BATON ROUGE, La. -- As is often the case with Les Miles, he left a room full of reporters wondering on Wednesday if they just heard brilliance, insanity, nonsense or all of the above.
When talking about the atmosphere he's anticipating for Saturday's BCS championship game rematch between his No. 5 LSU team and No. 1 Alabama at Tiger Stadium, Miles compared the potential atmosphere to Superstorm Sandy.
"I think there are a lot of negative ions being forced, which are positive things, into this area," he explained, "and I think the atmosphere will be charged."
OK coach. We got that...we think.
Let's just stick with the charged atmosphere part.
LSU (7-1) can avenge its embarrassing 21-0 national championship game loss to the Tide last season (though Miles insists that revenge is not a motivation) by knocking off Alabama for a third straight regular season game in what is expected to be the largest crowd in Tiger Stadium history. That's easier said than done against an 8-0 Alabama team that has been so dominant, it has another character of an SEC coach, Steve Spurrier, saying the Tide can beat NFL teams.
While Spurrier's observation might be deemed crazy, most would agree that if the Tigers are to pull off the upset, they will need something mad to come out of the hat of Miles. In what promises to be a brutally physical matchup with talent to spare in the trenches, Alabama seems to enjoy an across-the-board edge. Despite that Miles said there is no secret weapon he's hiding under that signature white baseball cap that sits just a bit too high on his head.
When asked what tricks he might have, Miles took his famous hat off and playfully looked inside it, noting it was empty. He then explained, in that unique Miles way, it's not about being a Mad Hatter.
"We block it, throw it, catch it, defend it, tackle, tackle crisply, kick it, cover it," he explained. "You beat quality teams not by stuff and things. You beat them by quality play and physical game plan. It's not tricks, it's execution."
Three Tide players to watch
1. QB A.J. McCarron: The nation's leader in passing efficiency, McCarron's 18 touchdown passes and no interceptions have him in the Heisman Trophy conversation. He'll face an LSU defense that leads the SEC in interceptions.
2. C Barrett Jones: The Outland Trophy winner moved from left tackle to center this season, his third starting position of his Alabama career. He'll be responsible for calling the blocking assignments in what will be a loud and charged atmosphere.
3. LB C.J. Mosley: Mosley suffered a serious hip injury after intercepting a Jordan Jefferson pass in the BCS championship game in January. He's back and leading the Tide in tackles (65), adding 2.5 sacks and two interceptions.
Three Tigers to Watch
1. LB Kevin Minter: One way to rattle an Alabama offense that has been a virtual machine is to get it into third-and-longs. If LSU's defensive line can hold its own and Minter, LSU's leading tackler, makes solid stops along with the Tigers' other linebackers, the Tigers can create those situations against a Tide rushing game that gets 4.4 of its SEC-best 6 yards per carry before first contact, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
2. C P.J. Lonergan: Jones' counterpart, also a senior, will have to help LSU's young line get its assignments right. The Tigers might be physically good enough to compete with Alabama on the offensive line, but can Lonergan get the two freshmen and sophomore starters on the same page?
3. WR Odell Beckham Jr.: LSU needs big plays from special teams and the passing game and Beckham is the Tigers' best deep threat and primary punt returner.
LSU QB Zach Mettenberger vs. Alabama's secondary: LSU is 12th in the SEC in passing offense and 11th in pass efficiency while Alabama leads the nation in pass defense and passing efficency defense, led by cornerback Dee Milliner's 13 passes broken up and two interceptions. Mettenberger must find a way to reverse those trends for LSU to have a chance to move the ball.
By the numbers
4: LSU's touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer, second fewest in the FBS, according to ESPN Stats and Information
125: The number of points scored off turnovers by Alabama, most in the nation (ESPN stats and info).
36-1: LSU's night record under Les Miles
22: LSU's school-record home winning streak, the longest in the nation.
3: The number of times LSU has been shut out in its last 244 games, all at the hands of Alabama.
3-3: Miles' record against Alabama coach Nick Saban.