Video: Orgeron wants Tigers ‘loose and relaxed’ for 1-2 matchup at Alabama

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The stakes are enormous Saturday in Tuscaloosa when LSU and Alabama face off as the Nos. 1-2 ranked teams in the country.

“SEC West, SEC Championship, having a chance to go to the College Football Playoff,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said Monday at his weekly news conference. “But that’s for us every game in the SEC. To get to where you want to be, you have to go undefeated, you have to beat Alabama, you have to keep on going.

“If you start thinking about all that stuff, it becomes overwhelming. I want our guys loose and relaxed.”

Orgeron also confirmed the news of the departure of former John Ehret linebacker Michael Divinity from the team.

“Michael Divinity has left the team for personal reasons,” Orgeron said. “We’re not going to close the door on” a possible return by Divinity, he added.

Moving ahead without Divinity, LSU is looking to snap an eight-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide.

Coincidentally, the last time the Tigers won, it was also a 1-vs.-2 matchup in Tuscaloosa, a 9-6 defensive slugfest won by LSU in overtime. Ironically, Saturday’s game will likely have a much different look and feel.

“This is the best football team we’ve had going into this game,” Orgeron said. “What happened in the past has nothing to do with it. Just like when we played Auburn, just like when we played Florida. This is a new game, a new week, a new football game, new players on our side, new players on their side.”

Alabama defeated LSU 29-0 last year in Tiger Stadium.

“Last year they hurt us in the run, up the middle,” Orgeron said. “I feel good about our interior (this season). They’re going to be tested … but I feel they’ll be well equipped.”

Two years ago, after LSU’s 24-10 loss in Tuscaloosa, Orgeron was passionate in his postgame news conference, saying “We comin’, and we ain’t backing down.”

That LSU team entered the game ranked No. 19. How fast are the Tigers gaining?

“You can tell by the rankings, it looks like we made up some ground,” Orgeron said, “but we’ve still got to beat ‘em. You still got to go through them to get through the SEC West, to get to the SEC Championship.

“I do believe we’re closer. We’ll find out on Saturday.”

On-the-field results are one thing. As for off the field? Orgeron said he’ll “match this (coaching) staff with anybody.”

He noted what has happened in the last 24 months: “I think the hiring of Joe Brady, keeping Dave Aranda, having the analysts, Greg McMahon’s an excellent special teams coordinator.”

The evolution of college football will be on display in Tuscaloosa Saturday. After that grind-it-out defensive struggle eight years ago, LSU and Alabama now have the top two passing offenses in the SEC and two of the top five passing games in the country.

Besides the marquee matchup of quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovialoa, the other position group that will play a large part in Saturday’s game are the trio of starting receivers on each side – Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall of LSU against Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Devonta Smith.

Four of those six – the LSU trio and Smith – all hail from Louisiana.

“It goes to show you the direction of the SEC,” Orgeron said, referring to spread offenses. “All the top players in the country have an interest in playing in the SEC. We can go anywhere in the country to get the best receivers, (but) we’ve been fortunate that we’ve had great receivers here in the state of Louisiana.”

LSU’s three wins over top 10 teams allowed them to vault past Alabama last week into the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press rankings. The Tide remains No. 1 in the coaches poll, making Saturday’s game the first regular-season matchup in college football history of two No. 1 teams.

“We’re not going to treat this game different than any other game on our schedule,” Orgeron said. “We have great respect for Alabama. We understand what they do well.

“They’ve been tested against Auburn. They’ve been tested against Florida. I do believe they’re going to be tested again this week.

“They don’t have to play any different this game than they’ve played in any other game. They just need to play their best. I don’t want a player to go in there and think I have to go do something I’m not capable of doing. If we play our best in all three phases, we’re going to be fine.”

Orgeron expects All-America safety Grant Delpit, who missed practice last week and is expected to be limited early this week, to be “totally healthy” for Saturday.

Kickoff on Saturday will come just after 2:30 p.m., the first time since 2010 this game is not being played in prime time. The game will be televised nationally by CBS.

“This will be like a heavyweight fight,” Orgeron said. “It’ll be loud, but we’re used to doing that.”

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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder

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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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