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College football: LSU can turn Tide

LSU head coach Les Miles reacts actiagainst Texas A M during second half CottBowl NCAA college football game Friday Jan.

LSU head coach Les Miles reacts to action against Texas A&M during the second half of the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game, Friday, Jan. 7, 2011, in Arlington, Texas. LSU won 41-24. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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Updated: December 9, 2013 11:09AM



For years now, Nick Saban has dulled reporters’ senses with endless references to “the process.” Not to belittle the Alabama coach’s approach to football — or, more specifically, his approach to winning at football — which obviously has been enormously successful. The top-ranked Crimson Tide are, after all, going for their third national title in a row and their fourth in five years.

But this “process” business … man, is it ever a bore to hear Saban describe it. What always gets left out is the really good stuff. Stuff like: “We get better players than anyone else, and then we beat the hell out of everybody.” And: “I — I mean we — have a desperate, perhaps pathological need to win all the time.”

Nutshell: Alabama is bigger, stronger and faster than everyone it plays. That’s some kind of process.

It just so happens to be LSU’s process, too.

That these two giants share not only a conference but a division — the SEC West — is one of the greatest things the college game has going for it. Has Alabama separated itself from the rest of the country, LSU included? It has. But the Tigers are the one team out there than can line up with the Tide any Saturday, anywhere and match up athletically.

Their coach is a lot more fun, too.

This was the stern, serious Saban earlier this week attempting to sound enthusiastic about Saturday’s matchup against LSU: “It’s not the kind of game that anybody could not get excited about playing in.”

Or maybe he was making sure to not sound too enthusiastic. Somehow, that likely would make good sense to the man.

Either way, wake America when he’s done talking.

And then there’s Les Miles, known for eating grass (literally), spitting fire and verbalizing every garbled thought that crosses his mind. For example, in an interview with ESPN this week, Miles described the underdog role as “not something we’ve really come alongside of.”

Huh?

But Miles can enthuse with the best of them, as he did with reporters in SEC country who’ve rightly painted Saturday’s game as the last chance for Alabama to stumble en route to still more championship glory.

“I can tell you that our guys are in college football for these kind of games,” he said. “We look forward to playing in them. It’s a great opportunity for all. … The greatest compliment we can pay an opponent is our best efforts, and certainly Alabama will get that.”

The best from the Pac-12, ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten may not be able to roll with the Tide, but LSU? Miles and the Tigers know they can. Alabama is 76-13 in the Saban era; LSU is right behind, at 70-19, in that same time frame. Saban is 4-3 head-to-head against Miles, just a smidge more impressive than Miles’ 5-4 record against Alabama.

Props to Saban for being the best coach in America and for reviving the LSU program before he left the school in 2005 to coach the Miami Dolphins. Yes, Miles owes some of his success in Baton Rouge to Saban, who led the Tigers to the BCS title in 2003, four seasons before Miles won his only crown.

But remember: Miles has bigger, stronger and faster on his side, too. Athletically, this is as fair a fight as Alabama’s ever going to get.

You’d better believe the Tigers have a chance to turn the tide.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slgreenberg



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