The days of lining up in the I and trying to smash Alabama are over. LSU’s offense is playing faster, playing in space. Is Alabama ready for the new-look Tigers?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — In Nick Saban’s eyes, the defensive slugfests between Alabama and LSU might be a thing of the past.

Throughout Saban’s tenure at in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide and Tigers have squared off for a night filled with punishing tackles and punting as each tried to run the ball straight at each other. That’s not the case based on what Saban has seen on film.

“They’re a completely different team now,” Saban said. “I don’t think this team is like any LSU team we’ve seen in recent years in terms of what they’re doing offense.”

No. 1 Alabama faces No. 4 LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday night. The winner will have the inside track of claiming the SEC West and a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

Alabama has won seven consecutive in a series that went back and forth Saban’s first five years in Tuscaloosa. A big reason for Alabama’s dominance has been LSU’s stagnant offense. LSU has always had talented weapons on offense, but could never scheme them into positions to make plays against the Tide. Saban sees it differently now.

“They’re going fastball, they’re playing tempo, they’re a lot more open formations than what they have been in the past,” Saban said. “They’re not in the I-formation just trying to run the ball against people. Creating a lot more issues and problems for you the way they utilize the personnel. This team is nothing like any team that we’ve played before at LSU.”

Saban also praised the Tigers for playing with “great intangibles” and for their “competitive spirit.”

Alabama safety Deionte Thompson has seen new wrinkles as well.

“They are more open than they’ve ever been,” Thompson said. “It’s not an I, line it up, and run it down your throat. These guys get in four open, empty, and distribute the ball everywhere. They’ve got a good quarterback in Joe Burrow. He’s been playing pretty well, hasn’t turned the ball over much this season, so he’s done a very good job for them so far.”

Saban and Alabama’s players have certainly dug through LSU film more than anyone, but the numbers tell a different story on LSU’s offense.

Burrow is only completing 54 percent of his passes and has thrown for just 6 touchdowns against 3 interceptions.

The Tigers’ run game hasn’t been very explosive either. The Tigers went into Saturday tied for 12th in the SEC at 4.33 yards per rush. Only Tennessee was worse at 3.56.
The Tigers are also last in the SEC in yards per play, averaging 5.33.

It’s hard to envision a scenario where LSU is able to produce enough offense to hang around in this game, let alone win it. Alabama’s offense has put the Crimson Tide on a level few teams can reach, and as much flack as the defense gets, they make plays when needed and are forcing turnovers.

“Our record or any other statistic that you guys want to sort of bring up about this game and all that, will not affect the outcome of this game at all,” Saban said. “Both sides of the ball are going to be challenged, so how are you going to face those challenges?

“I think the best way to do that is with great preparation, great focus during the course of the week so that you sort of develop the confidence when you get in the game that you can not be thinking about what you have to do but be putting all your energy into what you have to do to execute and do your job well.”