1) With all the history and tradition that Alabama football entails, where do you think this one rates as far as the pre-game hype and potential impact on the season and why?
For longer than any other team in the SEC, Alabama has been about national championships. For months, really, we have seen this coming as a big game, and in the last few weeks seen it as a potential national championship-determining game, which makes it a huge game. With two weeks to build up to a game of this magnitude I would suggest that the pre-game hype has been less than expected, that coverage seems to be thoughtful and a bit cautious.
2) With Nick Saban and Tuscaloosa and Les Miles in Baton Rouge, has this become as big a rivalry in the SEC as Alabama-Auburn (why or why not)?
Alabama vs. LSU has always been a big rivalry, but probably because of long history not as big for Alabama fans as Tennessee or Auburn. But I think Alabama followers recognize that year-in and year-out, it is going to be LSU that is the major hurdle for Alabama in the SEC.
3) From this side of the SEC, there don't seem to be a whole lot of differences between the Tigers and Crimson Tide. Where, if any, do you see some?
Although there are technical differences in LSU and Alabama (for instance, the LSU base defense is a 4-3 and the Alabama base defense is a 3-4), philosophically the teams are very much alike. Both want to establish the run, but have good weapons in the passing game. Defensively, it will be a challenge to run on either, and both teams have secondary players who have demonstrated the ability to make game-changing plays. The obvious difference is that LSU has two quarterbacks with more experience than Alabama's A.J. McCarron, a first-year starter who had no meaningful playing time prior to this year.
4) What are the biggest keys for an Alabama victory in this game?
The keys to victory are probably the same for both teams. Games like this frequently come down to field position, which is influenced in great part by special teams and/or turnovers. There's a reason these teams are ranked one and two in the nation and it's not likely either is going to be able to exploit a weakness on the part of the other.
5) What kind of vibe do you get from Crimson Tide fans about this possibly being chapter one between these teams this season – would they welcome a rematch if a strange series of circumstances led to that?
Of course there has been some media speculation about a rematch, but I'm not really hearing much about that. The focus is on this game. Even after this game is played, there is more football for these teams and for others around the country that will determine the national championship game.
6) How do you see this game playing out?
I always think Alabama is going to win and I'm almost always right. There is no reason to think this game doesn't go deep into the fourth quarter before the outcome is decided, and there is no reason to expect it to be high-scoring considering the defenses. With the home field advantage, I'll pick it Alabama 20, LSU 17.
'Lunch with Les,' Halloween edition Notebook: Alabama week begins No holding back
Notebook: Alabama week begins No holding back
No holding back