Around the Bowl and Down the Hole... Roll Tide Roll!
Most LSU fans have been waiting for this week ever since last winter, when their former coach, Nick Saban, accepted the head job at Alabama.
They have followed his every move leading up to Saturday's game in Tuscaloosa, which has been unofficially labeled "The Saban Bowl." They still are struggling to understand how he could abandon them.
Saban coached the Tigers to a pair of SEC titles and a share of the 2003 national championship and stockpiled the program with NFL-caliber talent before leaving for the Miami Dolphins. Then, after just two seasons with the Dolphins, he resurfaced at a bitter conference rival, signing a multi-year deal with Alabama worth $4million per season.
Les Miles is an impressive 29-5 in three years at LSU. He has coached the Tigers to the No.3 slot in the weekly BCS standings. If LSU (7-1, 4-1 SEC) wins out and second-ranked Boston College stumbles, the Tigers are poised to play for another national title in nearby New Orleans.
Interestingly, if Miles were to leave for Michigan, his alma mater, at the end of the season, it is hard to tell how many rabid LSU boosters would miss him. It seems not everyone is completely sold on Miles after he risked a potentially special season by going for a touchdown from the 22-yard line in the final seconds of a 30-24 win over Auburn instead of just playing it safe, calling a timeout and going for the game-winning field goal.
Saban is a more complicated story.
He developed a cult following down in the Bayou after he rebuilt an LSU program that was wallowing in the swamps with eight losing seasons in the 11 years before he arrived. Then he broke a lot of hearts. Now, his team is coming off a 41-17 victory over Tennessee two weeks ago and, in his first year on the job, he has the 17th-ranked Tide (6-2, 4-1) in position to win the West and make its first trip to the SEC title game since 1999.
It's all too much for some LSU fans, who seem desperate to see Miles beat Saban, if only to wipe out the giant shadow he still casts over Baton Rouge and show that any capable coach can succeed at this program.
Saban and Miles have spent this week repeating the same mantra, that this game is not personal between the coaches.
"I don't know what people are saying," Saban said. "I don't know what's going on out there, but I know you guys are busy creating. Unfortunately, I'm not interested in trying to be part of it."
That might be true today, but just a day after LSU thumped Notre Dame, 41-14, in the 2007 Sugar Bowl, Saban, who recruited 17 current LSU starters, did bring up the fact he recruited most of the players on that team, and he happened to mention at the SEC media day over the summer that after he left for the Dolphins, one of his administrative assistants had her tires slashed when she returned to Baton Rouge for a wedding.
Miles may have opened a window to his soul last winter, too, when he suggested to a booster club that the Tigers enjoyed playing Florida but had a new rival in "--- Alabama," then told another club that he hated the color red. "Ohio State, Indiana. When I was with the Cowboys, it was the Redskins," he said. "I look forward to going back to my roots and kicking the crap out of a team in red."
Finally, the time has come... what we have been waiting for all year... it's time to BEAT SABAN! I want to see him screaming at everyone until he's red in the face!!!
Check out the Geaux Tigers, Beat Bama! song on David St. Romain's MySpace page!!! Sung to the tune of Sweet Home Alabama, of course! Great song, David!