Preps Talk

LSU, Alabama set for monster showdown

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LSU, Alabama set for monster showdown

From Comcast SportsNet TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- The LSU and Alabama showdown promises to be a throwback of old-school football. Both the top-ranked and barely tested Tigers and No. 2 and mostly unchallenged Alabama are built on power runs and run-stuffing defenses in a time when spread offenses are en vogue and huddles are optional. "If you want to see 1970s smashmouth,," Alabama tight end Michael Williams said, "then this is what you want to see right here." Yes, Saturday night's game will have a retro feel to it. The vintage philosophies make this one reminiscent of an old Oklahoma-Nebraska or Alabama-Penn State clash. And like those teams, this year's edition of the Tide and Tigers -- both 8-0 with five Southeastern Conference wins -- have racked up double-digit victories But neither Alabama's Nick Saban nor LSU's Les Miles is bringing the wishbone back in fashion. Hitting, and hitting hard, well, that is certainly allowed. Even mandatory. "It's a type of game that ... you don't necessarily see too often nowadays," LSU offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert said. "It is a little more old-school, so I think that'll be something fun to watch for the fans." LSU's Jarrett Lee -- supplemented by the more mobile Jordan Jefferson -- and Alabama sophomore AJ McCarron have been the league's most efficient quarterbacks for the top two scoring offenses. However, Alabama ranks 66th nationally in passing offense, LSU 99th. The Tigers, who have won on five of their last seven visits to Bryant-Denny. do have a significant deep threat in receiver Rueben Randle. The Tide counters with more of a catch-and-run type in speedy Marquis Maze. What fans will see: -- A test of wills. Compact, powerful backs Trent Richardson of Alabama and LSU's Spencer Ware will be running between the tackles into defensive fronts that typically yield little ground. -- Playmakers on defense. An all-star defender making big tackles, forcing a timely turnover or just laying a resounding hit on some unsuspecting player. On Alabama, the likely candidates include linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower, and All-America safety Mark Barron. For LSU, it might be ball-stripping Tyrann Mathieu, fellow cornerback Morris Claiborne or pass rushers Barkevious Mingo or Sam Montgomery. -- Coaching eruptions. It might come from the ultra-intense, scowling Saban or Miles with his penchant for making seemingly odd gambles pay off. With both teams coming off open dates, the hype around the game has been frenzied. Alabama's Williams has heard plenty from friends and family. "Of course, 1 vs. 2, game of the century and all that type of stuff," he said. "You've got to put out the mental clutter." Which isn't to say Williams isn't embracing the hype, even while some teammates downplayed it with that "just another game" spiel. "This is what you come to Alabama for," the tight end said. "Great opportunity for some players. I know the atmosphere will be crazy. This is what you want to play in. It will be one for the ages." It puts the spotlight on a community that was devastated by a deadly tornado in April but has received a regular Saturday pick-me-up from the Tide this fall. "Every time we have a major event here, I think it makes people feel more and more normal about the way things are going," Saban said. This certainly qualifies as major. If the game lives up to its billing and ends up close, the loser's national championship aspirations might not be totally diminished. The loser could have an outside shot at January rematch in New Orleans that really is for the title. Miles isn't thinking about that though, he's content for now to relish a brisk fall Saturday night when temperatures are expected to dip into the 40s. He's practically poetic about it. "How wonderful it is in college football that you have two quality teams that represent two great institutions that will take their best effort to the field to decide something that is difficult, clean and pure as a contest," Miles said. "How wonderful it is for the region to be able to look and enjoy the time of celebration of hard work and team values. "The school wins, the team wins and the state wins. It is a beautiful time. " And fans will have a menu of stars to enjoy. There's a Heisman Trophy candidate in Richardson, who has scored 18 touchdowns on a team that has yielded a third of that total. Mathieu drew early Heisman buzz, too. The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder with an uncanny knack for big plays has forced an LSU career record nine fumbles in just under two seasons. Cornerback bookends Claiborne and Alabama's Maze are also two of the SEC's most dangerous kick returners. With that kind of talent on the field, Saban predicts the game will likely come down to turnovers or special teams. Neither team makes back-breaking mistakes, but LSU hardly makes any -- period. The Tigers didn't commit a turnover in October and have forced 18 this season; they have scored touchdowns on half of the resulting drives. "Their turnover ratio is off the charts, in terms of their defense and their ball-hawking style of play," Saban said. "They have lots of guys on defense who can make plays." Then again so does Alabama. LSU's Hebert said it's harder for a team to impose its will on such a physical opponent. "That's a kind of style where if you can't physically match up you're going to find it very hard to be successful," he said. "And that's what's so special about this next game is that both teams physically match up against each other very well."

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball

Highlights

Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.