Billy Embody of Scout.com’s LSU site, Tiger Blitz (http://www.scout.com/college/lsu) wanted to ask us some questions about Alabama. We agreed to answer his questions if he would answer some from us about how LSU feels with the Crimson Tide coming to Baton Rouge.
Alabama and LSU will meet at 7 p.m. CDT Saturday with CBS televising the game. Bama is 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference play and ranked first in the nation in the inaugural 2016 College Football Playoff poll. LSU is 5-2 and 3-1 in the conference and 13th in the CFP poll.
Earlier we shared our answers to his questions. Here are our questions and his answers:
Q: Alabama will go into Death Valley for a night game with a true freshman quarterback in Jalen Hurts. Will LSU be able to rattle him?
A: I'm most interested out of any matchup in the game to see Cam Robinson vs. the SEC sack leader Arden Key. Defensively, I think it could potentially be a make or break matchup for LSU's defense. The rest of the defensive line does a good job getting pressure, but Key is the man up front that Hurts has to be aware of at all times. LSU Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda will also bring a lot of different pressures from everywhere and disguise coverages. He's had two weeks to prepare and a lot of the players say Aranda isn't done opening up the playbook. Adding in a few more wrinkles could potentially play games with Hurts' reads and that's where Tre'Davious White or Donte Jackson could capitalize. I don't think the moment will be too big for Hurts, but LSU's defense could give him some fits trying to decipher where the Tigers are trying to do.
Q: Of all the things that happened in Alabama’s 2015 national championship season, clearly the most unlikely was the Bama defense holding Leonard Fournette to 31 yards on 19 carries. Is that an LSU issue – motivational or otherwise -- going into this game?
A: Under Les Miles, I would say that was a scheme and team issue. Under Ed Orgeron, LSU is fresher going into games, more physical and ready to play. Going into this game, I expect LSU to have more success this year (tough not to) with running Fournette. Scheme wise, LSU is in a better situation to succeed as well. There's certainly motivation for Fournette to perform this weekend, but he'll be able to do so because of the scheme improvements in my mind. LSU is coming into the game fresher because of new practice schedules and I think that'll benefit Fournette.
Q: From the outside, it appears that two changes have been very good for LSU this season – the elevation of Ed Orgeron to head coach and Danny Etling taking over at quarterback. Which has been most beneficial?
A: It's Orgeron taking over, but Etling a close second. A huge part of the reason Etling has succeeded thus far is scheme improvements and better play calling under Steve Ensminger as the offensive coordinator. Etling still has some areas to improve including down the field shots, but those shots and passing concepts are a product of Orgeron leading the change. Without Orgeron and Ensminger changing up the offense, Etling is still the likely quarterback at this point, but not nearly having the success he's had without Orgeron at the helm. Orgeron has energized this entire team with his energy and attention to taking care of the players. Across the board, this is a new era and mindset of doing things. It starts with Orgeron.
Q: Alabama fans claim to have three rivals – Auburn, because it is in state; Tennessee, because of the long history of that Third Saturday in October game; and LSU, because in recent years, particularly, that game has been so important in both the SEC and nationally. Is Alabama considered a rival by the LSU faithful?
A: While LSU considers Ole Miss and Auburn rivals, the Alabama game is the one Tiger fans consider to be the most important due to the reasons you said. There's that hate factor for Nick Saban leaving and the success Alabama has had. I think that's been even more prevalent during Bama's 5-game winning streak in the series. Without an in-state rival, LSU has put a ton into this game in the past and the faithful have too. Orgeron is taking the approach of this is just another game, but to the Tiger faithful, this is the biggest game of the year and Orgeron recognized that in his Monday press conference.
Q: Nick Saban has been gone from LSU for 12 years now, and the Tigers have been very, very good in that time. Is there still resentment over Saban leaving, or in him now being at Alabama, and, if so, which is greater?
A: There's definitely still resentment and it's even more so because of him being at Alabama and the success the Tide has had. With Les Miles, everything he did was compared to Nick Saban and Alabama even though the Tigers have had plenty of success too. What is most aggravating to Tiger fans was watching the program not adapt over the years versus Alabama, which has gone from nearly identical to LSU with its offense especially, to now a spread offense to change with the times and personnel. All of that and now the 5-game losing streak to the Tide has kept resentment high towards Saban. I'd say it's higher because he's at Alabama versus let's say Ohio State. Imagine if Urban Meyer had gone to Georgia or Tennessee, the resentment would have been doubled for him leaving. If Saban went North upon returning, I think it would be less and LSU might have a couple more national championships, but with Saban at Alabama, resentment is very strong.