There is an understanding within this LSU program about the importance of this matchup.
Without delving too much into the past, Brian Kelly himself understands that how he will be graded, at least in the short term, will partly look like his team’s particular game. Because it’s easy to look back and see that LSU just didn’t have the success against this program that it has with so many other teams in the SEC.
However, there is also an understanding that any undertones of how this game is perceived on the outside are labeled as distractions. The only important truth LSU can focus on is the process of being successful Saturday night when the Crimson Tide comes to town.
“All the fundamentals of a game like this, that’s why you come to LSU. It’s not pressure, it’s a privilege to play in games like this,” Kelly said. “All the noise and stuff is just a distraction. It’s about preparation, focusing on our process and adding another layer to what we do.”
LSU comes in as a 13-point underdog at this point Nick Saban and company who, like the purple and gold, are fighting for their postseason lives. This makes Alabama an even more dangerous team, knowing they are backed into a corner and any loss this year will hurt their playoff hopes.
Over the past three weeks, this has been an LSU team that has responded well to the preparation process that Kelly and his staff have preached since his first days here. What really resonated with the players is that the preparation has now led to results in back-to-back wins against SEC rivals.
“You have to take this game and think about how you got here. We did it with our preparation. We focused on playing our best when our best is needed,” Kelly said. “We can’t get distracted by ‘this is a big game’ or ‘this is Alabama,’ because that’s not going to help us in this situation. Our best players are going to have to play well, we’re going to have to play consistently for four quarters, we have to start well because we showed that we will play well in the second half. We have to play consistently.
“Being more intentional in our practice and when it’s time to switch to performance, play more consistently.”
Part of that process this week in practice is figuring out who the best players are again and coming up with schemes to get them on the field. One of the closely watched situations this year was the linebacker game, where Micah Baskerville and freshman star Harold Perkins they made sweeping statements with their play on the field.
But finding ways to get both on the field BJ Ojulari was a bit tricky given that Perkins’ strength is also Ojulari’s this year. Kelly reaffirmed how important a role Perkins will play in the game plan this week, as well as getting all of his best players on the field for an opponent of this magnitude.
“It is important that the best players play. Micah Baskerville he’s been playing consistently for us, obviously we want to get Ojulari on the field and Perkins,” Kelly said. “Those guys make plays and had high production. When you play a team like Alabama, if you even know what you’re doing, you should put your best players on the field.”
The plan also sees the return of security Major Burns to the field, as Kelly said, Burns was cleared while the offensive line Garrett Dellinger and wide receiver Jack Bech are still classified as day-to-day, but both will practice this week. LSU really needs all hands on deck this weekend for Alabama, so the fact that most of the news has been positive from the opening date is a good sign.
This is an opportunity Kelly saw last week that his group wants to take full advantage of, and it starts with repeating daily that preparation is where these kinds of games are won.
“I think this team understands the challenges but also welcomes them. He’s fighting and he’s welcoming it, and I think more than anything, they’re fighting for something and not fighting against something,” Kelly said. “That’s a big change from where they were, so I think they’re excited about it.