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The Early Lead
Posted at 05:09 PM ET, 11/02/2011

LSU vs. Alabama: It’s Les Miles against Nick Saban. This should be good.

Finally, it’s about to happen, the delicious regular-season matchup between No. 1 Louisiana State and No. 2 Alabama, the SEC rivals who, you know, plain don’t like each other.

The game, at 8 p.m. Saturday in Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium, may be a classic, it may not. But it will be historic, matching the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the BCS standings and Associated Press poll.

And who doesn’t love history? Will this game supplant the 30-year-old gem Sports Illustrated picked as the best regular-season matchup in college football history? Perhaps. It may be enough that features a coaching matchup for the ages in Les Miles vs. Nick Saban.

One coach has led both teams to national titles. Saban coached LSU to the championship in 2003, before his ill-advised stint in the NFL, then coached Alabama to the national title in 2009. LSU and Bama have split four meetings since Saban was hired by the Crimson Tide. Miles has the rep, accurate or not, as the genial, grass-nibbler who replaced Saban, the bad guy who bolted Baton Rouge and even once said, “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.” People remember stuff like that; players say they do not.

“It's like a whole soap opera,” LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery said (via USA Today). “There's a traditional rivalry between LSU and Alabama that we just fall into. I think that the players from both teams, we're not as into that as the fans. We just want a great, competitive balance in this game.”

That’d work. Both teams are 8-0 (5-0 in the SEC). As strong as No. 1 LSU is, a lot of experts are rolling with the Crimson Tide to win and running back Trent Richardson, a Heisman Trophy candidate, thinks that’s wise.

“In big games like this, we don’t panic and stay calm and try to play our game and play it like we’ve never played it before, like this is our last down we’re going to play,” Richardson said (via ESPN). “You never know. That’s what I try to remind everybody about. You can’t slack off. There are no friends on the field.”

“The thing with this team is that when we get to the big games, we don’t worry. We’re on the coaches more than they’re on us. We’re like, ‘Hey, coach, we’re ready for this game. Don’t worry about nothing. We’ve got this.’ ”

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By  |  05:09 PM ET, 11/02/2011

 
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