PREVIEW: LSU vs. Alabama

After a disappointing loss to Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa last weekend, the Alabama Crimson Tide will look to bounce back Saturday when they travel to Baton Rouge to take on LSU.

The Tigers are coming off of 28-24 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers last week, and must win the remainder of their games to have any chance at making it to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta.

 

The contest between LSU and Alabama will mark the 70th meeting between the Tigers and the Crimson Tide, with Alabama holding a 43-21-5 lead in the series.

 

That number has gone the other way in recent years, however, with LSU winning five of the last six, including the 16-13 overtime game at Alabama last year. Alabama's last win over LSU came in Baton Rouge in 2002.

 

Alabama enters the game averaging 335.8 yards and 23.8 points per game and holds a record of 6-4 on the year, with a 2-4 mark in the SEC.

 

Leading the Tide this season has been sophomore quarterback J.P. Wilson, who has thrown for 1,996 yards this year as the replacement for departed Alabama star Brodie Croyle.

 

Wilson, a prep standout at Hoover High School, has started all 10 games this season, connecting on 158 of 278 pass attempts for 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

 

On the other side of the passing attack for Alabama is an experienced wide receiver corps, led by junior DJ Hall, who has been a regular at wide out since his freshman season, leading the team in receiving a year ago with 676 yards. He has already surpassed that mark this season by hauling in 48 catches for 857 yards and five touchdowns.

 

Following Hall in the receiving game has been Keith Brown with 37 catches for 513 yards and three scores, and Le'Ron McClain with 142 yards and three touchdowns. 10 other members of the Crimson Tide have also caught passes this year, as the team averages just over 205 receiving yards per game.

 

The ground portion of the Alabama offense is headed by senior Kenneth Darby, a first-team All-SEC selection last year. Through ten games, Darby has rushed for 736 yards, but has yet to score a touchdown. He is followed by sophomore Jimmy Johns with 235 yards and one score on 50 attempts.

 

Senior fullback Tim Castille has seen the most touches when in scoring position, as the 234 pounder has scored five times on 35 carries on the year to tie Hall as the team's leading scorer, excluding kickers.

 

The offensive front for the Tide this season features true-freshman tackle Andre Smith, who was considered by many to be the top offensive line prospect in the country. Joining Smith in the trenches are Justin Britt and B.J. Stabler and the guards, Antoine Caldwell at center and Chris Capps at the other tackle position. Stabler, Caldwell and Capps were all regular starters last season, while Britt saw action in 10 games, starting three of them during the 2005 campaign.

 

Sophomore Travis McCall has gotten the nod at tight end this season after earning a start in the Cotton Bowl to conclude last season. Serving primarily as a blocker, McCall has grabbed five catches for 77 yards this year.

 

As a unit, the offensive line has given up 20 sacks through 10 games.

 

On defense, the Alabama line returns experience in the form of tackle Jeremy Clark and end Wallace Gilberry, both of whom were starters a year ago. Joining them on the defensive front this season has been Dominic Lee at right tackle and Keith Saunders at right end.

 

Gilberry leads the line in tackles with 31, seven of those being for losses. He also leads the team with nine quarterback hurries. Saunders has contributed with three tackles for a loss, one pass deflection and one fumble recovery, while Clark has managed 14 tackles and broken up one pass.

 

Alabama's linebacker unit consists of Juwan Simpson, Terrance Jones and DeMarcus Waldrop on the outside, and Prince Hall and Matt Collins sharing time in the middle.

 

Simpson, who the only linebacker to start in every game so far this season, leads the team with 63 tackles, and has one interception and two forced fumbles. Hall is third in tackles with 57 and is tied for the team-lead in sacks with two of Alabama's nine on the year.

 

The Crimson Tide secondary, which has allowed 169.4 passing yards per game this season, is led by three-year starter Ramzee Robinson at cornerback. Joining Robinson in the pass defense is Simeon Castille at the other cornerback spot and Jeffrey Dukes and Rashad Johnson at the safeties.

 

Castille leads the team with five interceptions, five broken up passes, and three fumble recoveries on the year, while DB Lionel Mitchell has pitched in with four interceptions and Dukes has added three picks along with 60 tackles through the first 10 games.

 

Mitchell, Dukes and Robinson have all returned interceptions for touchdowns this season.

On special teams, place kickers Jamie Christensen and Leigh Tiffin have split time, and are the two leading scorers on the team. Christensen has connected with 11 of his 13 field goal attempts, and is 11-12 on extra points. Tiffin has also had 13 field goal tries, making eight of them, and holds the lead on extra points, making 12 of 13. The bulk of the kickoffs had gone to Christensen, with four of his 38 kicks resulting in touchbacks.

 

Red shirt freshman P.J. Fitzgerald has handled punting responsibilities for the Tide this year, averaging 38 yards per kick on 38 tries with 16 landing inside the 20 yard line.

 

Javier Arenas has been the return man for Alabama, averaging 19.9 yards per kickoff return and seven yards per punt return with one touchdown. Alabama has also blocked three punts on the year.


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