The LSU and Alabama football teams relish the bye week leading into their annual showdown. Fans of both teams, not so much.
For two weeks, two of the most spirited fan bases in college football have to find a way to survive the tortuous wait.
Well, most of the lag time is over, and LSU coach Ed Orgeron officially launched game week on Monday when he spoke to the media as the showdown between the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide and 15th-ranked Tigers inches closer.
http://www.scout.com/college/lsu/story/1719731-new-tiger-blitz-members-r... didn’t shy away from the largeness of the game and said he heard plenty from LSU fans last week when he attended his sons’ game at McNeese State.
“I’m from Louisiana and I’m a Tiger fan, too,” Orgeron said. “Everywhere I have been, I put on the LSU-Alabama game. … I get the passion. That’s the way it should be.
“The way I’m go to talk this team (Monday), they’re going to understand that I have great confidence in them to play well against a great football team.”
Here are some other bits of news and notes from Orgeron’s session with the media:
Bouquets for Bama
Orgeron didn’t waste any time praising the Tide, throwing out bouquets several times.
“The truth is we’ve got a great Alabama team coming into town,” he said.
On offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin: “He’s a great play-caller. He can see things very fast. He knows what the defense does and he knows what to call.”
On Alabama’s offensive line: “The thing I like about their offensive line is that they execute. It’s nothing fancy, but they come of the line and block you.”
The Tide’s defense: “Obviously it’s the best defense we’ve seen and might be one of the best defenses in college football history.
“It’s going to be very tough moving the ball on this defense.”
Orgeron also spent time talking about the Tigers (5-2, 3-1 SEC) and what their keys to winning the battle will be, pointedly noting that “The key is to explode at 7 p.m. Saturday night.”
“We understand the rivalry,” Orgeron said. “I know that Tiger Stadium is going to be something special Saturday night.”
Asked later if a raucous Tiger Stadium can have an impact in big games like the one on the way Saturday, Orgeron barely let the questioner finish before blurting out an answer.
“Yes,” he said. “No question it does. It’s an intimidating place to play. I’ve been on the other side. I told our guys ‘Big plays fuel emotion. They’re (fans) there. You have to give them something to cheer about.’ ”
Hush it up
Last week, LSU senior Dwayne Thomas came out with his verbal pistols firing, saying the Tigers are tired of losing to Alabama and are ready to dominate the Tide.
Orgeron said he did not approve of that message.
“That’s wrong,” Orgeron said. “He shouldn’t have said it. You don’t win the game in the papers. You win it on Saturday night. That’s wrong and I’m going to have a little conversation with Dwayne about it.”
Etling in the spotlight
Junior quarterback Danny Etling has been one of the keys to LSU’s about-face the last month, but tangling with the Alabama defense presents an altogether different challenge.
Not all of that falls on the Tigers’ QB, of course. LSU’s offensive line has to keep him upright, receivers have to run routes well and get open and the talented backfield has to make an impact.
“(Offensive coordinator) Steve Ensminger is doing a great job along with our whole offensive staff calling plays and getting the ball into our playmakers’ hands,” Orgeron said.
“We have to protect our quarterback in order to get the ball down the field. … He has to manage the game. He’s going to get hit and probably going to get sacked a time or two. He has to protect the ball and he needs to set his jaw and come back and play.”
One benefit of the second off week in the last four has been the chance for banged-up players to heal and rest.
The primary focus has been on tailback Leonard Fournette, who returned with a vengeance against Ole Miss with a school-record 284 yards in a 38-21 victory on Oct. 22.
Now, though, guard Toby Weathersby is also close to ready.
“If he’s able to play, we’ll start him,” Orgeron said.
In fact, there won’t be a lot of inactive players.
“Besides the guys who out for the season, we should be full-speed ahead,” Orgeron said. “We’re probably in the best shape we’ve been injury-wise all season.”
No long-term thinking
Last week SEC Network host Paul Finebaum called the LSU-Alabama game a referendum on Orgeron’s prospects of landing the Tigers’ job permanently.
A similar question arose Monday and Orgeron wanted no part of it.
“Last thing (on his mind); that’s way out there,” Orgeron said after a vigorous head shake. “I’m not even thinking about that.”
Quote of note
“He knows we’re not talking this week. I wish him the best in everything he does except for this week.”
— On Kiffin, whom Orgeron considers a close friend and speaks to regularly, except for this week
Follow Randy Rosetta on Twitter @RandyRosetta.