#1 vs. #3. It doesn’t get much better than that. Alabama has won the last seven games against LSU, but when these two teams meet, it’s always a knock-down, drag-out, physical battle.
Alabama, to put it simply, is the best team in college football at this point in the season. Statistically, the Crimson Tide ranks at or near the top of every stat category, including scoring offense (1st, 54.1 point per game), scoring defense (10th, 15.9 points per game), total offense (2nd, 564.3 yards per game) and total defense (16th, 307.9 yards allowed per game). You’d be hard-pressed to find any weaknesses, but Alabama does rank 104th in net punting and 103rd in fourth down conversion percentage. They’ve punted just 18 times and attempted to convert seven fourth down plays in eight games.
For the Tigers, defense has been the key. LSU ranks 22nd nationally in total defense and has one of the best passing defenses in the country. The Tigers lead college football with 14 interceptions through eight games and are ranked fifth in pass efficiency defense.
This game, however, will be the biggest challenge thus far for the LSU defense. Alabama is led by the odds-on Heisman Trophy favorite, sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is on pace to smash the NCAA record for passing efficiency. The current record, which was set by last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Baker Mayfield, is 198.9. Tagovailoa’s current efficiency rating is 238.8 due to his 70.4-percent completion rate, 25 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He has spread the ball around to numerous receivers as the Tide have five different receivers with 21 or more catches, led by sophomore Jerry Jeudy with 31 catches for 777 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Offensively, the Tigers will rely heavily on senior running back Nick Brossette, who leads LSU with 697 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. At times, LSU will also need transfer quarterback Joe Burrow to come up with a big play. Burrow, a junior who came to the Tigers from Ohio State, doesn’t have dazzling numbers, but has generally taken care of the ball and can pick up yards with his legs. LSU’s receiving core is full of great athletes that will challenge Alabama on the edges.
For the Tigers to have a chance in this game, they’ll need to protect the ball and force Alabama into turnovers. Alabama has only committed six turnovers all season, which will make that a tough task for LSU. The Tide’s key to victory will come along the offensive and defensive lines. Alabama needs to keep Tagovailoa upright and clean, while getting after Burrow when LSU has the ball. The Tide has averaged giving up less than a sack a game, while the Tigers surrender 2.25 sacks per game.
Regardless of how you feel about either one of these teams, you’re in for a good game. Alabama has yet to be challenged late in games this season, so it should be interesting to see how the Tide responds to adversity if LSU can challenge Alabama into the fourth quarter.