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This isn't the same Alabama-LSU showdown, but it's a big deal

What you need to know about the latest epic showdown featuring Alabama and Louisiana State:

• It's not as epic as two years ago, when LSU went to Alabama in what was billed as the "Game of the Century."

That hyped-up-on-helium affair ended up a field-goal exhibition, with LSU taking a 9-6 overtime win.

Alabama was left kicking itself after missing four field-goal attempts. It was the lowest-scoring game between No. 1 and No. 2 since Army and Notre Dame played to a scoreless tie in 1946.

• It's not the same as the rematch to cap the 2011 season, when LSU and Alabama played for the Bowl Championship Series title in New Orleans. LSU entered the game No. 1 with a perfect BCS score of 1.0000. The Tigers were first in both polls and the computer index.

One-loss Alabama narrowly edged out Oklahoma State for the second spot thanks to the Cowboys' unforgivable loss at Iowa State.

Alabama exacted revenge by physically crushing LSU, 21-0, in the Superdome. The Crimson Tide held the Tigers to 92 yards and LSU's offense did not cross midfield until the fourth quarter.

• It's not the same as last season's top-10 battle in Baton Rouge, in which Alabama scored in the last minute to win.

Crimson Tide euphoria extended into the following Saturday, when Texas A&M shocked Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Once again, one-loss Alabama recovered to earn a BCS spot and win the national title.

BCS No.13 LSU (7-2) at No.1 Alabama (8-0) isn't quite as big a deal this season — but it's still big. It's still the Southeastern Conference, too, which doesn't need to move its epics to Thursday for better ratings.

It is an anomaly that this season's game was overshadowed by, of all things, a Thursday night Pac-12 Conference game not featuring USC.

To claim the SEC West this year, LSU would have to defeat Alabama and still need the Crimson Tide to lose another game.

Barring a miracle repeat of 2007, two-loss LSU can't win the national title, but it can do what rivals do best — knock the other guy out.

After a slow start, Alabama appears to be rounding into championship form. The defense, after giving up 42 points to Texas A&M, is back to its suffocating self. Since the 49-42 win over Texas A&M on Sept 14, Alabama has surrendered 26 points in six games. That includes shutouts against Mississippi and Arkansas.

The one advantage LSU owns is that it is not intimidated by Alabama. "This team does not take on the underdog's mentality," LSU Coach Les Miles said this week.

LSU has a quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, capable of finding creases in Alabama's secondary. And if Alabama's corners can cover LSU receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, they can cover anybody.

The series is odd because the road team is 29-13-1 since 1970. LSU has won in six of its last eight trips to Tuscaloosa, and Miles is 3-4 against Nick Saban.

You could say Saturday's game is a must win for Alabama but, of course, that depends. Alabama has lost SEC games each of the last two years and still won the BCS title.

It's almost impossible to knock the Crimson Tide off stride.

Saban continues to be dogged by rumors he's interested in Texas and he keeps deflecting them. This week he had to answer to a story that said his agent told Texas it was the only school Saban would consider.

Saban's problem is he was caught in a fib before, when he stated, "I will not be the Alabama coach" shortly before he took the job.

"I'm very committed to the University of Alabama," Saban reiterated this week. "I talked about it before; I don't need to talk about it again."

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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