If there are things you want to know about the Tigers' upcoming opponent, look no further than TigerRag.com. Here we pose five questions to the opposing camp, who will in return offer insight on LSU's next foe. This week, Kirk McNair of BamaMag.com, provides commentary on coach Nick Saban's Crimson Tide.
1. Alabama has played (and won) some close games all season long? Is the Tide as good as they looked against Tennessee or did they play above their heads? If not is Alabama somewhere between the win over the Volunteers and the loss to Florida State?
Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of waiting until after the LSU-Alabama game, when the answer to this question could be more apparent. Unquestionably, the most recent game, Tennessee, was Alabama's best and the Florida State game was probably the worst. It is often the case that a football team reflects the play of its quarterback. John Parker Wilson seems to have made big steps the past few weeks, which has made Alabama a better team. It is a fair assessment that Bama has improved since the beginning of the season, which would be expected in the first year of a new coaching staff and resulting new systems and terminology.
2. Judging from the stat sheet, Alabama seems to do everything good, but nothing great. Is there anything about this Alabama team that is masked by the statistical breakdown?
This is one case in which it can be said that statistics don't lie. The Alabama team seems to be achieving more than expected in almost every area, though it is generous to say that Alabama has been good in all areas. Prior to the start of the season it was expected that Alabama's strength would be its offense and its weakness would be a defense that has been hit hard by two consecutive graduation classes without replenishing in recruiting. Special teams were expected to be decent and have been maybe a little better than that, particularly in coverage and returns. Although not good, Bama's defense has been better than expected. Until recently, the Crimson Tide offense had not been consistent.
3. While it seems Les Miles and LSU has a lot more to lose if Alabama wins, how will the Crimson Tide fan base react to an LSU victory?
Alabama fans consider the Crimson Tide to be playing with house money against LSU. As recently as a month ago, no one would have considered an Alabama victory possible. Today, an Alabama win over LSU would not be a surprise, but that is not to say an LSU win over Alabama would be a surprise. Even though there is a perception that Alabama has begun to play up, based primarily on the Crimson Tide's one solid game (against Tennessee), and LSU has come back to the field, the truth is that the Tigers came out of a three-game murderers' row with a 2-1 record. Not many teams could have achieved that record against Florida, Kentucky and Auburn. Alabama football fans are notoriously optimistic beyond reason, so most will be expecting Bama to upset the Tigers. But Alabama also has fans well educated in football, and they have the ability to recognize the better team. There is almost no scenario in which an Alabama loss to LSU would result in an unduly upset Bama fan base. Crimson Tide fans will attribute all LSU success to Nick Saban's recruiting and take heart in that for the Alabama future.
4. Talk about the progression of John Parker Wilson, his toughness both mentally and physically and how has Major Applewhite impacted his development.
The first thing one needs to recognize about John Parker Wilson is that in his first year as a starter as a sophomore in 2006 he set seven Alabama passing records. He is on his way to setting more Crimson Tide records. This is meaningful, because there have been a few good quarterbacks at Alabama over the years. This year he had the most difficult job of any Alabama football player in "unlearning" the Mike Shula system and learning the Nick Saban-Major Applewhite system (and Saban has said that he mostly stays out of the way of his young offensive coordinator). Wilson has all the good attributes of a quarterback, and he has moved quickly towards his upside, particularly in the last couple of games. He has said on many occasions that he appreciates having a coach who was recently in the same position that Wilson is in, quarterbacking a high profile football team.
5. Do you see the Saban/Alabama-LSU rivalry continuing as years go by?
Certainly Alabama and LSU should be a healthy rivalry. I think that Saban is in the equation this week and for a short while after Saturday's game, regardless of the outcome. When this game is played in Baton Rouge next year, it will be – as the coaches insist it should – about the players.