This weekend in primetime the fourth ranked LSU Tigers go up against the seventh ranked Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The Tigers ride in holding a 7-0 record, while the Tide are 7-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of the rebels of Ole Miss. It has been smooth sailing for the Tigers up to this point with their closest game being against the Florida Gators at home in death valley. This will be the biggest game of the year for both of these teams. With almost a guaranteed bid to win the SEC with a victory the Bayou Bengals need to showcase their skills in front of America, behind Heisman frontrunner and starting running back, Leonard Fournette. But with a win, Alabama will overtake LSU in the SEC west standings and most likely win the SEC from there. The Tide must put the ball in the hands of their playmaker, Derrick Henry. With two pro caliber running backs we will all be expecting a ground and pound game. Yet, there are three keys to the game for each team, if they follow these keys a win will be inevitable.
LSU keys to the game:
1. Give the ball to Fournette
LSU has not lost this season, this is mainly due to the fact that Leonard Fournette has rushed for 150+ yards in all seven games they have played. He is tearing up some of the best defenses and making some of the best all around athletes look like children. He is a physical runner who loves contact and thrives on running over anyone in his way, but with that said his 4.4 40 yard dash helps as well. He seems to always have at least one run a game when he finds a hole and just puts it into second gear and runs past all that are willing to try to stop him. Don’t be surprised if Fournette gets 40 carries, it sounds like a lot but with Fournette getting around 22 carries a game this season. LSU must ride him for as long as they possibly can, this game will ultimately be won in the trenches.
2. Move your feet, trust your instincts
This is what Jeff Grimes LSU’s offensive-line coach should tell his unit. The tides’ defensive line is one of the best they have ever had. And with the history tied with Alabama football but mainly defense, this is huge. Throughout all FBS division one football teams they have the eighth most sacks in the nation. So, does LSU have a chance? Yes, they also have one of the best offensive lines in the country. Behind Ethan Pocic this tigers front has taken over some games in some cases, Leonard Fournette has praised the o-line saying “Like I always say, they’re our stepmothers. They protect us from any and every thing. So, I have to take them out to eat.” He said this after he ran for 220 yards and three scores against another tough SEC opponent in the Auburn Tigers. So, if the Tigers front can lock down Alabama’s exceptional and massive defensive line than it will be a field day for not only Leonard Fournette but for the whole of LSU’s offense.
3. Trick Plays
Les Miles displayed how “crazy” he was against Florida. He not only pulled a flea flicker but also pulled a fake field goal which ultimately scored the game winning touchdown. I would keep my eye on LSU because they love to keep the defense off balance, especially on one play in particular, the flea flicker. They love to run this play in Baton Rouge due to the fact that their running back is expected to carry the ball majority of the time, the defense presses up to stop the run. Then when he flips it back to quarterback Brandon Harris and Harris heaves one to the deep threat on the Tigers, wideout Malachi Dupre. This is the usual case on this play. Don’t be surprised if Coach Miles pulls the bunny out of the hat on some plays, to keep the aggressive defense of Alabama a step slow.
Now, onto what the Crimson Tide must do to end LSU’s run for a perfect regular season.
1. Trust Jake Coker
Jake Coker hasn’t compared to former Alabama quarterbacks such as Joe Namath and AJ McCarron, but he has potential through the roof. He transferred from Florida State at the beginning of this year, he was in a tight quarterback duel at the beginning of the year but came away with the job. Alabama’s biggest game to this point was against Ole Miss, the result of this game was Alabama’s only loss of year. Although, they lost Coker played very well, he finished with 201 yards and 3 touchdowns. Coker must produce if Alabama has any chance to beat the Tigers.
2. DO NOT turn the ball over
LSU’s defense thrives on takeaways, they have a lethal secondary made up of the confident and hard-hitting Jamal Adams, Adams has made some comparisons to former LSU player and outstanding safety Tyrann “the honey badger” Matheiu. Coker has had a problem with turnovers all year, he has 7 interceptions throughout the year which ranks among the top of all SEC quarterbacks. The tide’ shouldn’t have to worry about their running back Derrick Henry turning the ball over, he has had a very limited amount of turnovers throughout his 3 years at 'Bama. LSU has a hard hitting and rapid defense, they are a complete team. You can make some mistakes against the weaker teams at the beginning of the year but during the heart of the season, against in conference opponents you cannot give them the football.
3. Keep Fournette's shoulders toward the sidelines
Like I mentioned before Fournette adores contact and loves to run people over. So, how do you stop this? It is as simple as plug the hole up the middle and stack the box. We saw this idea used when LSU played Florida a couple of weeks ago, granted that Fournette still ran for 180 yards his productivity wasn’t the same. They had to give him almost 10 more carries than they had to in the previous games. The Florida defense did an outstanding job of putting 6-8 players in the box and making sure Fournette could not burst through a hole and put his 4.4 40 time to use. When Leonard Fournette runs east and west he is not nearly as effective as when he puts his head down and runs north and south. So, the Alabama defense must make sure that Fournette doesn’t burst through a hole up the middle, and if he does, grab some popcorn, the show will only be starting.
Now that I have gone over the keys for each team, now comes the long awaited prediction.
Final Score: LSU 24 Alabama 21
LSU will come away with this win due to the fact that they have the best running back in the country, and he will want to make his final and biggest push for the Heisman in front of the millions of people watching. LSU also loves having the element of surprise on their side. Alabama will put up a fantastic fight but will fall short due to the fact that quarterback Jake Coker will struggle in such a big game with the whole world watching. Make sure to catch this game, it has the potential to be one of the best college football games of the year.