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For All the Marbles

At 8:00 PM tomorrow night in Baton Rouge, the LSU Tigers and the Auburn Tigers will square off in Tiger Stadium. And for the SEC West, it will be a game for all of the marbles.

Okay, okay, hopefully you didn't punch your computer screen or yell obscenities in a sentence with my name, but if so then so be it, that's the harsh truth. Yes the Crimson Tide is in good shape as we are currently tied for the SEC West lead, but the harsh truth is that we aren't playing anywhere near the level needed to beat Auburn or LSU. Sure we could suddenly make that progress, but it must happen in a very short period of time and until we do it -- which unfortunately the odds are low -- it's all a moot point.

So... sorry 'Bama fans... the showdown of the Tigers tomorrow night is for all of the marbles in the SEC West.

It's a pretty simple thing: If LSU beats Auburn, the Plainsmen will have to win out and have LSU fall twice in a three game stretch against Alabama, Ole Miss, and Arkansas in order to win the West. On the other hand, if Auburn beats LSU, the Bayou Bengals will have to win out and have Auburn fall twice in a three game stretch against Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama. Obviously, there's about a snowball's chance in hell of either of those things happening, so essentially the winner of the LSU v. Auburn game tomorrow night effectively stamps their ticket for an appearance in Atlanta in early December.

And if all goes to plan, it should be a classic match-up. You have to give the LSU v. Auburn rivalry credit, I don't think there has been a series that has given way to more memorable games in the past ten or fifteen years than this one. And honestly, this rivalry should be of more importance than it probably is. LSU effectively has no major rival, considering the massive struggles of Ole Miss in the post-Vaught era -- though that may have changed since Nick Saban killed Jesus, made the Dodo become extinct, threw Mike the Tiger off the Huey P. Long, blew up the levees, assassinated Kennedy, invaded Poland, switched Pete Maravich's heart medication with Tic-Tacs and all of that sort of stuff -- and there is no legitimate in-state rival, so it should be bigger on their end. And it should be bigger for Auburn, too, but that's clouded out on their end by Alabama and Georgia. But the fact that this rivalry hasn't taken on bigger proportions in terms of rivalries should not fool you as to the quality of the contests that it has consistently produced.

And again, this year's contest has it all on the line, and should be a great game.

Offensively, LSU has struggled a bit as of late. Matt Flynn is currently dead last in the SEC in QB Rating -- even worse than Joan Parker (sorry, had to do it) -- and he's been a disappointment to date. The LSU receiving corps is talented as can be, but has been inconsistent at best, and the Tiger running game has often struggled to get things going aside from some good showings by Jacob Hester. The Auburn defense, on the other hand, struggled a bit early on, but has looked great since. They shut down Tim Tebow and company like no one else, and then went to Fayetteville and held McFadden and Jones, combined, for under 100 yards -- and yes that's basically the football equivalent of containing a nuclear blast in the palm of your hand.

The Auburn offense, on the other hand, looked like they had hired Mike Shula as offensive coordinator early on, and it looked like Tommy Tuberville reincarnated Brandon Cox as Spencer Pennington. And then somehow they got it back together. The running game suddenly came to life with the return of Brad Lester and the re-emergence of the offensive line, and Brandon Cox is once again playing effective football with the play-action pass. The LSU defense looked great early on, but they've struggled a bit the past few weeks. Still though, they have an ungodly amount of talent and one of the game's best defensive coordinators.

As far as teams as a whole, LSU looked like national champions in the first few weeks of the season, but they haven't played well in about a month now (since the first half of the South Carolina game). Auburn on the other hand looked like one of the worst BCS conference teams around early on, but suddenly they've found life. No one has made as much progress in the past month as the Plainsmen have, and arguably no other team in the country has consistently played as high quality of football as they have for almost the past month.

The game itself has the makings of an instant classic. Whatever you have going on tomorrow night, cancel it. This is not a game you want to miss. It's going to be a good environment between two apparently evenly matched football teams. It's a big, hated rivalry. It's likely to be a defensive struggle. You know it will be extremely hard-hitting and physical.

And it will be for all of the marbles in the SEC West.