Since 2011, Alabama has won 5 of the last 6 meetings and have those games by an average margin of victory of 13.6 points per game. Last season, the Crimson Tide won 30-16 in Tuscaloosa. Both teams are coming off of a bye for this battle.
The Crimson Tide are averaging 43 points per game and have a balanced attack both running and passing the football. Entering this game, Alabama is averaging 264 rushing yards per game along with 233 passing yards per game.
Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has settled into the position and his confidence seems to be growing by the week. However, this will be the toughest road environment Hurts has faced all season long. Hurts has completed 63% of his passes for 1,578 yards with 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Hurts is a dual threat and can put pressure on the Tigers defense on the perimeter in this game. Hurts has rushed for 521 yards with 9 scores so far in 2016 and look for offensive coordinator Lane Kiffen to mix up formations to allow Hurts to catch the edge in the running game.
Running back Damien Harris leads the team with 697 rushing yards averaging 8.0 yards per carry with one touchdown. Harris is a slashing runner that gets stronger as the game wears on.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley leads the team with 44 receptions for 497 yards with 5 touchdowns. Ridley, wide receiver ArDarius Stewart and tight O.J Howard are a lethal group of targets for Hurts in the passing game. Alabama will look to work off of play action early on to test the LSU secondary on the road.
Alabama does a fantastic job of scoring first in ballgames to put pressure on opposing offenses to match them score for score. In the Crimson Tide’s first 8 games, the team has scored first in all but two- week one against USC and week three against Ole Miss.
Alabama utilizes a heavy offensive line to wear down opposing defensive fronts with their blue collar mentality and physicality. Alabama preaches a mindset that carries through on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football. The Crimson Tide expect to win each and every game which is a testament to their head coach-Nick Saban.
Defensively, the Crimson Tide are allowing 14 points per game and boast the number one ranked rushing defense in FBS allowing 70 rushing yards per game.The Tide can run sidleine to sidleine with linebackers Rueben Foster and Tim Williams. Alabama is strong at the point of attack and fills running lanes very quickly for their ability to recognize formations.
They are a reactionary defense that does not give up big plays in the running game and will not let opposing offenses catch the “edge”. Alabama is second to none in terms of pursuit. They come up in run support and are not afraid to lay into opposing ball carriers. The defense breaks the will of opposing offensive game plans and will look to challenge the LSU offensive line in this game.
Alabama has recorded 32 sacks (1st in FBS) and will look to put LSU into third down and long situations where their defense excels in third down defense (29% conversion rate).
However, the Crimson Tide must deal with the loss of safety, Eddie Jackson , who was lost for the season with a broken leg. Jackson had two touchdowns on the season (one interception, one punt return) and was the veteran of the secondary that made all of the coverage calls for Jeremy Pruitt’s defense.
Alabama enters this game +4 in turnover margin and has scored a defensive touchdown in 12 straight games.
The Tigers are averaging 29 points per game and have looked very impressive in recent weeks outscoring their last three opponents by a score of 125-38. The offense is rushing for 239 yards on the ground and is passing for 183 yards through the air this season. Quarterback Danny Etling (Purdue transfer) will be playing in his biggest game of his career and will need to make plays over the top of the Crimson Tide secondary to loosen up the Alabama front seven.
Etling has completed 60% of his passes for 1,129 yards with 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
The offensive line must be able to protect Etling and give him time to locate his targets. LSU has allowed 11 sacks through the first seven games this year. In order to give Etling confidence early on, the coaching staff must allow Etling to attack Alabama on first and second downs to take advantage of Jackson’s absence. If LSU can attack the Alabama Crimson Tide on early downs down the deep middle of the field, this can force Alabama out of their defensive game plan and keep the offense in third down and short situations. More importantly, the Tigers must utilize their offensive weapons to force the Crimson Tide out of their base defense through formations.
If LSU can use running backs Leonard Fournette and Derius Guice, the Tigers can get mismatches on nickel backs and linebackers in the passing game.
Fournette broke out for a 284 rushing performance with 3 scores against Ole Miss and has rushed for 670 yards averaging 8.0 yards per carry with 5 touchdowns. Guice is an explosive back that has rushed for 621 yards with 7 touchdowns.
Wide receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre are critical to the Tigers offensive success. Both players have combined for 47 receptions for 543 yards with 3 touchdowns, but must be allowed to take the top off of the defense on post patterns and seam routes.
From an offensive stand point, the way to neutralize defensive speed (Alabama) is to attack it head on- not sideline to sideline (bubble screens or pitches). LSU must attack Alabama down the seam and deep middle of the field allow their wide receivers one on one opportunities that can utilize their size and speed.
Defensively, the Tigers are giving up 15 points per game and are very solid in run support allowing 104 yards per game on the ground this season. LSU is giving up 209 passing yards per game, but has played solid man to man coverage over the last three games.
Defensive end Arden Key (team leading 8 sacks) will be the X-Factor for the LSU defense. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda must find ways to move Key around to get the best match-up possible to get pressure on Hurts.
LSU has recorded 20 sacks through the first seven games and must be able to force turnovers for their offense.
LSU is -1 in turnover margin and has held opposing offenses to 31% conversions on their third down attempts.
LISTEN TO THE FULL PREVIEW OF THIS GAME SATURDAY MORNING AT 10-12PM EST: