To say that Alabama Coach Nick Saban has a high opinion of LSU is an understatement. The coach takes his No. 1 ranked and undefeated Crimson Tide to Baton Rouge Saturday for what Saban terms a game against what he called “arguably an undefeated team” in LSU.
As is usually the case, the game has been selected for prime time national television by CBS with kickoff at 7 p.m. CDT.
Alabama is 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference games. LSU, ranked 14th in the nation, is 5-2 overall, 3-1 in SEC games, but 3-0 since Ed Orgeron took over for Les Miles as head coach of the Tigers following the fourth game of the season.
Saban called Alabama vs. LSU “a rivalry game of sorts. We’ve both been ranked over the last eight or nine years, most of the time in the top 10. This is a real challenge game for us. We’ll find out who we are, what we’ve made of, and how we can compete in a very difficult circumstance.”
Both teams are coming off bye weeks. Saban said the few days of practice last week enabled the Tide to get “a lot of things done…and felt like our team made some progress. Now, after a weekend off, always the challenge [is] to get refocused on what you need to do to prepare for the next game, the next challenge.”
That challenge, Saban said, is a very good LSU team, “playing very, very well right now. New energy and enthusiasm. There have been a lot of really good games between these two teams through the years.
“Ed took over this team and they have played extremely well the last three games in all phases of the game,on offense, defense and special teams. They have some really outstanding players on both sides of the ball. Leonard Fournette is probably one of the most dynamic running backs that has played in college football for awhile and is playing extremely well right now. And when (backup Derrius) Guice comes in for him, there's not a lot of dropoff there.
“The quarterback (Danny Etling) has played very well and created a lot of balance for them in the last couple of weeks. They've got a couple of really, really talented receivers that are really, really good players. They've got a big, strong, physical offensive line that does a great job of executing their running game.
“When you get to the defensive side of it, it doesn't really get any better [for the opponent]. They're in the top 10 in a lot of categories and one of the most difficult teams to score on. Very good in the front. Arden Key is a very good rusher. Kendall Beckwith is an outstanding linebacker, who leads in tackles but also runs the show out there and does a really good job.
“This is probably the most athletic, talented secondary that we've had to play against all year long.
“They've got really good specialists on special teams _ good returners, good kickers, and punter. And they've got good team speed so they're always really good on special teams. This is a really outstanding team and a great challenge for our team.”
Naturally, Saban was asked about the impact the change in head coach has made at LSU. The Tide coach said, “I can't really speak or make comparisons. I really don't know what's happened. All I can see is what's happened on the field. His leadership obviously has had some effect on that. The team seems to be playing wtih a lot of energy and a lot of confidence. They've executed really well and haven't made a lot of mistakes. I just feel like in the last three games they've played really, really well.”
Specifically, Saban addressed the changes that LSU has made on offense. The big complaint among the LSU faithful is that former Coach Les Miles failed to open up the offense.
Saban said, "They're using a little more multiple personnel groupings, have done a really good job of executing. The play action pass game has been very effective. I think it's not real complicated for the quarterback, but he's done a really good job of executing and tying in the play action passes with their great running game and making explosive plays down the field with some very, very good receivers. So they're a little more open, I would say, in terms of what they're doing and its paid some dividends in the balance they've been able to create by doing that."