse that was the play of the game in the Tigers' 9-6 overtime win over Alabama last season in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

With Alabama driving at the LSU 28-yard-line in the fourth quarter, Maze's deep heave looked like a catch at the goal line when Reid ripped it out of the hands of Alabama receiver Michael Williams as both men reached up over their heads for the ball.

It was a momentum-changing play that many saw as the season's signature play until the season unraveled with the 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game rematch.

"I was just able to make a play to help my team out in a big part of the game" Reid said. "That play isn't going to affect this game in the game at all. It's in the past."

But he said plays like it will have to be made for LSU to win the rematch Saturday.

"In big games," he said, "big plays have to be made."

Reid, as much as any Tiger, knows the feeling of making them against the Crimson Tide.

Video: LSU defense focused

October, 30, 2012

Barkevious Mingo and Eric Reid talk to Jenn Brown about their matchup with Alabama on Saturday.

Inside the Program: LSU QB Mettenberger

October, 30, 2012
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger was interviewed for ESPN's all-access Tuesday in LSU's players' lounge, an appropriate place considering the approach he's trying to take to this week's pressure-packed game against Alabama.

"As Coach [Les] Miles would say, leave the outside perimeter on the outside," Mettenberger said. "All we can do offensively is show up every day ready to work. For me, I just have to get mentally prepared for every game and with this being such a big game, I have to be ready for anything to happen."

Plenty has happened for Mettenberger this year, not all of it good. He comes into the Alabama game 12th in the SEC in pass efficiency, ahead of just two other SEC starters, Auburn's Kiehl Frazier and Missouri's James Franklin. It's led to criticism of the LSU junior quarterback as the weakness for an otherwise dominant team. The Tigers are among the SEC leaders in rushing and most defensive categories.

But the one area in which Alabama will have a decided edge Saturday is the passing game -- where AJ McCarron has thrown 18 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Mettenberger has thrown seven TDs and four interceptions. He has thrown just one SEC touchdown, a TD pass to Kadron Boone in LSU's 24-19 win at Texas A&M that proved crucial. He'll likely need to make more of those throws Saturday against a Crimson Tide defense that will likely be committed to stopping the run.

"Hopefully this week I can make a couple of big plays," he said.

Inside the Program: Zach Mettenberger

October, 30, 2012

Zach Mettenberger talks to Jenn Brown about his preparations for Saturday's SEC showdown with Alabama.

Inside the Program: LSU's John Chavis

October, 30, 2012

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis broke down LSU's "Mustang" package with ESPN's Jenn Brown this morning. It's a breakdown of a play that resulted in an interception from Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in LSU's last game.

"It's a pressure package," Chavis explained. "We can bring pressure from a lot of different places."

The question now is how does LSU force Alabama's AJ McCarron, who has yet to throw an interception this season, into a similar mistake?

"We intercept the ball when he throws it," Chavis said. "That's the easiest way, but that's going to be difficult because he does a great job. He makes very few mistakes."

If LSU is in the Mustang package -- a dime package with three linemen and two linebackers -- that will be a win in and of itself. The defense is used against spread offenses, something one would not expect from the Crimson Tide, and on obvious passing downs.

So if the Tigers get to use the Mustang much on Saturday, it would mean the Tigers are forcing Alabama into third-and-longs.

Video: LSU getting ready for Alabama

October, 30, 2012

Les Miles talks to Jenn Brown about LSU's preparations for Alabama, why Death Valley is special and the need for Zach Mettenberger to throw the ball effectively.