In the days leading up to Tulane, head coach Les Miles and his players did not want to touch the Alabama subject. With the Green Wave behind them, Monday’s media luncheon brought nothing but talk of the Tide.
The message handed over: Alabama is undefeated and ranked No. 3 in the country for good reason.
“I don’t know if there is a weakness that is noteworthy,” Miles said.
Head coach Nick Saban’s crew is particular good on the ground, both with getting yards on offense and holding the opponent to minimal production on defense.
The Tide’s 217 rushing yards a game is good for 13th best in the country. Their defensive average of 64 rushing yards allowed per game ranks second in the country, trailing only Texas.
The results have running back Mark Ingram in the thick of the Heisman race and the Crimson Tide defense as the cream of the crop in the Southeastern Conference.
“Ingram is certainly a great player for them,” Miles said. “He is physical and has speed, and he can make you miss. He will be as good a tailback as we have or will face.
“Their defense has gotten better every year that we have faced them,” he added. “The third year, they have come around and are comfortable with the calls; they are rarely out of position.”
Coming off a 42-0 win in which their quarterback threw for two touchdowns, the ground game flirted with a 300-yard effort, their running back reached the 100-yard plateau for the first time and their defense shut out an opponent for the first time, what is not to like about where the Tigers stand headed into game week preparations.
“It was our best offensive outing of the year,” Miles said. “We were much more efficient. We enjoyed getting Scott 100 yards; he ran hard and the line did a good job.
“The defense put out another strong effort. The numbers speak to the fact that they came to play. Kelvin Sheppard had his third straight double-digit tackle game. That is the first time that has happened since Bradie James.”
Another name that was certainly tossed around the office water cooler on Monday was Stevan Ridley. Though his production came in the final minutes of a blowout win over Tulane, the sophomore showed promise as he rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts.
When asked about Ridley’s role on the team headed forward, Miles said that positive results warrant more touches.
“Young players develop at different times,” he said. “If you watch our special teams play, Ridley plays key roles. Experience on the field allowed him to mature. With maturity and how he is developing, I think he should get snaps.”
In a game that features two top-15 defenses, the talk of the message board universe has been that the play of the quarterbacks should weigh heavy on the outcome.
For LSU, that means that Jordan Jefferson, who has thrown 11 touchdowns and four interceptions through eight games, must continue with his pace over the past two weeks.
“His role within our program is that he takes the field and makes the plays that give our football team the opportunity to win; to feed our playmakers … and to do so without mistakes,” Miles said.
With back-to-back scoring games for Russell Shepard, Miles said that the road atmosphere in Tuscaloosa would not change the freshman’s chances to get into the game.
“We need to get him on the field, get him reps,” he said. “It is a comfort that is coming to him, knowing that his number will be called and that he will be in the game.”
In a battle that’s outcome will likely be decided by the field position battle, expect LSU to have starting punter Derek Helton back into action. Helton sat out of last week’s Tulane game as a result of an injury suffered against Auburn.
“He could have punted Saturday, but we decided to give him some time,” Miles said.
Arguably the biggest week of 2009 for the Tigers, Monday meant that day one of film study was in motion. Each moment of preparation, Miles said, must be well spent.
“It only counts as one, but it is a very important one,” he said.