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LSU seniors approaching final chance to end losing streak against Alabama

LSU has lost its last four meetings against Alabama. Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports

BATON ROUGE, La. – Vadal Alexander doesn’t need a reminder of how his teams have fared against Alabama, the ultimate measuring-stick game for anyone who wears an LSU uniform these days.

The senior right tackle, the only four-year starter on LSU’s roster other than safety Jalen Mills, is 0-3 in his career against the Crimson Tide. Two of the losses came in truly gut-wrenching fashion. Alexander has just one remaining opportunity to end that string of failure, and that’s exactly what he expects to happen the next time the Tigers take the field, Nov. 7 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“Definitely those were tough losses in my career the past couple years, but I look forward to playing them this year and having the W on my belt with that team,” Alexander said.

There aren’t many losses on LSU’s resume since this senior class joined the program. The Tigers are 35-11 since 2012 and have winning records against all of their major opponents except one in that time: 3-1 against Florida, Auburn and Mississippi State, 3-0 against Texas A&M, 2-1 against Ole Miss and Arkansas.

They aren’t accustomed to losing – in fact, No. 4 LSU (7-0, 4-0 SEC) hasn’t done that yet this season – which makes the recent history against Alabama even more painful. This has essentially been the game in the SEC for the last five years, and it has belonged to the Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1).

Alexander knows as well as anyone that if the Tigers are to end their four-game losing streak against Alabama, the sloppiness that has been present in most LSU games to date can’t be present in Tuscaloosa.

“It’s definitely a big game to say the least, not just because we’re undefeated to this point and it’s the next team to keep on track of getting to the SEC championship,” Alexander said. “It’s just a team that’s a very good team, and you have to play your best game that you’ve played all year against this team because they’re that good.”

Alexander said he expects “a war” against Alabama, comparing the teams to “two heavyweight fighters” battling in the center of the ring. Perhaps those are well-worn comparisons, but they apply in this series. Maybe Alabama fails to reach the BCS championship game in 2012 if it fails to complete a last-minute touchdown pass to win 21-17 at Tiger Stadium. Maybe last year’s Alabama club misses out on the College Football Playoff if not for its last-minute rally to force overtime, where it beat LSU 20-13.

The Tide did enough to win – or maybe the better word is "survive" – those games, which left both teams mentally and physically drained. It’s no coincidence that they both have open dates this week, allowing time to heal their bodies and prepare their minds for the fistfight ahead.

“I think there’ll be fresh legs and some health back,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “It’s kind of just what the doctor ordered.”

It’s fitting that Miles mentioned medical professionals, as his training staff has been busy lately. The open week comes at an opportune time, as Miles said it should allow defensive tackle Christian LaCouture and defensive backs Mills and Tre’Davious White – each of whom missed all or most of Saturday’s win against Western Kentucky – to recover in time for Alabama.

Their absences were noticeable, with the Hilltoppers rolling up 428 yards against a frequently confused LSU defense. That’s another reason the open date should be helpful, as Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has certainly made note of the multiple coverage busts made by LSU’s secondary. Perhaps the extra week will allow Tigers defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to clean up those messes.

“We’ll get down in film and we’ll make sure [what we’re doing],” linebacker Kendell Beckwith said. “I’m glad we’ve got this week to prepare to get everyone on the same page, work on those communication errors, get it fixed and be ready to go.”

They’ll have to be ready, since the Tigers must show a strong finishing kick if they are to remain atop the SEC West standings. Following Alabama are games against Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M – teams ranked 27th, 10th and 16th in ESPN’s Football Power Index. The index lists LSU’s remaining schedule as the most difficult in the FBS.

The only game that matters now, however, is Alabama, LSU’s arch rival and annual nemesis. Alexander went out of his way to compliment the Tide and tried to avoid saying anything incendiary about his upcoming opponent, but don’t doubt that he desperately wants this win, even if he won’t come right out and say it.

“It’s noted in my mind,” Alexander said when asked whether LSU players discuss their losing streak against Alabama. “That’s all I’ll say about that.”