The question going into this week’s LSU-Alabama game is, “Which quarterback will show up for LSU?” Will it be the Zach Mettenberger who played “lights out” in the season’s first seven games, or the mediocre version of him we’ve seen as of late.
Tuscaloosa is not a place into which you really want to venture with a bad taste in your mouth, particularly after being named one of sixteen semi-finalists for the Davey O’Brien Award, as Mettenberger has. The lights of Bryant-Denny Stadium will be bright.
Perhaps Alabama isn’t the place to be right now for a guy on the slide. Things could get dicey in a hurry. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is about to earn his money.
The Tigers have already lost two of three as visitors this season, with their Mississippi State win sandwiched by heartbreaking defeats at Georgia (44-41) and, perhaps inexplicably, Ole Miss (27-24). LSU fans would say they were both inexplicable. The Rebels simply manned up against the 10-point favorites, and to make matters even more surreal, were the best clutch team on the field.
Making matters worse, the Tigers’ most recent SEC game was against a team of Rebels that was so depleted that several players saw the first action of their careers – and this little band of believers beat the No. 6 team in the country!
Road trips have not been kind to LSU and a third defeat won’t be easily tolerated in the Bayou State. Additionally, a loss will give their fans precious little time to entertain thoughts of who they’ll be entertaining next: Johnny “Heisman” Manziel.
The oddsmakers, however, think strongly that LSU will suffer this fate and have installed the Crimson Tide as an 11-point favorite. In some places the spread has already jumped to thirteen. Apparently there is no confidence in LSU making a dent in Alabama’s current 37-3 record at home.
You’ll recall the three losses, all coming in the previous three years: A&M’s 29-24 win in 2012, LSU’s 9-6 upset in 2011, and Auburn’s 28-27 comeback victory in 2010. Before 2010, you’ll have to go all the way back to 2007 to find home losses for the Crimson Tide. Two Louisiana schools happen to own the last two victories in Bryant-Denny from that season: LSU and UL-Monroe.
Still, Alabama has lost at home at least once in three straight seasons, and LSU is certainly due a win in a close game on the road. You may recall Texas A&M was a 13.5-point underdog by game time last season at ‘Bama, and they came out okay.
Speaking of the Aggies, on Saturday, Nov. 16, they will test the Tigers’ 29-1 home record with an eight-game road streak of their own. Fittingly, the only loss in LSU’s last thirty games at home came last season at the hands of eventual national champion Alabama, 21-17.
An A&M win in Tiger Stadium would put the Aggies in some very select company indeed, and further Johnny’s legend as “King Party-buster.” The Ags, meanwhile, will be trying to even their all-time SEC home record at 4-4 this weekend against Mississippi State.
Twenty-nine wins is a lot of home cooking for the Fightin’ Tigers and something the Aggies can perhaps strive for in the future. This is the real Death Valley here and as intimidating of a place as you’ll find in the country.
We might want to turn the lights on for this one – particularly if the Tigers are coming home victorious from Tuscaloosa. A win at Alabama gives LSU a fighting chance to take the SEC. They’ll be very dangerous.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, can another 13-point underdog march into Bryant-Denny Stadium two years in a row and throw the Tide’s season into turmoil?
When has Alabama ever lost at home as a double-digit favorite to anyone but the Aggies? Oh, that would be that UL-Monroe bunch that came in as a 24-point underdog in 2007. They beat the Tide 21-14 late in the season.
Alabama’s Nick Saban has already mentioned how explosive LSU’s offense is. Perhaps all LSU will need is the real Zach Mettenberger.