You don't need me to tell you this is a big game.
This is exactly the kind of game that we became college football fans for. OK, it's not quite The Game of the Century Part II, but this is the biggest game of the season in the SEC. LSU comes into the game as the conference's only undefeated team, but Alabama is the betting line favorite and widely viewed as the SEC's top contender for the playoff.
This is where I am supposed to point out the indignity of the situation. LSU has earned a top five ranking on the field, and actually beat its marquee opponent. Yes, this is yet another instance of Alabama getting the benefit of the doubt and another in a long line of second chances. Yes, their status as the SEC's big bully rests in part on the media constantly ignoring their missteps and explaining away their losses as ones they don't really count.
No, that isn't fair.
You know who wants to hear about fair? Nobody. You think a Michigan fan thinks this season is fair? They are a properly executed punt away from being in the discussion for the playoffs. Duke football fans, if you can find them, got screwed out of a shot at another ACC title. You think Utah fans think the media is fair? They had the best on-field resume for the first half of the season, but they got thrown onto the trash heap with their first slip up. You will have to look long and hard to find any fan who has the tiniest bit of sympathy for an SEC team not getting the respect they feel they deserve.
No one feels sorry for us. Hell, no one even thinks they should. To the rest of the nation, LSU is just one of the big cheats from the SEC which benefits from every call, an easy schedule, and from having its own TV network. Good luck trying to convince anyone otherwise.
You know how you get respect? You know how you get the SEC Network to turn its amplifiers on full blast in full-throated support of LSU? You win. You give them no choice but to hype you up as the true contender from the SEC. You spend a whole lot less time worrying about what other teams are thinking and whole hell of a lot more time concentrating on the awesome team we actually have.
There's been a lot of discussion this year about how good this LSU team actually is. Is the offense as good as its current #1 SEC ranks in scoring and total offense in conference play? Is the defense an effective unit or on the brink of Kevin Steele-induced collapse? And I'm here to tell you that this debate amounts to squat, as of right now.
Because over the next month, particularly this weekend, we find out precisely how good this team is. There is nowhere to hide, and there are no excuses. There is no "good job, good effort" nor is there any downgrading any accomplishment with a "yes, but..."
LSU either is or it is not an elite team. And we will know for certain whether they are one as the clock hits 0:00 on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.
Because you can ride media hype to bluff your way into the conversation, but at the end of season, talent will win out. LSU will get respect if it is indeed worthy of respect. It will do so by going out there and winning. All of the goals are still there, all of those beautiful dreams are still alive: an SEC title. A national title. A Heisman for Leonard Fournette. But those are possible outcomes. In retrospect, they will be accomplishments, but as of right now, they are campaigns. There's nothing wrong with a campaign and media hype, but this is when it stops being a theory and starts getting real.
This is the exact moment we live for as college football fans. This is our beloved Tigers playing our hated rivals with the balance of power in the division teetering on the result. This is when all of those dreams can start coming true.
Alabama has won four straight against LSU? LSU isn't getting the respect it deserves from the polls? I don't care. If you don't like the narrative, this is the chance to go out and change it. The book on this LSU team is being right here, right now. It's up to the team to go out there and write a happy ending.
This is the chance to make the season whatever we want it to be. There will be no hiding, no excuses, and no denying it after this weekend. If this is a special season, then this team needs to go out there and make it special. No one is going to give it to you, Alabama least of all. And no one is going to feel sorry for us if we fail.
If we want our proper respect, now is the time to take it.