“I have to set up in my mind, Monday to Saturday, that it’s coming, and there’s no need to think it’s going to be any other way. It’s going to be a fight to the end.” –Sam Montgomery
There’s no hiding now. The spot light is pointed directly at Baton Rouge. The sternest test of the season is now upon the LSU Tigers. Administering the exam will be Nick Saban and his relentless Crimson Tide. The results will show whether LSU is a legitimate BCS contender or just another team to be left in wake of the Crimson Tide.
Before the season started, LSU was considered the better team and a favorite to win it all. Now, the roles are reversed and the Tigers find themselves as a double digit underdog in Tiger Stadium. Let’s be crystal clear about that. The #5 team in the nation is a TEN point dog at home in one of the toughest places to play in all of college football. This is just a much a testament to Bama’s dominance this season as it is to LSU’s ineptitude when passing the ball.
However, it is still hard to think of LSU as that big of an underdog going into play Saturday night. The rosters of both teams are littered with future NFL players, but is the hole in LSU’s offense really that glaring to make Bama such a huge favorite? The answer is yes. Alabama is expected to limit LSU’s ground game and force the Tigers into three and out for most of this game. If LSU can’t control the clock, then the Tiger defense is going to eventually get gassed by the Alabama offense, which can actually pass efficiently. Basically, a repeat of LSU’s loss to Florida is expected this Saturday night.
The question for most Tiger fans and all the folks rooting against an SEC team in the BCS is this: Is there anything LSU can do to upset the Tide?
Absolutely, according to the Friday Punch List.
1. Win the trenches, especially on defense.
Saturday, there will be eight future draft picks playing on the Alabama offensive line and the LSU defensive line. Alabama’s hogs have been outstanding. AJ McCarron has been sacked just 16 times and has yet to throw a pick this season. However, this has been against defenses that are far less talented than LSU’s. LSU is going to get into Alabama’s backfield and disrupt. Barrett Jones and the interior will have their hands full with LSU’s Anthony Johnson and crew, but the real match-up to watch will be DJ Fluker against KeKe Mingo. Mingo is the fastest pass rusher in college football. John Chavis would like nothing more to line Mingo up wide and shoot him out of the cannon all game long. If LSU can force McCarron out of the pocket and out of rhythm, it could force a rare Bama turnover. If LSU can cross this item of the list, it will definitely have a shot at victory.
2. Control the clock.
Against Florida, LSU’s defense was on the field for almost three quarters of the game. It got tired. Why? Because LSU couldn’t convert on third down or run the ball effectively. It is absolutely critical that LSU converts on third down against Bama. Mett will have to pass effectively and the receivers will need to step it up because the LSU defense will need to stay rested in order to keep this game winnable. Having a third down conversion rate higher than 35% will help make that happen.
3. Mix up the passing game.
Coach Miles and Coach Stud, with all due respect, please cut it out with the inside slants and bubble screens to the sidelines. Everybody knows when they are coming. If Texas A&M’s defense was good enough to jump the routes, then you know BAMA will flat out exploit them with a pick 6. Change it up. Get the tight ends and running backs more involved. Try and make Saban and Smart scratch their heads a few times.
4. Get more running backs on the field.
It is obvious what the strength of the LSU offense is. The Tigers have four tremendous backs and all can catch. Put them in situations to help move the chains. A wishbone would be a pleasant surprise come Saturday.
5. Keep the crowd engaged.
This will be one of the most primed and electric crowds in Tiger Stadium history. The team can downplay the revenge factor all it wants, but the fans are a different story. They want blood. Each and every single one has ten months of pent up frustration that will be released at kick-off this Saturday. Les Miles and his team need to keep feeding that rage. Whether it is a sack or a big first down, the crowd will remain in a frenzy. A touchdown or turnover would only create pure, unadulterated bedlam. If that happens, Alabama won’t even be able to daydream about hearing itself think, let alone a snap count.
6. Validate all the absurd bets being placed on this game by Tiger fans.
It seems that only LSU fans believe the Tigers can win and it shows in some of the ridiculous bets being made. I personally witnessed a close friend and absolute LSU diehard fan agree to the following wager. If LSU loses, the fan will have to attend the annual LSU Recruiting Bash and sit in the VIP section while wearing a Bama jersey. This is serious. The Bayou Bash is attended by thousands of die hard Tiger fans. Showing up in another team’s colors would be ridiculous. Showing up in a Bama jersey and sitting directly in front of the podium while Les Miles announces the new recruits, well that would be unprecedented and absolutely absurd. But that is a good example of the bayou’s confidence level in the Tigers and how crazy it can get for a Saturday Down South.
Prediction: LSU 14, BAMA 13