5 bold predictions for Alabama-LSU
Having already declared a distaste for bold predictions, I will now make five of them for the LSU-Alabama game.
Because, you know, you can’t have enough of these kinds of things.
And I’ll throw a bonus one out there for you right now: LSU and Alabama will be the two teams who have the most players selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
But that’s getting ahead of things, isn’t it? Let’s stay focused on Saturday night:
1. LSU won’t be predictable: That’s one thing the Tigers were under Les Miles. You knew he’d run toss lead on first down, and the Tigers’ idea of changing things up on second down was running a slight variation of the first play.
That’s not true anymore. Under Ed Orgeron, the Tigers will move the ball around. They will set a defense up so when they do run a power play — and make no mistake, the Tigers STILL run power — the defense will be more susceptible to it.
While it’s not true that Alabama sold out to stop the run in last year’s win — look back at the video and you rarely see Alabama in an eight-man front — the Tide certainly played like it expected the run to come. New offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger will put the defense on its heels a little more by making them guess.
2. Alabama won’t get a non-defensive TD: It’s my favorite statistic in college football. Alabama has 12 non-offensive scores in eight games, nine by the defense and three on special teams.
To use an analogy LSU fans can appreciate, it’s like the Tide is putting a team full of Tyrann Mathieus out there.
But when it comes to turnovers, it often takes two to tango. Alabama has made plays, but psyched out opponents have also gift-wrapped some presents to the Tide. LSU is a little more confident, a little more veteran and the Tigers have not allowed a non-offensive touchdown since the Florida game last year (a 72-yard punt return by Antonio Callaway), so that’s 13 games without giving one up.
On such a big night, that’s not going to happen.
3. O.J. Howard will be a frequent target: LSU is going to be concerned about Calvin Ridley, even with the Tigers’ talent at cornerback. The front seven will have its hands full accounting for both Jalen Hurts and Damien Harris in the run game.
To me, that makes this a potentially big game for tight end O.J. Howard. Lane Kiffin does some creative things to get him the ball (with formations, motion, etc.), and rather than challenge the likes of Tre’Davious White and Donte Jackson, why not try to get a future NFL tight end the ball?
4. Leonard Fournette will have a couple of explosive plays, over 100 yards: It’s going to be tough sledding for LSU to block Alabama’s front well enough for its star running back to consistently have positive gains. I’d expect Alabama’s defense will win as many, or more, of those battles than it loses.
But Ensminger has been good at dialing up plays since taking over as offensive coordinator, and I see a couple of plays coming — maybe a screen, maybe simply a run where Ensminger uses a formation wrinkle to get Alabama outflanked — where Fournette is able to get loose and do his thing for big chunk yardage.
That will be enough to push him over 100 yards, whether it’s 100 rushing yards or combined with receiving. But they will otherwise be hard-earned yards.
5. It’ll come down to the final possession: In 2012, it came down to an AJ McCarron-to-T.J. Yeldon touchdown pass in the final minute.
In 2014, it came down to overtime.
There’s no reason why this year’s game won’t be the same. LSU has been dominant under Orgeron and is at home. But Alabama has been dominant for, oh, a decade or so.
That makes this an even matchup. It’ll be a classic.