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Senior College Football Columnist

Tide's Richardson 'can't wait' for another shot at LSU

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NEW ORLEANS -- You would expect Trent Richardson to be in full anticipation mode for another shot at LSU. From Tuscaloosa to New York to here in the last month, the same two words have been a part of his every public conversation.

"Can't wait."

Alabama's junior tailback traded friendly barbs with fellow finalist Tyrann Mathieu of LSU at the Heisman ceremony. Can't wait. The moment Richardson got off the plane here Wednesday with his teammates. Can't wait. There it was again Thursday at the first media session leading up to Monday's BCS title game. Can't wait.

"I'm shaking right here talking about this," he said this week.

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Can't wait for what, exactly? Revenge? Vindication? A win, certainly, but even that doesn't guarantee Alabama a consensus national championship.

There is something deeper at work here. The man already has a national championship ring, as a freshman in 2009. But that team wasn't his.

This is about Richardson leaving something larger than what he walked in with. Putting a national championship on his back. Incredibly, Richardson and 'Bama have the mother of all mulligans to be able to get it right the second time.

The first time, Richardson ran for 89 yards against LSU, one of only three times he has failed to crack 100 this season. That included a career-high 14 yards in losses.

That's where the discussion branches in two different directions. Add in the 80 receiving yards as well as a 23-yard kickoff return and Richardson was arguably the best player on the field that night. But Alabama didn't score a touchdown. He didn't score a touchdown.

"We kept them out of the end zone which was the biggest thing," said LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. "We played well when we had to." In that same conversation there is room to also make the point that LSU's No. 2 defense did a hell of a job. The Tigers stepped up. Richardson?

"I played my heart out," Richardson said of the epic 9-6 loss on Nov. 5. "I did what I can do. You can't do nothing else when you have a defense like that."

Take sides. If Alabama is going to win this game, Richardson will have to step up. Or at least step up more. This is his team, perhaps not for much longer if you believe he is headed off to the NFL after Monday.

"I never said I was going to leave, I never said I was going to come back," Richardson teased.

Up in the air. His immediate future, Monday's result, Alabama's season, all wrapped in a controversial and unprecedented BCS rematch. That's a lot to balance on the shoulders of a 5-foot-11, 224-pound centerpiece.

"You could say they took from us," Richardson said, again, about Nov. 5. "I think we had unfinished business. I never felt like the game was over with. Never one time in that game did I feel like we were going to lose."

But they did. Now 'Bama has that glorious second chance. Richardson has to know the cosmic odds against anyone beating mighty Alabama twice in one season. The genius game plan able to be cooked up by Nick Saban given 6 ½ weeks to prepare.

Can't wait.

Playing with, and following Heisman winner Mark Ingram, Richardson has done all the right things. He ran for 1,583 yards in a break out junior season. His dead leg fakes are the stuff of YouTube. It's him front and center on the Alabama postseason guide. The 21-year old father of two became the first SEC running back in history to rush for 20 touchdowns in a season.

Just none of them against LSU.

The Tigers pounded him that night. He pounded back. Thirty-three of Richardson's yards came in the fourth quarter. But on his final three carries of regulation he was stopped for minus 6, minus 3 and no gain. Was it possible that at that point LSU had worn down a guy who never wears down?

"I don't know if you ever wear a guy down like that," Chavis said. "He's a big physical back but you're going to see a lot of that in the SEC, just about every week. To say we did a great job on him, I can't tell you that."

The man who carries the ball most of the time for Alabama also carries most of Alabama's fortunes next week. The money question came this week: How much of this offense is on you?

"I really don't know," Richardson said. "Coach puts me in situations where I can make plays."

That's either an overabundance of humility or a lack of grasping the obvious. Let's break it down. Richardson scored 23 of Alabama's 54 touchdowns this season. He accounts for 37 percent of Alabama's offense. The man has fumbled once in 614 career carries.

"He can go to Gainesville, Florida and run for 170 yards. Then on Monday, he's doing power cleans in the weight room," said center William Vlachos. "After that, at practice on Monday, he's [running] like he's the fourth team tailback trying to fight for playing time."

That's the clinical definition of a go-to back, a hoss. The burning question is how much impact the best offensive player on the field (arguably) is going to have in a game where one touchdown could mean a national championship?

Richardson politely described his supporting offensive cast as, "Relentless, can't be denied."

That's one way to put it. Here's another -– 71st in passing. Challenged, it can be argued, at quarterback where AJ McCarron is the nation's No. 62 passer in yards per game.

"[The offense] kind of got denied in the last game we played them," Richardson admitted.

Nitpick if you want. Alabama played five ranked teams -– two of those since Oct. 1. Richardson scored a total of four rushing touchdowns against Auburn, LSU, Florida, Arkansas and Penn State. Against seven unranked opponents he fattened up with 16 rushing touchdowns.

"I think we did [slow him down] for the most part…," LSU safety Eric Reid said. "Nick Saban could come up with a completely different style and not use Trent at all.

"We expect them to use him."

All this fuss over a rematch waiting for its first touchdown? Well, yeah. Richardson knows he doesn't need to rush for 100 yards for Alabama to beat LSU. He just needs to make a difference. It is part of the culture of the SEC. Former Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges once said he could scheme and plan and adjust and score 10 points and still feel good about it in the SEC.

What is happening around Richardson is something close to heresy. The man who is still making his bones in the country's toughest defensive league, was asked about a bowl season that has produced the two highest point totals in bowl history (West Virginia, 70; Baylor, 67).

"I don't ever want to be in a track meet like that," he said. "That don't really excite me. When you've got someone scoring time after time it kind of gets boring after a while."

"We know we're going to put up as many points as we can but it isn't going to be no track meet."

There will be pressure, intensity and a familiar opponent. It's the result that Trent Richardson is bent on changing. Listen close. You can hear him say it again.

Can't wait.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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