Ed Orgeron has branded the first day of each game week as “Tell-the-Truth Monday.”
OK, it’s not Monday, but when it comes to Saturday's LSU-Alabama matchup, we can stretch the truth a bit to suit the circumstances.
The truth is, the Crimson Tide is frightening.
Alabama has steamed through its first five Southeastern Conference victims, er, opponents like the battleship Alabama knifing through a light chop in the Pacific.
The point differential is plus-200 in Bama’s favor — that’s 40 points per game. Overall, the Crimson Tide is 8-0, No. 1 in the major polls and No. 2 in this week’s initial CFP rankings behind Georgia.
Oh, good. A red elephant with a rare reason to be grouchy about being disrespected.
Christian LaCouture remembers exactly where he was the night of Nov. 4, 2011.
LSU is 6-2, but that isn’t cutting much melted ice out in the Mojave when making the Tigers a contender to win this game. Las Vegas has installed the No. 19 Tigers as a three-touchdown underdog. The last time the bookmakers’ math figured there was a bigger gap between LSU and its opponent was in 1994, when Curley Hallman’s last team was pothole filler for No. 1 Florida.
LSU was a 27-point underdog then and lost to the Gators 42-18 en route to going 4-7. It’s doubtful a ranked LSU team has ever been a bigger underdog to anyone.
To put a modern spin on an old line from the late, great sportswriter and broadcaster Dick Schaap: Poor LSU. The Alamo looked sturdier.
The Tigers, to their credit, aren’t fretting over point spreads and perceptions — or potential embarrassment. To quarterback Danny Etling’s way of thinking, it’s not like he’s getting vigorish off the top if some schlep goes to cash a winning ticket at Caesars Palace.
“I don’t really care what the line says. I’m not making any money off it,” Etling said. “I’m just trying to do my job the best I can.”
Though the oddsmakers and average fans see the Tigers as huge, perhaps hopeless underdogs, that’s not their view of the world.
They seem to see themselves as the Crimson Tide’s peers.
“From a talent standpoint, the record might not show it, but we’re as good as any team in the country,” sophomore linebacker Devin White said. “We just have to go there and execute.”
LSU calls it the Buck, and you know him as Arden Key.
When colleges were recruiting White and Hurts, Hurts did some recruiting as well. He tried to convince White, who was being enticed to be a running back at both schools, to be his backfield mate in Tuscaloosa.
“He’d text me: ‘Come play running back with me,’” White recalled.
They still talk regularly, though not this week. It’s the same way with many of the LSU and Alabama players, players who have comprised glittering top-five recruiting classes over their time at their respective schools.
“You know most of them,” White said. “Nowadays you go to these top-tier summer camps, and you’re going to have LSU players there and you’re going to have Alabama players there. 'Rivals 100,' 'The Opening' — you make friendships.
“The game will be a brutal brawl. But after the game, you can go back to being friends.”
Tight end Foster Moreau says he isn’t intimidated by much of anything.
Well, maybe spiders.
“I don’t like spiders,” he said.
He has respect for Alabama but isn’t intimidated.
“Last year I was on the sideline and we were about to kick off. I looked at them and thought, ‘Yeah, they’re wearing the red jerseys, but they’re human,’” Moreau said.
The exchange unfolded in July from the main ballroom at Southeastern Conference media days.
Since that 10-0 loss to Alabama — a hard-hitting scoreless draw until Hurts scrambled for a 21-yard touchdown with 13:08 left — the Crimson Tide has won another SEC championship and come within one play of winning another national title, falling 35-31 to Clemson.
LSU got blown out by 30 at Mississippi State and lost at home to Troy.
“We’re definitely a different team since then,” Etling said. “I think Coach has us in a good mindset to go in and play hard and play together.”
It’s true the Tigers may be the healthiest they’ve been since August, with vital cogs like tailback Derrius Guice and edge rusher Arden Key revving into top form. It has them believing that if they keep on the upward climb they’ve made since Troy, beating, Florida, Auburn and Ole Miss in succession, they’ll be able to stand toe-to-toe with the Crimson Tide and win.
“We don’t look at it as being underdogs,” White said.
Then he considered the whole scene for a moment.
“But when you beat a team as an underdog, it’s a better story to tell.”