LSU began stepping up its preparations Monday for its Southeastern Conference showdown game against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers got a head-start on preparations during their open date last week, but given that they play the Crimson Tide every season and this will be the third meeting in 12 months, there isn’t a whole lot more LSU can learn even with added time to study.
“They know us, and we know them,” Tigers coach Les Miles said during his weekly news luncheon.
He said he watched “every snap” of Alabama’s 38-7 victory against Mississippi State on TV on Saturday. Miles saw what he has gotten used to seeing from the Tide in his eight years at LSU and saw way too much of in Bama’s 21-0 victory in the BCS Championship game in January.
“It looked just as bad on the coaches’ copy,” Miles said of the Tide’s dominance of the Bulldogs. “Alabama is a very, very fine football team, well prepared, very talented. They look like the No. 1 team in the country, very deserving of being No. 1. We look forward to playing that team.”
Miles said the No. 5 Tigers “take into account a long view of how we’ve played against the team for years” when preparing. He said they look at film from this season to evaluate personnel changes, but see “tweaks here or there” in terms of what Bama does.
“It’s obvious when you walk into the room that we’re certainly playing a different team,” Miles said, “because it’s just a little bit more full, a little more attention to detail, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Miles cited the talent and leadership of AJ McCarron, who has thrown 18 touchdowns and no interceptions; the Tide’s “big, very mobile, athletic” offensive line; the running back tandem of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon; a receiving corps that can “run and catch;” and a “big-time tight end in Michael Williams.”
As for Bama’s top-ranked defense nationally, Miles said, “They play with great technique, they’re very disciplined and never out of place.” He also noted that place-kicker Jeremy Shelley hasn’t missed a kick and that the Tide has a “very quality” return game.
“We need to play better,” Miles said of LSU (7-1, 3-1 SEC). “We owe ourselves our best effort.”
Though LSU hasn’t played up to expectations after being voted No. 1 in the coaches preseason poll, it can still assume control of the West by beating the Tide. Alabama, however, is 8-0 and 5-0 and has won every game by at least 19 points.
“There aren’t a lot of weaknesses in Alabama’s game,” safety Eric Reid said. “That’s why they won (the national championship) last year. They’re a very efficient team.
“We just have to make sure that we handle our business in terms of being sound in our technique and not making mistakes. Mistakes are going to be key this week. We have to have as few mistakes as possible.”
The same point was made by quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who has turned the ball over seven times this season but had his first turnover-free game against Texas A&M two weeks ago.
“Not making mistakes is going to be huge,” Mettenberger said. “They capitalize on all the mistakes that other teams make against them. Myself and the guys who touch the ball can’t turn it over in this game. That’s for sure.”
The Crimson Tide have turned the ball over just six times, leading to three points by the opposition. They have taken it away from the opposition 23 times and scored 125 points after those takeaways.
Mettenberger said he sees this Bama defense doing what Tide coach Nick Saban’s defense always does.
“Alabama is a very good defense,” Mettenberger said. “That’s what Nick Saban wants is a very sound defense. They make very few mistakes. Throughout coach Saban’s career, he’s always had a solid defense.”
Mettenberger said he didn’t watch a lot of the Tide’s game Saturday night.
“It’s tough watching a game on TV as a quarterback, because you only really see the front seven of a defense and you don’t see what routes they run or who’s covering them,” he said. “I got to see a lot of their defensive front, but for a quarterback, it’s all about getting in the film room and seeing the whole defense on the field.”
Mettenberger and the Tigers know that in terms of style, they’re preparing to play the same team they beat 9-6 in overtime in November as well as the one that got the better of them in January.
So the rest of the week isn’t really about learning what Alabama does. It’s more about figuring out a way to defeat it.
“I’m just ready for this week of practice to be over,” Mettenberger said, “so we can get out there and see what we can do.”
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