LSU and Alabama is one of many great SEC rivalries. In the past five years, a shot to play in the national championship has been on the line and this year is no different. No. 5 Alabama sits at 7-1 with their lone loss coming to No. 12 Ole Miss in a thriller. No. 16 LSU’s season looked to be over after two early losses to top-ranked Mississippi State and No. 3 Auburn, but the Tigers have won three straight games including an upset over the Rebels. A win for LSU would practically ruin the thought of three SEC teams in the playoffs. With a win and tons of help, LSU could somehow end up in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. A win against this Alabama team is no easy task, but can be done if LSU can do these four things.
1) First things first, they need to stop Amari Cooper. Cooper has put together an All-American season with 71 receptions, 1132 yards and nine touchdowns so far. LSU has arguably the best secondary of any team in the country. LSU will likely use a combination of Tre’Davious White, Rashard Robinson and Jalen Collins to stop Cooper. LSU might even use former cornerback converted to safety Jalen Mills to double team Cooper. Outside of Cooper, Alabama’s next leading receiver only has 23 catches. Stopping Cooper will make Alabama rely on their less talented receivers and could shut down their offense.
2) Saturday nights in Death Valley are unlike any other. LSU has the loudest stadium in the nation, just ask Bo Wallace. The Ole Miss quarterback was obviously rattled and the fans made it hard to communicate with his teammates. Alabama quarterback Blake Sims has looked rattled on the road and this LSU crowd won’t be very comforting. Sims threw an interception in the final minutes of the game against Ole Miss which sealed the Rebel victory, only threw for 161 yards against Arkansas, and contributed to a near Tennessee comeback. If LSU’s crowd is a duplicate of the one that stormed the field against Ole Miss, the inexperienced Sims could have trouble on Saturday night.
3) Anthony Jennings needs to be efficient. I know, that’s easy to say, but Jennings’ play can make or break the LSU offense. LSU’s arsenal of running backs will help them stay fresh and they should be able to run the ball all night. Running the ball successfully will open up the passing game. To succeed there, Jennings needs to curb his knack for leaving the pocket early and locking his eyes on one receiver. If he can trust his line, stay in the pocket, and let plays develop, LSU will be able to move the ball through the air. Jennings doesn’t need to have 300 yards and three touchdowns, but he needs to move the chains on third down and keep drives going. Alabama will be waiting for the deep ball to Travin Dural so other receivers such as Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn need to step up in the biggest game of the season.
4) LSU needs to avoid and create turnovers. Yes, it’s that simple. The Tigers could have easily given the game away to Ole Miss with the four turnovers they had. Leonard Fournette had a goal-line fumble, Terrance Magee had a fumble and Jennings had two interceptions. LSU was not able to create a turnover until the last play of the game against Ole Miss. Alabama running back TJ Yeldon has had fumbling problems in the past. LSU’s pass rush could also cause problems for Sims and possibly cause him to force a throw. Winning the turnover battle will be crucial for LSU.
With all of that being said, I think LSU is able to pull out a victory over Alabama. Alabama has one win against top 25 competition and that was a 10 point win over West Virginia in the opening game. They lost to a good Ole Miss team and have beat up bad SEC teams. LSU’s two losses, though were not close in score, were against the no. 1 and no. 3 teams in the country. LSU’s defense has played lights out in the last three games and I don’t see that changing this week. My final score prediction is Alabama 10 LSU 21.
*Section Photo credit to Chris Graythen Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Derick E. Hingle, USA Today Sports