October 28, 2013 9:17:19 AM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama and LSU have two weeks to get healthy before their latest Southeastern Conference West clash.
The extra week of anticipation is just a bonus.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 SEC) coasted into a second open date with a 45-10 victory against Tennessee on Saturday that marked the team's sixth consecutive victory by 25 points or more.
The Tigers (7-2, 3-2) have been supplanted as the Tide's chief challenger in the West this season by No. 8 Auburn after losing to Mississippi two weeks ago. They eased into their first bye week with a 48-16 win over Furman.
Healing is the main priority for both head coaches, not extra preparation time. "The key piece will be getting those guys who are injured some time off their feet," LSU's Les Miles said. He said LSU will have some team meetings and watch film on Alabama but take much of the week off from practice.
Nick Saban has a similar plan for the Tide, which also had an open date before facing No. 12 Texas A&M. He said the team might have one extra day of LSU work, while also giving the players tutorials on upcoming SEC opponents Mississippi State and Auburn.
"We've got some big challenges and some stiff competition against some really good teams coming up here," Saban said. "But this bye week comes at a really good time for us. We've got a lot of guys nicked up who could use some rest. We can also use the time to try to help some of our players improve. That's going to be our focus."
Alabama has had an assortment of injuries, particularly on defense. Safety Vinnie Sunseri is out for the season while noseguard Brandon Ivory missed the Tennessee game for what Saban described only as "medical reasons."
Running back Jalston Fowler didn't play in the second half after sustaining a concussion.
LSU, meanwhile, has had nine straight weeks of football followed by open dates before both Alabama and Texas A&M.
"Sometimes we wish it could have come a little earlier," said receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had 204 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Furman. "You get beat down in that SEC, SEC game after SEC game. It's a toll on your body, but you couldn't ask for a better time for a bye week."
The Tigers have had a bye week before the last three meetings. Alabama also had one in 2010 and 2011 and lost both those regular-season meetings.
But before the rise of Texas A&M last season and Auburn this year, this was the game. The 1 vs. 2 matchup in 2011 was dubbed the Game of the Century, with LSU winning in overtime and Alabama dominating the rematch in the national championship game.
Tide safety Landon Collins was already eager for the game after beating Tennessee.
Alabama lured the prized recruit from Geismar, La., about 30 minutes from Baton Rouge two years ago.
Now, he's become the Tide's starting strong safety with the injury to Sunseri.
"It's fantastic," said Collins, who returned an interception 89 yards for a touchdown against the Volunteers. "I've been looking forward to this day.
"I didn't know I was going to play or what I what going to be able to do for the team. I just want to be able to dominate them like we've been doing in the past four weeks."
The Tide has outscored its last four SEC opponents by a combined 170-17 with shutouts of Ole Miss and Arkansas.
Tennessee's second-half field goal snapped a 104-0 scoring streak that was Alabama's fifth-longest.
Tide receiver Kevin Norwood said the team is only making it look easy on Saturdays.
"Just all the work we've put in, it's coming out," Norwood said. "Man, I'm telling you, we work really hard for what we're doing. For these guys to come out and play the way we do, it's just amazing. "
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