Alabama vs. LSU preview

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The Matchup: #1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0) at #5 LSU (7-1, 3-1)

When: Saturday, November 3rd

Where: Baton Rouge, LA

Game Time: 8:00 PM ET

TV: CBS

Recent History: Alabama leads the series 46-25-5 and won the most recent game in last season’s BCS National Championship game.  LSU beat Bama 9-6 during last year’s regular season bout, and the Tigers have also won seven of the last ten.

Storyline(s): If Alabama loses this football game to LSU it all but eliminates the SEC from any contention in the national championship, with three other teams undefeated thus far.  LSU is too far down at #5 and has to have major help to get back into the national championship with a win.  So, naturally, the entire country will be hoping LSU can pull a monumental upset.

What you need to know about Alabama:  The gap between Alabama and the rest of the country just keeps getting wider and wider.  Who do you want to put up against Alabama?  Kansas State?  Oregon?  Notre Dame?  LSU becomes the next team to take their shot at Alabama this week, after the Tide pimp-slapped Mississippi State all the way back to Starkville. 

The Tide are really firing on all cylinders, with the biggest improvement from last year to this year residing in AJ McCarron.  While the offensive line is no doubt the strength of the offense, McCarron has done a fantastic job evolving into a leader and into a playmaker.  He leads the country in passing efficiency, and he’s been an impact player in ‘12, outgrowing his labeled ‘game manager’ role that landed him a ring in 2011.  McCarron has thrown 18 touchdowns and no interceptions through eight games.  How’s that for efficiency?  Freshmen Amari Cooper and TJ Yeldon are the two biggest skill position impact players not named Eddie Lacy who will be key down the stretch and in this football game.

Knock the schedule all you want, but the defense loses six starters from last year’s national championship team and once again becomes the most dominant defense in the country, only allowing 203 total yards per game.  You can’t name a dominant pass rusher on the defense, but collectively as a unit, they are as physical as it gets, led by linebacker CJ Moseley and corner Dee Milliner.

The defense has really bought the offense time to identify new playmakers and let the offense really evolve over the course of 2012.  The offensive line has been more impactful on the passing game thus far, allowing McCarron to gain total confidence as he has taken a big leap from his 2011 persona and role.  The running game has been very good since the bye week.

What you need to know about LSU:  LSU is the same team it was in 2011, even though Zach Mettenberger is a different quarterback and a pocket passer.  While the running game is very physical in nature, the passing game is 109th in the country after finishing 106th last season.  They’re still the same football team with a four-headed monster of Jeremy Hill, Spencer Ware, Michael Ford and Kenny Hilliard in the backfield.  The Tigers are third in the SEC running the football, with over 200 yards per game on the ground.  The formula for winning remains the same – create a powerful downhill running game, make some key passes and wear the opponent down in the fourth quarter.  This time, however, the offense is going to have to make some explosive plays in the passing game.

The Tigers’ defense faced its toughest task and offense a week ago in Texas A&M.  The Aggies were scoring over 40 points per game, and the Tigers kept them to 19.  The defensive ends led by Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo and middle linebacker Kevin Minter are the lifeblood of the defense.  LSU allows 3.7 yards per play and is the second-ranked defense in the SEC behind Bama.

Punter Brad Wing will have to bring his Aussie swag, because field position will be ever so crucial in this football game.

Statistical Comparison: 

Category Alabama LSU
Scoring Offense 40.6 ppg 31 ppg
Total Offense 436.4 ypg 385.8 ypg
Rush Offense 214.4 ypg 208.4 ypg
Pass Offense 222 ypg 177.4 ypg
Scoring Defense 8.1 ppg 14.6 ppg
Total Defense 203.1 ypg 243.4 ypg
Rush Defense 57.2 ypg 94.9 ypg
Pass Defense 145.9 ypg 148.5 ypg
Turnover Margin +17 +9
INTs 14 Total 13 Total
Sacks BY 20 23
Sacks Against 17 18

What gives?  LSU and Alabama will no doubt be a knockdown, drag out fight between two SEC powers.  Both are physical and want to establish the running game.  The passing game for Alabama gives them an edge to go along with their already stout running game.  LSU has been one dimensional through eight games, and Alabama will take advantage of Mettenberger’s shakiness in the passing game.  Mett will have to make some explosive plays through the air, but there are no receivers who really stand out for LSU that can create enough separation down the field.  Odell Beckham has had the drops, and Kadron Boone may be the most consistent receiver on the team.

We talk a lot about Alabama wearing down defenses with their massive offensive line. LSU’s offense has to move the football, or the Bama offense will take a toll on the Tigers’ defense because it will be on the field too much.

However, as always, you can throw the stats out the window for this rivalry game, because both teams will bring their A-games for the entire country to see.

REFERENCES

COMMENTS

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  • Hopefully Bama can pull through.

  • I believe the line opened up at -7 Alabama. I would take that in a heartbeat. I think Bama may be the best team we’ve seen in the BCS era. Defensively, offensively, ST and coaching staff – what doesn’t this team have? Unreal team.

  • I actually expect LSU to keep this close. Alabama is the better team, but in a game like this, you have to expect a close game. The environment is going to be straight up electric. Love the SEC.

  • Even if LSU wins, the SEC could still get a team in the title game. K State is probably going to go undefeated, but the others could certainly lose. Oregon still hasn’t played a single good team yet, so we don’t even know how good they truly are, and ND looks a lot like UF. Eventually they’ll have one of those mistake prone games that will kill them.

    I never thought I’d say this, but right now, I’m a USC fan.

  • I’m honestly a little insulted that the line opened at what it did. I thought the Miss St line was to big of a gap, and I was proven wrong. I honestly think Vegas got this LSU team wrong. Yes it is a home game for them, but honestly, if Alabama can shut down their run game early that LSU team is going to be in a TON of trouble very very fast. We have also seen their home crowd get shut up very quickly as well. Even Towsen was able to bring the crickets.

    • You must never have been inside Tiger Stadium at night. If you think there will be any point during this game at which the Alabama offense is on the field and you can hear what the person next to you is saying, youre terribly terribly wrong. I have been to almost every LSU home game in the last four years, sitting in the student section, and having visited several other college stadiums, there is NOWHERE louder than Tiger Stadium on Saturday night. And there is NOBODY Tigers fan will scream louder at than an Alabama team/coach/fan. Dont be surprised to see the Alabama offense struggle early in the game, see their offensive linemen commit rare mistakes/penalties, and possibly struggle to find a rhythm throughout the game. I was at the Alabama game at LSU two years ago when we won, and Alabama will never play in a more hostile environment than what they experience in Death Valley.

      • So you were one of the dead silent fans at the Towson game? And like I said, if Alabama is able to shut down your one-dimensional offense early I won’t be surprised if your crowd is as silent as they were in the BCS game. I would be VERY surprised to see this LSU team do such things to this Alabama team. Last years LSU team was far better than this years and that isn’t something that can be argued.

    • Cbeach is just about right on! It’s been a few years. But I’ve been to Death Valley. It is one of the most intense atmospheres for a football game! But…. Don’t think the Bama coaching staff doesn’t know this and has been preparing the team for this loud environment! It’s gonna be a good… No. GREAT game! But LSU has some cracks on O that they’ll need to fix if they expect to beat Bama. Even at home. If I were a betting man, I’m not sure I’d take the -7!

  • Didn’t realize LSU’s total offense was scoring 385.8 points per game. And they’re only number 5?!?!