The last few seasons the Alabama/LSU game has played a big role in who plays for the West in the SEC Championship, that was until those ugly step-brothers in Mississippi came along. However, this game is a must win for Alabama to stay in contention for the College Football Playoff, and everyone knows LSU would be just the one to ruin the Tide’s hopes of winning out.
Ever since Coach Nick Saban left LSU to coach the Miami Dolphins, the fans of LSU have been bitter. To make things worse, Saban left Miami “in the middle of the night” and took the head coaching position at Alabama, making this match-up a heated one each season.
Alabama still has the number one team in the country to face next weekend at home, but first they will have to beat the LSU Tigers, in Death Valley, at night. Currently, Coach Les Miles is 46-3 at night at home and is looking to extend his record against the Tide.
To date, Saban is 5-3 against LSU since joining Alabama and the Tide hold a 3-game win streak against the Tigers. Arguably, the most memorable being the 21-0 shutout in the 2012 National Championship in the Tigers’ home territory of the New Orleans’ Superdome.
In order to extend this winning streak, Alabama will have to play a complete 60 minutes of football.
Keys for Offense:
Since shutting out Texas A&M, Alabama’s offense has been much more fluid. Against Tennessee, Blake Sims looked confident in the first half and put up 286 passing yards complete with two touchdowns, but he will need to have four complete quarters to win in Death Valley.
Sims will have some pretty impressive help with Amari Cooper on the receiving end, who had a record breaking performance against Tennessee with 224 receiving yards on nine receptions. Cooper is definitely able to have that same kind of performance, but will have to play smart against the No.1 pass efficiency defense in the country.
The running attack from T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry also has to be there this weekend. This season, Alabama has outperformed opponents in the rushing attack at home, but has struggled on the road. In their four games at home they have accumulated 1,044 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns, compared to away or neutral games where they’ve gained just 705 yards and five touchdowns.
Keys for Defense:
On defense, the main person everyone is going to be looking at to make big plays is defensive back Landon Collins. Collins has two interceptions on the season and could really break down the confidence of LSU quarterback duo Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris.
Linebackers Reggie Ragland and Trey DePriest have to put pressure on the line to slow down some of the running attack that running back Leonard Fournette is going to bring. Fournette, a five-star running back with almost 700 yards this season, can also play slot receiver when needed. Alabama’s defense needs to look out for this versatility, as Fournette is a big play liability on every snap.
The most important aspect in Saturday’s game for Alabama’s defense is forcing three and outs. Alabama can’t afford for LSU’s offense to get into a solid rhythm in front of a sold out, home crowd at night.
And just in case you were wondering what Nick Saban thinks about playing in Death Valley at night, this is what he had to say at his weekly press conference earlier this week via AL.com.
“I think the focus that our players have to have and the expectation of what it takes to communicate – we’ve had some experience with that now on the road. Hopefully this is not going to be something that their involvement is going to have any affect on our commitment to what we want to try to accomplish.”
Bottom line, he believes his team is committed to winning, not to giving into the hype that playing in Baton Rouge at night brings.
*Section Photo credit to Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Fox Sports