Well now, things are about to get interesting, aren't they?
November is here, and LSU will begin the final gauntlet to determine whether this team competes for the division, the conference, or the College Football Playoff. Starting this week, with the annual showdown with Alabama.
That's right. Once more, we play our dangerous game, a game of football against our old adversary - The Alabama Crimson Tide. For the last nine seasons, your Tigers before you and their older brothers played this game and played it well. But today the game is different. We have the advantage.
It reminds me of the heady days of Zod and the Honey Badger, when the world trembled at the sound of our players. Now they will tremble again - at the sound of our running back. The order is: engage Number 7.
We will run through the Alabama line, run over their linebackers, lay in their largest stadium, and listen to their marching band... while we conduct blocking drills.
Four games remain in LSU's season. Four games that will determine whether this is merely a good season, or a great one. Four games versus a team that wears some shade of red (yes maroon counts).
Of course, we all knew that it would be this way last summer, right? If LSU could get through a tough opening month with games against Mississippi State and Auburn, the rest of the schedule set up pretty well before a November gauntlet versus four of the division's top teams.
That's not exactly how it's turned out, but it's still a tough stretch. Of course, most of the national pundits never thought LSU could make it here undefeated anyway. QB narrative, #thedecline, etc, etc... Regardless, the journey begins Saturday, with the college football world watching LSU taking on a top-10 Alabama team in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
You have to appreciate the coincidence. Les Miles, coached by Bo Schembechler, a legend who's tenure was largely defined by his rivalry with Ohio State's Woody Hayes. As a coach himself, Miles' success, or at least its perception, has largely been determined by his rivalry with Alabama's Nick Saban. Miles' four years at Michigan coincided with a four-game winning streak for the Buckeyes in the legendary 10-Year War, and it's been four games since his LSU team has tasted victory over the Crimson Tide.
Alabama is just the first step, but the most important one. Ole Miss controls its own destiny for the divisional title, but LSU matches up well with them. Texas A&M has as much talent as any roster in the conference, but appears to be coming apart at the seams with a quarterback controversy. Arkansas has been legendarily disappointing, but the Hogs will likely be in desperation mode fighting for bowl eligibility.
This week's game is a break point. It's a chance to break Alabama's season -- two losses would effectively remove them from the playoff and put them in a very deep hole in the conference race. It's a chance for LSU to break the perception that they're not in the same class as the Ohio States, the Baylors, the TCUs and the other teams that started off the season in the top five and haven't gone anywhere. As much as anything, it's a chance to break the narrative that has surrounded this team all offseason: that LSU has taken a step back from the rest of the conference. Never forget that this summer most of the prognosticators were all over Auburn, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M in addition to the typical Alabama hype. LSU was an afterthought. Other teams were going to improve, and replace departed players with talent. Not the Tigers.
LSU and Alabama has decided this division in six of the last eight seasons, and for all the perceived gap between the two programs, the games have nearly all been close. Expect the same on Saturday.
Steinbeck once said "A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us."
And a football season is the same way, and each one takes on its own life for a team. LSU has now reached that time of its season. We're about to find out exactly what we have in these Tigers.