From the Sideline — The Alabama vs LSU Rivalry is Finally About the Players Again
So here we go again.
You can talk about the Iron Bowl (and you should - it's the best rivalry in college football).
You can talk Alabama/Tennessee (and you should - historically, it's one of college football's best, as well).
But the best rivalry for the past nine years is Alabama/LSU.
That's because this one has had everything since Nick Saban made LSU fans downright livid by having the audacity to leave for Miami, then return to the SEC somewhere else other than Baton Rouge.
On Monday, the Alabama coach/former LSU coach said (as he has for nine years now) that this game had nothing to do with him, but was about the players and the teams.
How big has the rivalry between the two grown? This time, I think he's actually right.
As hard as he tried to make people believe otherwise, from 2007 until maybe even last year, the rivalry WAS about him.
In 2007, when Javier Arenas returned a punt to give Alabama the lead - but couldn't hold it - it was about Nick Saban (almost) beating LSU in his first matchup with his old team.
In 2008, it was about Nick Saban's return to Baton Rouge, and being hung in effigy.
In 2009, it was about another Nick Saban win, followed by the Tigers returning the favor in 2010.
In 2011, it was about LSU beating Saban in the Game of the Century - only to have Saban trump that months later in the BCS Title Game...in the same building that made Tiger Fans love him in the first place.
Since then, it's been about three more wins by Saban (and Alabama) over the Tigers - two of those, in gut-wrenching fashion for the purple and gold.
But now, in 2015, you get the sense that it TRULY is about Alabama and LSU.
NOT the head coaches.
It's about the two best running backs in the conference - and probably the nation.
It's about the No. 2 team in the first CFP Rankings, versus the No. 4 team.
It's about the inside track to Atlanta (yes, Ole Miss fans, I'm aware of your record).
I don't know if Alabama or LSU is the better team - in the game, or even in the SEC. But I do know that this game doesn't have to be about Nick Saban or Les Miles.
This time, they are only a piece of the story - rather than the story themselves.