NUMBERS: Tigers Seem To Have Advantage
Alabama and LSU are both in the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference. The Crimson Tide has played against two of the other five members of the division, defeating both Arkansas and Ole Miss. LSU has played two others, defeating Mississippi State and Auburn.
Alabama is 6-2 overall and is ranked 18th in the nation. LSU is 7-1 and ranked third. Both teams are 4-1 in SEC competition. (Alabama is 2-1 against East Division teams, having defeated Vanderbilt and Tennessee and lost to Georgia. LSU is also 2-1 against the East, but has not played any of the teams Bama has played. The Tigers defeated South Carolina and Florida and lost to Kentucky.)
Prior to Saturday, one would have said that LSU's SEC schedule had been more difficult than the league schedule played by Alabama. Georgia's win over Florida and Tennessee's victory over South Carolina may have tilted the degree of difficulty back towards Bama. Out of conference, LSU has an impressive 48-7 win over Virginia Tech that trumps anything Alabama has done.
Alabama and LSU will play Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Kickoff will be shortly after 4 p.m. with television coverage by CBS.
The SEC compiles comparative statistics of all teams. The one stat that jumps out in this week's compilation is Total Defense. LSU is allowing only 232.2 yards per game, some 60 yards per game less than the next best in the league and over 100 yards per game less than Alabama, which is in eighth place in the league in total defense. Bama allows 355 yards per game.
LSU leads the league in rushing defense, allowing 71.6 yards per game, while the Crimson Tide gives up 131.4 yards per game on the ground, fifth in the league. In pass defense, LSU is second, giving up 160.6 yards per game, and Alabama ninth, allowing 223.6.
The Bengal Tigers are also more effective on offense. LSU ranks third in the conference in total offense at 435.4 yards per game. Bama is fifth at 413.6.
In rushing offense, LSU is second at 224.2 yards per game, the Tide fifth at 170. Bama does rank ahead of the Tigers in passing offense, Alabama getting 243.6 yards per game, fourth in the SEC, and LSU passing for 211.1 yards per game, seventh in the conference.
Where it counts – on the scoreboard – it's advantage LSU. The Tigers are just slightly ahead of Bama in scoring offense, LSU fourth at 36.8 points per game, the Tide fifth at 31.5. In scoring defense, LSU is first, allowing just 15.4 points per game, and Alabama is sixth, giving up 20.8.
Three miscellaneous statistics – turnover margin, third down efficiency, and red zone success – are considered very important.
Alabama has been very, very good in turnover margin this year, but the Tide is not as good as LSU. The Tigers lead the SEC with a plus 1.38 margin per game. LSU has six fumble recoveries and 13 pass interceptions (19 takeaways) against two fumbles lost and six passes intercepted (eight turnovers) for plus 11 in eight games. Alabama is second in the league with 17 takeaways on five fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions against nine turnovers (four fumbles lost and five interceptions) for plus eight, 1.0 per game.
LSU also has the advantage on third downs. The Tigers have succeeded on 58 of 123 third down opportunities, 47.2 per cent, third in the SEC. Alabama has been successful on 51 of 125 third downs, 40.8 per cent and seventh in the conference. On defense on third down plays, LSU is sixth, giving up 38.3 per cent (44-115) and Alabama is eighth, allowing 50 of 126 for 39.7 per cent.
In the red zone (inside the 20-yard line), LSU is second in offensive success with 40 scores (27 touchdowns and 13 field goals) in 43 trips, and Alabama is eighth with 32 scores (23 touchdowns and nine field goals) in 37 opportunities. On defense, Alabama is 10th, giving up 21 scores (15 touchdowns, six field goals) in 24 chances, and LSU is last, allowing 19 scores in 19 red zone challenges (14 touchdowns, five field goals).
Among other statistical categories, Alabama is second in first downs (193) and LSU fourth (181). LSU is first in preventing first downs (116), Bama fourth (147). LSU is second in sacks with 22 for 173 yards, Alabama 10th with 14 for 96 yards. Alabama is tied for sixth in being sacked, 14 for 72 yards, LSU eighth, 19 for 119. Bama has been penalized 44 times for 358 yards, third lowest in the conference, while LSU is the league's most penalized team, 69 for 509 yards. The Tigers are first in time of possession, averaging ball control for 32:07 per game, and the Tide is fifth, 30:31.
Senior wide receiver D.J. Hall is Alabama's most prominent player in individual statistics. Hall leads the SEC in receiving yards per game at 95.5 and is second in receptions per game at 6.25. Hall has 50 receptions for 764 yards.
Other Tiders in individual rankings include Terry Grant seventh in the SEC in rushing with 127 carries for 697 yards, 87.1 per game; John Parker Wilson, fourth in passing yardage with 173 completions in 299 attempts for 1,876 yards with five interceptions and 11 touchdowns. (LSU's Matt Flynn is seventh in the league with 1,266 yards.)
Rashad Johnson of Alabama and Craig Steltz of LSU are tied for third in the league with four interceptions each.
Javier Arenas is second in the conference in punt returns with a 16.1 yards per return average and sixth in kickoff returns with a 25.3 average.
LSU has the leading punter in Patrick Fisher, 44.1 yards per kick, while Bama's P.J. Fitzgerald is ninth at 39.0. LSU placekicker leads the SEC in scoring at 10.5 points per game with the Tide's Leigh Tiffin fifth at 8.9.
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