Two weeks since their last game have given the LSU Tigers plenty of time to dream.
Get back in the national championship hunt, even with two losses? It’s possible. The Tigers opened at No. 13 in the first College Football Playoff rankings. It’s a very rough road ahead, but at least they’re starting three spots higher than Ohio State was in 2014, when it won the first CFP title.
Leonard Fournette back in the Heisman Trophy race? It’s within his considerable powers to do just that. He just rushed for a school-record 284 yards against Ole Miss, and this with the engine running a cylinder down because of lingering affects from that ankle injury.
Ed Orgeron as LSU’s permanent head coach? His chances are as good as anyone’s. He has been simply perfect so far, rallying players and Cajuns everywhere while he has led the Tigers to three wins in as many games. Someone probably has invented an Ed Orgeron drink by now — Red Bull and bourbon, or some such concoction.
A lot can change in a month, and that includes the hearts and minds of the LSU faithful.
Oh, it’s a field of dreams, all right. Until you look across the landscape and see Alabama sitting out there, the scarecrow in the cornfield of the Tigers’ blossoming aspirations, ready to turn another season of hopes into yet another bitter harvest.
Basically, it all comes down to this game.
Want to have a chance to reach the College Football Playoff, Tigers? Beat Bama.
Want to be a Heisman Trophy finalist, Leonard, and go to New York for the big show? Beat Bama.
Want to grasp a lifetime ambition and be the permanent coach at LSU, Ed? Beat Bama. And, probably, one or two other teams this month.
Below are picks for Alabama vs. LSU from The Advocate's sports staff...
For LSU, the nexus of its dreams and nightmares has become the Alabama game. It pervades the very fiber of this fiercely proud football program and its passionate fan base. For the Tigers and their rabid following, beating Alabama is a preoccupation, obsession, an idée fixe that has come to dominate every season and drown out what has come before and what follows. It has turned a peer Southeastern Conference school into a crimson-clad bogeyman, a one-time savior (Nick Saban) into an accursed villain, and to a large extent made Les Miles unemployed.
LSU cornerback Donte Jackson hears the drumbeat when he goes to class, goes out, goes home. When he goes to sleep, probably.
“Beat Bama. Beat Bama,” he said. “That’s all anyone wants to say.”
Miles delivered many a memorable quote in his 11-plus years as LSU’s coach. One of them was that Tiger Stadium, Death Valley, “was the place where opponents’ dreams come to die.”
There seems to be little in common between Dave Aranda and Lane Kiffin, other than that they…
That must mean Alabama is immune — or a team of vampires from one of Anne Rice’s unpublished works. Either one fits.
After another gut-wrenching, come-from-ahead loss to Alabama in 1998, this by a 22-16 score, Crimson Tide wide receiver Quincy Jackson taunted all of Tigerdom from the winning locker room with this haunting rhyme: “We’ve got a saying: The Tide don’t lose in Baton Rouge.”
Not often, it doesn’t. Alabama is 18-4-1 in Baton Rouge since 1971, and those four LSU wins have come in the past eight meetings since 2000. The past two games in Tiger Stadium have been particularly excruciating for LSU, with Bama driving for a last-minute touchdown to win 21-17 in 2012 and driving for a last-minute field goal in 2014 to force overtime and win 20-13.
Mostly, the Alabama week on the schedule is the place where LSU’s dreams have come to die.
And here they both are once again.
Bama still has its annual blood feud with Auburn at the end of the month, and those Tigers are humming at a pretty strong clip these days. But this year’s Iron Bowl is in Tuscaloosa, so good luck to Auburn to win there.
No, from a pure talent standpoint, taking into account momentum, confidence, home-field frenzy (I know, 18-4-1 since 1971) and plain, undiluted revenge, LSU may stand as the best and most sturdy obstacle to Alabama and another year of world domination that there is.
Next to Alabama, LSU has recruited the best among any Southeastern Conference school over the past four years. Better than Alabama, LSU had the most players of any school anywhere on NFL opening-day rosters.
None of those players can help the Tigers on Saturday night, of course, but it does illustrate a point. When it comes to a shot at toppling Goliath, LSU may own the best slingshot of anyone in the SEC.
The rock in that slingshot is, of course, one Leonard Fournette. Danny Etling has to make an accurate throw, or 20, but Fournette has to be the weapon of the Crimson Tide’s destruction if it’s possible at all.
Thirty-one measly yards on 19 carries. That’s all Fournette managed last year against an Alabama defense primed to stop him. He looked like a Pop Warner-sized kid in a helmet trying to bust a hole in the Great Wall of China.
Fournette takes another running start at that wall Saturday. This time, he must break through, at least a few times, for LSU to have a chance. He’s likely as healthy as he has been and, somewhere behind his own wall of silence with the local media, his mood is likely deepening like the pressure in a growing hurricane for his one last crack at the Crimson Tide.
“I think he’s as healthy as he’s been,” Etling said of Fournette. “He looks healthy. I don’t think he put on the performance he wanted to” last year.
Gee, you think?
Alabama is its own echelon within the SEC. Right now, it’s Bama and the 13 dwarfs.
LSU can change that, or at least regain a measure of self-respect, and begin a climb back to the time not so long ago when the Tigers and the Crimson Tide were equal opponents and anything could happen.
One last chance to turn dreams into reality — and banish the nightmares for another year.