Does It Get Any Bigger?

The stakes will be high on Saturday when No. 9 LSU travels to Tuscaloosa to face No. 3 Alabama at 2:30 p.m.

LSU and Alabama: This is the game that’s circled every year, and the reasons are numerous.


For starters, there’s Nick Saban. Some LSU fans still pine for their old coach. Some hate Saban because he left, not because he ended up at Alabama. They hate Saban because he said that he wasn’t leaving LSU for the NFL.


Saban also said that he wasn’t leaving Miami for the Crimson Tide. That’s Nick Saban.


He’s slick.


He’s duplicitous. 


He’s also a damn good college football coach and a top notch recruiter.


Like him or not, the man knows his stuff.


On the flip side, you have Les Miles.

Gameweek Links:
  • Tight Connection
  • Q&A: LSU Style
  • Q&A: Bama Style
  • TSD Television: Al Woods
  • Halfway There
  • Breaking Down the Tide
  • TSD Television: Kelvin Sheppard
  • TSD Television: Chad Jones
  • TSD Television: Jordan Jefferson
  • Alabama Week Begins
  • Coach Miles is a damn strong coach in his own right. In fact, Miles has accomplished just as much in his five years at LSU as Saban did in his five year stay. Both have a national championship under their belt. Saban has one more conference title on his résumé, but Miles has more victories after passing Saban last week with the win over Tulane. These two coaches couldn’t be more different in personality and approach, but their results are similar.


    This game isn’t about the coaches, though, it’s about the players.


    The analysts at ESPN and almost everyone else have already told you that Alabama and Florida will meet in the SEC championship game. In Vegas, the Crimson Tide opened as a nine point favorite. On Thursday, it was the Crimson Tide minus seven and a half.


    The boys in Vegas know their stuff, but this line is hokey. No one mentions it, but right now LSU is playing better football than Alabama, who is coming off a bye week. They’re not quite as good as Alabama defensively, but getting better every week. They don’t run the ball like Alabama, but have many more weapons at their disposal on offense.


    Last year, Alabama won for the first time in six years when the two teams have met. Frankly, LSU beat the Tide up and down the field all day, but the turnovers shifted the balance of the game to Alabama. This game means something to both teams, and it’s demonstrated annually when they take the field.


    This game is ripe for the picking if you’re an LSU fan. Heck, if you’re a college football fan you’d better tune in Saturday afternoon, because the pads will be cracking. Expect to see the most physical football game of the year in Tuscaloosa.


    There is no love loss when LSU and Alabama square off and there is a lot riding on this one for both teams. Alabama wins and the Crimson Tide win the West and are headed to Atlanta to play Florida. LSU wins and the Tigers control their own destiny and are sitting in the driver’s seat for a rematch against the Gators.


    It should be quite a matchup and here are some things to look for.



    When Alabama Has the Ball


    The Alabama offense starts and ends with Mark Ingram. He is the Heisman hopeful star tailback of the Crimson Tide. He’s got a big offensive line that can move people around and create lanes for the star runner to attack.


    Ingram comes into the contest with LSU averaging over six yards a carry. He has carried the ball 153 times for 1015 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s averaging 125 yards per contest. More impressive, however, is the fact that Ingram has gained 645 yards after contact this season on 172 touches (153 rushes, 19 receptions).


    Stopping Ingram is really the only job for John Chavis and the LSU defense. They have to force Ingram and Saban out of their comfort zone.

    Julio Jones figures to draw plenty of attention on Saturday

    If LSU can force the Tide to throw, then the weight of the world falls on the shoulders of Greg McElroy. McElroy started the season playing well. In the last three games, however, he’s completed only 50 percent (43 of 85) of his passes for 359 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.


    His last game at Tennessee, McElroy struggled mightily. If you’re a Tiger, you want him slinging the rock.


