Player to Watch:
Westbrook Christian HS
Rainbow City, Ala.
Why it is important to stop him:
Alabama is undefeated and Brodie Croyle is a big reason why. Spending most of his career watching from the sidelines nursing injuries, Croyle enters the LSU game healthy for the first time in his career. Croyle is an efficient passer who rarely makes mistakes (12 TDs, 4 Ints), but he has been unable to go deep since the loss of Tyrone Prothro. Croyle has thrown for almost 2,000 yards (1,930) and will be the biggest factor in an Alabama win as the Tigers will force Croyle to beat them.
Who has to stop him?
The LSU defense has a habit of beating up on quarterbacks. Every quarterback the Tiger stoppers have faced this season has gotten pounded on and Croyle will be no different. Alabama has a good offensive line and they must protect Croyle from LSU's front four, but with the lack of a deep threat minus Prothro, look for the Tigers to send an array of corner and safety blitzes at the Tide's senior signal caller most of the evening.
LSU rushing offense vs. Alabama rushing defense:
Joseph Addai's status is unsure for the Alabama game. The senior running back tweaked an ankle against North Texas and left the game after coming up limp in the first quarter against Appalachian State. Justin Vincent ran well as did Shyrone Carey, but LSU needs its horse to be ready for action against Alabama's 7th-ranked (93 yards per game) rushing defense.
LSU passing offense vs. Alabama passing defense:
The Crimson Tide features one of the nation's best defensive units versus the pass. Alabama ranks fourth nationally (150 ypg) against the pass, but is that stat a bit skewed? Examining the Crimson Tide's schedule, which opponent among Middle Tennessee State, Southern Miss, South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Utah State and Mississippi State, could be considered even a decent passing offense? Not saying the Alabama secondary is overrated, maybe just untested.
Alabama rushing offense vs. LSU rushing defense:
Ken Darby is an excellent running back and will probably be one of the best runners LSU will face this season. The Crimson Tide hasn't done much through the air since Tyrone Prothro broke a leg so they do rely on the running game a good bit. The Tigers are solid against the run, 16th nationally (107 ypg), but have given up some chunks of yardage to Auburn and Appalachian State.
Alabama passing offense vs. LSU passing defense:
If this question would have been asked early in the season, it would have been a no-brainer? Brodie Croyle is one of the top quarterbacks in the league and LSU's secondary looked like Swiss cheese against Arizona State and Tennessee. But since then, the Tigers have rose from 117th in the country to 23rd (188 ypg) against the pass and Croyle and the Tide offense lost its offensive star (Prothro). The Bama offense is very one-dimensional.
LSU special teams vs. Alabama special teams:
Teams consistently refuse to kick to Skyler Green, especially after he brought back a punt for a touchdown against Auburn. Opponents would rather sacrifice field position than give up a big return by the explosive Green. But in a game like this, the Crimson Tide can ill-afford to sacrifice field position staying away from Green in a contest that will weigh heavily on defense and punting. Also, another kicker hit an upright Saturday against LSU as the Tigers hex on opposing kickers continues. Is Jamie Christensen next?
Here's the kicker… Les Miles has played every big game of the season at home, including a game in which his team blew a 21-point lead to lose in overtime. This will be Miles and the Tigers' first huge test on the road in the SEC in an extremely hostile environment against a very confident team (and fan base). Can Les Miles step up to the plate and deliver a win that would push the Tigers into the national spotlight? Remember what LSU did at Arizona State, but this is the SEC.
Environment, big deal. Undefeated team, big deal. Anyone with a pulse (minus those who long to wish Alabama football back to the forefront of the SEC) can look at the facts and see that the Tide has one quality win this season (That is if you call beating an average Florida team a major victory). The rest of the schedule is marred with close wins over bad teams, i.e. 13-10 versus (3-5) Ole Miss, 23-14 over (2-6) Arkansas and 17-0 at (2-7) Mississippi State. Since Alabama's offense lost its only true game breaker when Prothro went down, the Tide has scored only one – that's right, ONE – offensive touchdown in three conference games, that's including the likes of Ole Miss and Mississippi State, a span of 12 quarters of football. Folks are buying into the fact Alabama has returned to its Bryant-Stallings form of winning games ugly, but in the end winning is the most important thing. Until the Tide does something big, like beat No. 5 LSU on Saturday, it's all a bunch of smoke and mirrors.
LSU 16, Alabama 6