This is one of the most anticipated games on the college football schedule each year, but this year it has some extra significance as both teams are ranked in the initial CFP top-four.
LSU (8-0, 4-0 SEC) has three top-10 wins on its résumé this season and was ranked No. 2 in the first CFP Rankings. The Tigers are 7-1 in their last eight games against top-10 teams.
The Tigers offense has been nothing less than a revelation this season after head coach Ed Orgeron hired assistant coach Joe Brady as the passing game coordinator. LSU leads the SEC in total offense (535.9), passing offense (377.6) and redzone offense (43-of-44) and the Tigers are No. 2 in the league in scoring offense (46.8). Senior quarterback Joe Burrow is at the top of many pundits Heisman Trophy list as he leads the SEC and ranks No. 2 in the nation in passing yards (2,805) and passing TDs (30). He’s also first in the SEC and No. 3 in the nation in total offense (366.3). He’s on pace to break every LSU single-season passing record. Burrow can credit many of those numbers to a couple of the best pass catchers in the country, junior Justin Jefferson and sophomore Ja’Marr Chase. That duo is first and second in the SEC In receiving yards and have combined for 98 receptions, 1,568 yards and 18 touchdowns.
LSU’s defense is one of two teams in the SEC to hold opponents to under 100 yards rushing a game. The Tigers are allowing only 97.9 yards rushing a contest and are No. 4 in the SEC in total defense (315.4). LSU has playmakers at every level of the defense. Sophomore outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson is one of the best pass rushers in the country, junior middle linebacker Jacob Phillips leads the team in tackles (64) and the Tigers secondary is full of future NFL stars. Junior safeties Grant Delpit and JaCoby Stevens are two of the best in the country, while true-freshman cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. is a bonafide star in the making, leading the team with four interceptions and nine passes broken up.
Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) has once again proven themselves as one of the best teams in the country. The Crimson Tide have yet to be truly challenged this season but were ranked No. 3 in the first CFP Rankings.
The biggest question for Alabama’s offense heading into this matchup is the health of junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who injured his ankle in the win over Tennessee on October 19. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Mac Jones has filled in admirably for Tagovailoa in the last two games, but its tough to replace one of the best passers in Alabama history. Regardless of which quarterback plays, the Tide have plenty of playmakers to catch the ball. Alabama has four receivers with 1,000-plus yards receiving for their careers. Against South Carolina in September, both junior DeVonta Smith and sophomore Jaylen Waddle eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. The duo joined juniors Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, who had each amassed over 1,000 yard receiving previously.
Despite the fact that Alabama seems to send the majority of their defense to the NFL each year, the Tide just keep reloading on that side of the ball. Alabama ranks in the top-three in the SEC in total defense, scoring defense and passing defense. Junior linebacker Terrell Lewis leads the team in sacks (6.0), tackles for loss (9.0) and quarterback hurries (12), while senior linebacker Anfernee Jennings ranks second in all of those categories, plus has added an interception and four passes broken up. Senior defensive end Raekwon Davis is an immovable object at 6’7”, 312 lbs., and demands double teams, which frees up Lewis and Jennings. Senior cornerback Trevon Diggs has been a turnover machine and leads Alabama with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
The Tide have won the last eight meetings over the Tigers and Alabama is extremely tough to beat in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide have won 31 straight games at home and have just one home loss since 2012. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has 24 career wins over top-five opponents, which is the most all-time. But none of that matters when it comes to rivalry games. This is sure to be one of the best games of the year. It could be an offensive explosion or it could be a grind-it-out defensive battle. Either way, it’ll be fun to watch.