No. 4 LSU-No. 7 Alabama meet in a high-stakes game, again
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Jake Coker couldn't help but watch the Alabama-LSU games when he was growing up or even while playing for Florida State.
He remembers Julio Jones' fourth-quarter 73-yard touchdown catch in the 2009 game and the so-called ''Game of the Century'' two years later.
''I don't know who didn't see that,'' the seventh-ranked Crimson Tide's quarterback said Monday.
Then he watched last season's game from the sidelines and experienced the thriving SEC West rivalry for himself. Now, Coker makes his first start Saturday night against the fourth-ranked Tigers (7-0) in a game that has become almost routinely a matchup of Top 10 teams vying for national and Southeastern Conference championship shots.
''It was crazy,'' Coker said of last year's game at LSU. ''I've never seen a stadium like that. It was wild, that's for sure. It's something I won't forget.''
Both teams figure prominently in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, with LSU second and Alabama fourth. The Tide jumped over unbeaten teams Baylor, TCU and Michigan State.
Based on recent history, there's a better than fair chance the Tide (7-1) and Tigers could create another memorable game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It's the fifth straight regular season meeting to occupy CBS's lone prime-time television slot for an SEC game.
It's the seventh time since 2005 that both teams enter the game ranked in the top 10. As usual, it features formidable front lines on both sides of the ball. The game also includes two of the nation's top tailbacks, LSU's Leonard Fournette and Alabama's Derrick Henry going against two of the best run defenses.
Alabama has won the last four meetings, including a 20-13 overtime victory last season, the fourth time in a decade the teams couldn't settle matters in 60 minutes.
LSU coach Les Miles said fans ask him ''daily or weekly'' if the Tigers will beat Alabama this season.
''I can tell you that as an LSU fan there is great interest in this game,'' Miles said.
That's an understatement from either fan base. Neither team is a stranger to this kind of buildup and pressurized situation.
They play each other annually, after all.
''The good news is we've played these games before and we certainly understand them,'' Miles said. ''A big game is only so big, right? You're playing for all the things you wanted to play for at the beginning of the year. You're playing for the lead in the West. And you've put yourself, with your achievements, this team, in position to do so. They should look forward to it. They should relish it.
''It's why you come to LSU, to be a part of this game.''
LSU defensive back Jalen Mills said the game does have a different energy from both the fans and coaches.
''I mean, it's crazy out there,'' Mills said. ''But you also have to try to control that and figure out and hone in on what you have to do on the field. When you see a guy maybe too amped up, just try to calm him down and tell him to focus a little more.''
With all the ingredients of a hard-hitting, high-stakes game, that doesn't mean Miles and coach Nick Saban will call it conservatively. Sometimes it's the gambles that have made the difference.
They've each had some successful calls like Alabama's pivotal fake punt in 2012 and LSU's fourth-down tight end reverse to DeAngelo Peterson in 2010.
They've also had failed ones like Miles' fake field goal in 2012 and Saban's intercepted receiver pass the year before.
''I don't think being conservative is really going to help you win a game like this,'' Saban said.
NOTES: The bye week gave both teams a chance to heal injured players. Miles said he expects cornerback Tre'Davious White (knee), defensive tackle Christian LaCouture (foot) and fullback J.D. Moore (knee) to return. Moore has missed the past two games while White and LaCouture missed one game. Saban said safety Eddie Jackson (knee) practiced some last week and was cleared to go for Monday. Safety Ronnie Harrison and right tackle Dominick Jackson, both recovering from ankle injuries, will be evaluated day to day but would practice in individual drills Monday, Saban said.
AP College football Website: collegefootball.ap.org
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, contributed to this report.