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Countdown has begun to Alabama-LSU

Les Miles and the Tigers hope to still be unbeaten when they face off against Nick Saban's Crimson Tide on Nov. 5. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The countdown has begun.

Actually, it began back in the summer.

Can Alabama versus LSU get here soon enough for anybody?

You talk about big-boy games. Well, the one in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5 is going to be a grown-man game.

We’ll see if both teams can conduct their business in a mature fashion over the next month leading into that showdown. In other words, are the two teams mature enough to handle what’s right in front of them and not get caught peeking ahead?

The rest of college football, we in the media included, will count down the days to the matchup.

The players and coaches at both Alabama and LSU don’t have that luxury.

In this league, that’s a sure recipe for an upset.

I honestly don’t know who would win if they played right now at a neutral site. I believe Alabama to be the most physical team in the league, but LSU’s speed, athleticism and depth on defense is staggering.

Both defenses are suffocating. LSU might be a little bit better and a little bit deeper on the defensive line. Alabama, though, is better at linebacker, and the two defensive backfields might have six or seven future NFL players between them.

The good thing for me is that I don’t have to pick this game right now.

Obviously, it’s not going to be played at a neutral site. It’s going to be played in Tuscaloosa, which means Alabama will be favored. The Crimson Tide have also won 23 of their last 24 games at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Again, though, the game’s not going to be played until Nov. 5, and all that matters is how the teams play on that day, how healthy they are at that point and where they are from a wear and tear standpoint.

Both teams have byes the week before the game, which should help. But LSU’s schedule the next three weeks is clearly more demanding than what Alabama faces.

The Tigers face Florida at home this Saturday, then travel to Tennessee before coming back home to play Auburn.

The Crimson Tide get Vanderbilt at home this weekend, go on the road to face Ole Miss and then return home to face Tennessee.

The other caveat to consider is the Jordan Jefferson factor at LSU. Nobody confused Jarrett Lee for John Elway while Jefferson was suspended. But Lee was efficient. He did what was asked of him and guided the team through a treacherous part of the schedule to an unbeaten record.

It sounds like LSU coach Les Miles wants to keep working Jefferson into the rotation, which makes sense because Jefferson gives the Tigers a different dimension at quarterback with his running skills.

Miles likes having a guy back there at quarterback who can run and break down defenses when nothing else is there.

But the last thing the Tigers want or need is a quarterback controversy.

So how Miles handles this whole situation over the next four weeks will also play an important role in LSU’s development as a team heading into the Alabama game.

The team that gets better during this next month is probably the one that’s going to win. The same goes for the team that can stay the healthiest.

In the meantime, it’s a game that’s going to be played over and over again by fans and media members. Every day, there will be questions about which defense is better, which offense has a better chance to move the ball and which passing game is better equipped to hit a few big plays.

In a lot of ways, it’s reminiscent of the 2009 season when we counted down the days to the Alabama-Florida matchup. The only difference was that they met in the SEC championship game, which was a play-in game for the right to play for the national championship.

This one might have even more pressure riding on it if both teams arrive unbeaten, because the loser can probably forget about even making it to the SEC championship game.

There’s a lot to think about, including the dream scenario for the SEC that the two teams play a classic game on Nov. 5 and then turn around and play again a little more than a month later in the BCS National Championship Game.

Of course, for that to happen, just about everybody else in the top five or six of the polls would have to lose, including Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Stanford and Boise State. The chances of that happening are slim.

It’s still fun to think about.

But for now, I think I’ll take my own advice and live in the present.

I’ve covered this league long enough to understand that it rarely plays out exactly the way you think it will.