    Alabama has a number of wide receivers for McElroy to throw the ball to. Of course, there’s Julio Jones. You may remember Jones from last year. He was a true freshman moving piles like he was a senior. He’s kind of had a sophomore slump to date, but his numbers are more indicative of McElroy’s inability to get him the football. For the season, Jones has 20 catches for 229 yards and one touchdown. His longest reception is for 50 yards.


    Collin Peek is a big weapon at tight end that McElroy will target. Peek has 19 receptions on the year for 213 yards and one touchdown. Finally, all-world tailback Ingram has 19 receptions for 186 yards and three scores.


    LSU will probably open up in a base and see how they handle the Alabama rushing attack. Once that doesn’t work, they’d be wise to move Chad Jones up into the box, and let the rest of their athletes play man on the outside. When Alabama drops back to pass, it’s crucial for the Tigers to send blitzers and force McElroy to make quick decisions.


    An aggressive defense may give up big plays, but for the most part it could stymie the Alabama attack.


    Finally, No. 7 – Patrick Peterson – should be guarding Jones the minute the Tigers arrive in Alabama. He should be sitting next to Jones for the Alabama pre-game meal. You catch my drift? As good as Jones is, Peterson is capable of shutting down the talented wide receiver.


    If LSU can take Jones away, then someone better watch Ingram coming out of the backfield.


    If the Tigers can contain Ingram and Jones, I like their chances.


    When LSU Has the Ball


    Fortunately for LSU, stopping their offense isn’t as simple as just taking away two players. That is if the Tigers don’t stop themselves with curious play call and out of rhythm packages. Look for LSU to try and establish a run game with Charles Scott.


    Scott had his best game of the season last week with 18 carries for 112 yards and two touchdowns. This ain’t Tulane though. Alabama has in my opinion the best defense in the country. LSU will lose this game if Gary Crowton and Miles try and force Scott up the middle of this Crimson Tide line too much.


    No for LSU to win they have to use all the weapons at their disposal. Super freshman Russell Shepard has to get some touches. Trindon Holliday has to see the ball as well. Keiland Williams is a forgotten man in the LSU offense, but he can make plays as well.


    First and foremost, the coaching staff appeared to make a conscious decision to give Jordan Jefferson the reigns against Auburn. Jefferson was allowed to drop back and throw the football all over the field. While the game plan can’t be that aggressive, they do need to put the game on Jefferson’s shoulders and he needs to get the ball to the No. 1 receiving tandem in the SEC – Terrance Toliver and Brandon LaFell. Toliver leads the Tigers with 38 catches for 501 yards and 3 touchdowns, while LaFell has 37 receptions for 478 yards and 8 scores.

    Richard Dickson hauls in a pass against Alabama last year

    Is Jefferson up to the task? Hard to say, but it’s his team. Let him ride with his horses, and let the chips fall where they may. It’s highly probable that he will throw an interception in this game. He’s never seen the combo-coverage, blitz packages that he will see. The key is not to throw multiple picks and give Bama a short field.


    Again, let him play. Don’t overwhelm him with instruction or caution. This kid is a wonderful athlete with good instincts. He can win this game if you let him, and LSU has the luxury of being the underdogs.


    If the Tigers win this game they will accomplish so many things. They will have avenged the most painful loss in recent memory and knocked Alabama out of the BCS national title race.


    They will thrust themselves into the BCS title debate, and leapfrog to first in the SEC West. They will have possibly derailed Ingram’s Heisman campaign (though he could have a good game in a loss). Finally, they will have another win over Saban which probably means a little more to Miles than he may indicate.


    In short, expect to see LSU play with a great deal of motivation and enthusiasm on Saturday.


    How We See It


    LSU will come out aggressive and riding high after the last two weeks. It won’t take long for the Crimson Tide to realize that they are playing one of the most talented teams in college football.


    LSU will take the early lead, but then throttle back and allow Alabama to get into the flow of the game. It will come down to the fourth quarter, and Trindon Holliday will have a big punt return to set up the final score.


    I may be the only person in the country seeing it this way but my crystal ball says…... 


    LSU 24 Alabama 17

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