There are those rare occasions when the sequel is considered better than the original:
“The Godfather, Part II”
“The Empire Strikes Back”
“The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
“Caddyshack II” (just kidding)
Add “Game of the Century, Part Deux,” between LSU and Alabama to that list of sequels that should surpass.
Look, there is no doubt the first “Game of the Century,” between the Tigers and Crimson Tide in 2011, has its merits. For me personally, it may be the hardest-hitting college football game I have ever witnessed in person.
And that’s not just “back in my day” thinking. That game featured 42 future NFL draft picks, 28 on defense alone (14 per side). Ten of those were first-rounders, including LSU's Morris Claiborne and Barkevious Mingo and Bama’s Dre Kirkpatrick.
But that game bears a black mark. The mark of no touchdowns.
Everyone on the LSU football team knew the question was coming.
The 2011 game was an offensive desert. It took until overtime to get to the final score of LSU 9, Alabama 6. Three field goals to two. It was as though a 3-2 Chelsea-Manchester City Premier League soccer game broke out right there in the heart of Tuscaloosa.
Will this year’s game feature as many future NFL talents? That’s something we can look back on in 2023 or so. But in terms of entertainment, this game should be on a vastly different level.
As for 9-6, well, it could well be 9-6 in the first five minutes.
Two big reasons, though one currently has big question mark, are the quarterbacks.
In 2011, LSU started Jarrett Lee in his last significant action of that season and subbed him out with Jordan Jefferson. Alabama countered with AJ McCarron. Good quarterbacks, but none of them will be joining new Pro Football Hall of Famers Kevin Mawae and Johnny Robinson in Canton one day.
That game had LSU cornerback, electric playmaker par excellence Tyrann Mathieu, who went on to be a Heisman Trophy finalist that season. This game will, or shall we say could, have two top-shelf Heisman contenders in LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. And they will be throwing to two of the game's most elite wide receiver trios: Justin Jefferson (Jordan’s little brother), Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall on the LSU side; Jerry Jeudy, Amite’s DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs for Bama.
And the defenses, while good, aren’t nearly as good as they were in 2011. There are yards to gain in this game, and points will be scored.
The stage is set: LSU. Alabama. Game of the Century.
There is every expectation Burrow will play, of course. LSU coach Ed Orgeron probably will have Burrow stored in bubble wrap between practice sessions and will want to get some more expendable team manager to taste his food once the Tigers arrive at the team hotel the Friday night before GOTC2. But other than the proverbial meteor hitting LSU’s practice fields between now and then, Joe will be a go.
As for Tua, you certainly expect him to play, but it is hardly a sure thing. He underwent what was reportedly a successful “tightrope” repair of the high ankle sprain he suffered Oct. 19 against Tennessee and is expected back at practice later this week. But Alabama coach Nick Saban, speaking Monday at an event in Birmingham, refused to predict Tagovailoa’s ability to play against LSU.
“We can’t know,” Saban said. “I can’t know. I’ve got no crystal ball.”
So what does it mean for LSU to be ranked No. 1 in this week’s Associated Press poll?
The smart play in life is to prepare for the worst-case scenario. For Alabama, that’s not having Tagovailoa. For LSU, that’s seeing him play at something close to 100 percent. Personally, I believe it would take an armored division to keep Tua from playing against LSU, but he did have surgery on his ankle. Alabama people may call it a procedure, but as Billy Crystal said in “City Slickers” (which was vastly superior to “City Slickers II”) it’s a surgery. And there’s no way he can be in top form in the less than three weeks from said surgery to when LSU and Alabama collide.
This game is even another matchup of No. 1 LSU versus No. 2 Alabama, as the Tigers slid ahead of the Crimson Tide in Sunday’s Associated Press poll. You can also expect the Tigers with their unsurpassed résumé of three top-10 wins to be No. 1 when the College Football Playoff top 25 is released next Tuesday.
Psychologically, it would have been better for LSU to go to Alabama as No. 2. The Crimson Tide players now have an extra motivational chip to play, while LSU has the motivation of trying to stop cold this hot streak of eight straight wins against the Tigers that Alabama has been on.
For the first time since 2011, the LSU Tigers football team is the No. 1 team in the country, according to the AP Top 25 poll released Sunday …
LSU’s last win in the series? That first “Game of the Century”
“It’s time,” Justin Jefferson said, “for Part II.”
LSU fans may shudder, but it’s entirely possible the sequel could have a sequel, as that 2011 game did. The LSU-Alabama loser, if it’s a tight game, may well not fall out of the top four for the CFP semifinals. There are even plenty of bowl projections floating around that have LSU and Alabama playing again in one of the CFP semis.
The sequel is threatening to become a franchise. In 2011, it was “Rocky.” This time, more like “The Fast and the Furious.”