As usual, stakes high for Alabama, LSU

As odd as it sounds, the winner Saturday in Baton Rouge isn’t necessarily guaranteed anything.

The loser, however, is guaranteed of being on the outside looking in when the top prizes are doled out later this college football season.

“It’s pretty much like it always is with this game,” LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “Whoever wins has a chance to go on and do big things. If you lose, you sort of just have to take whatever comes your way.”

Indeed, the winner of the Alabama-LSU game has either played in the SEC championship game, in a BCS bowl game or in the BCS National Championship Game each of the past five years.

LSU won 16-13 in overtime in 2005, Les Miles' first season in Baton Rouge, and represented the West in the SEC championship game.

LSU also won in 2006, 28-14, and scored the SEC’s second BCS berth that season and played in the Sugar Bowl.

In 2007, the Tigers won 41-34 in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban’s first season at Alabama, and went on to win the national championship.

Alabama has won each of the last two years, winning 27-21 in overtime in 2008 and playing in the Sugar Bowl that season. And then last season, the Crimson Tide pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 24-15 and went on to complete a perfect 14-0 season with their first national championship in 17 years.

Well, these two old rivals meet again on Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium.

And for Alabama, it’s all on the line.

The Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1) moved up to No. 6 this week in the BCS standings and are positioned nicely to keep climbing if they can win out. Wins over No. 10 LSU, No. 20 Mississippi State and No. 2 Auburn, coupled with a win in the SEC championship game, would go a long way toward propelling Alabama into one of those top two spots in the final BCS standings and a shot at its second consecutive national championship.

“I think there are a lot of other people probably in the same boat,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “So it’s who can take care of their business the best down the road, by what you control. What we control is how we play. I think that’s the most important thing we want to be able to focus on, and that’s why we need everybody’s best at this time of the year.”

A loss Saturday would not only knock Alabama out of the national championship race, but the Crimson Tide could also probably forget about the SEC title.

A second loss this season could also keep Alabama out of the equation for an at-large bid in a BCS bowl, especially if LSU goes on to win out.

The Tigers (7-1, 4-1) probably aren’t going to be able to climb high enough in the BCS standings to get a shot in the national championship game. Even getting to the SEC championship game is a long shot because Auburn would have to lose twice.

Still, an 11-1 LSU team would be in excellent shape to garner an at-large bid in a BCS bowl.

The Tigers haven’t played in a BCS bowl since winning the 2007 national championship.

“Some people might have given up on us after we lost to Auburn, but we haven’t given up on anything,” Peterson said. “We’re 7-1 and looking to finish this thing up the right way.”