The LSU football team has a rare fall weekend off this week.
The coaches have done some recruiting and many players from out of town are taking the opportunity to go home. Everybody has the chance to spend time with family and friends.
But wherever they go and whatever they do the game against Alabama next week and the Southeastern Conference race won’t be far from their minds.
The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide will be playing No. 13 Mississippi State on TV on Saturday night in a battle between the last two undefeated teams in the West. They’re also the No. 6 Tigers’ next two opponents.
LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan said he’ll drive home to Coushatta, and he knows where he’ll be for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff between Alabama and State.
“I will definitely watch the game,” Logan said, “and take notes too.”
Tigers coach Les Miles said he’ll be in note-taking mode also as he watches the SEC showdown before THE SEC showdown next week.
“I suspect I might have a note or two,” Miles said. “I don’t know that I’ll make too much of the issue. I probably will relax and if I have need to take something down to get from the coaches film, which is where most of the information is transmitted, I will.”
LSU already has studied film of the Tide, but the game against the Bulldogs gives the Tigers a live look.
“I’m looking forward to the off weekend, looking forward to kicking it up on Saturday and watching these guys play,” LSU tackle Josh Dworaczyk said. “I wish them the best of luck against Mississippi State, and it’s going to be a great game. It’s going to be fun to watch and just sit back and chill.”
While the Tigers are chilling, the races in both divisions will be heating up.
Alabama (7-0 and 4-0 in the SEC) has its most challenging game to date as does State (7-0, 3-0).
The East Division has a key game also as No. 2 Florida (7-0, 6-0) plays Georgia (6-1, 4-1) with an opportunity to take essentially a three-game lead in the division. A Gators victory would drop the Bulldogs into a tie with South Carolina (6-2, 4-2), if the Gamecocks defeat Tennessee.
Florida holds the tiebreaker over South Carolina by virtue of a 44-11 victory over the Gamecocks last week.
LSU knows that it will be in a tie in the loss column with the loser of the Alabama-State game with a chance to hand both teams a loss and capture the tiebreaker against each. The Bulldogs visit Tiger Stadium on Nov. 10.
But for now the Tigers can relax as others kick off the stretch run to the SEC regular season.
“I think that there’s still a lot of football left to play,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “We have some really tough games coming up starting this weekend. Our focus has to be on improving because I think this is best team we have played to this point. Their record indicates that. They compete hard, and they play hard.”
Saban said these Bulldogs are the best team that coach Dan Mullen has had in his four seasons. State, though, is largely untested, having compiled its conference record against Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee, who are a combined 0-14 in league play.
“This is obviously a big game, a championship-caliber game,” Mullen said. “It’s a great opportunity. Our guys understand this is a big game. Our guys are certainly up to the challenge of playing a big game. This is why they came to Mississippi State — to play in these big-time games.”
Mullen said he’s noticed his players looking at extra film and having greater intensity at practice.
“When we came here, we wanted be in this position,” Mullen said. “We haven’t had the opportunity to play a game in the last week of October where the winner gets first place in the SEC West. If we’re able to put ourselves in that position halfway through the schedule, we’ll feel pretty good about it, but we’ve got to get ready for a bunch more challenges down the stretch.”
The Bulldogs host Texas A&M in between the games at Alabama and at LSU. After the visit to Tiger Stadium they play Arkansas at home and visit Ole Miss to finish the regular season.
Florida, which is No. 2 in the BCS rankings, has returned to the national-championship competition and helped return its annual game against Georgia to a national spotlight.
“They don’t need any pep talks or motivation,” Gators coach Will Muschamp said of his players. “They’ll be excited to play.”
The Gators and Bulldogs will meet at their traditional neutral site in Jacksonville, Fla.
“It’s a very traditional rivalry,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “There’s the uniqueness of the stadium being divided right down the middle. You can tell very easily who they’re cheering for. Someone is cheering all the time, and it makes for an electric atmosphere that you don’t get at a home game or at someone else’s home.”
In other games involving SEC teams, South Carolina (4-2) hosts Tennessee (0-5), Ole Miss (1-2) visits Arkansas (2-2), Texas A&M (2-2) visits Auburn (0-5), Kentucky (0-5) visits Missouri (0-4) and Vanderbilt (2-3) hosts Massachusetts in a nonconference game.