Derick Hingle/Icon SMI
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Of all the weeks for my camera battery die ...
I've been to several big LSU games over the past few years, but I've never seen this town as energized as it is for today's Alabama/Nick Saban showdown. With the Tigers virtually eliminated from SEC contention, there's this feeling that the pressure is off. Most LSU fans consider their team the considerable underdog against the nation's No. 1 team -- so let's just have a big party.
Last night I visited my LSU tailgating buddy Rusty, whose crew was already cooking gumbo, cranking the stereo and putting up tents to camp out overnight. Today, it's 76 degrees and not a cloud in the sky -- idyllic weather for a Saturday in the SEC. As I rolled into campus late this morning, the tailgaters spread as far as the eye can see. I've been to enough places that I think I can declare this authoritatively: Nobody does tailgating like LSU fans.
A little while ago, I went over to try to get a glimpse of Saban and the Crimson Tide arriving at the stadium. Unfortunately, several thousand fans had the same idea and I couldn't get close enough, but a couple fellow writers who made it said the scene was "much to do about nothing." Alabama's buses purposely arrived just behind LSU's, so most Tigers fans were distracted with celebrating the home team. Saban was mostly hounded by camera men.
I did stick around for a little while, though, to watch the procession of LSU's band and cheerleaders marching into the stadium, with several thousand fans lined up on either side of the street chanting "L-S-U" and "Tiger Bait." I know people in other parts of the country don't want to hear this, but folks, it's not a myth: Nothing compares to a big-time SEC game day atmosphere.
So now we're simply waiting for kickoff. This is traditionally one of the loudest stadiums in the country. If Alabama has its act together, the Tide will jump to an early lead like they did against Clemson and Georgia and take the crowd out of it. If they don't, and if this thing goes down to the wire -- and particularly if LSU wins -- I fully anticipate the volume and the madness will be unlike anything I've yet experienced.