It may not be the fiercest rivalry in the SEC West, but it absolutely is the best in terms of overall talent across the board.
LSU vs. Alabama—college football's version of the epic Patriots vs. Colts rivalries in the early 2000s in the NFL.
When toe met leather to kick off the season, both teams had similar issues.
Both teams lost interior lineman, with LSU's Michael Brockers and Alabama's Josh Chapman each heading to the NFL. They each lost outside linebackers and return only one starter each in the secondary.
The similarities continue on the offensive side of the ball, as each team lost its leading receivers. In Alabama's case, it lost its top four.
Now that we're two games in, which team has the better new starters?
LSU defensive tackle Josh Downs joined returning starters Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan and Barkevious Mingo on the Tigers defensive line. The senior has tallied five sacks on the year but limped off of the field in the third quarter vs. Washington on Saturday night.
Alabama moved Jesse Williams over to nose in defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's 3-4 system, but the senior only has one tackle on the season.
Granted, the responsibilities for interior lineman differ from system to system, so it's hard to compare who has the edge in this department.
Early-Season Verdict: Push
New starters Luke Muncie and Lamin Barrow bookend returning starter Kevin Minter for the Tigers, and both of them have responded well. Barrow is second on the Tigers with 13 tackles, while Muncie beat out Tahj Jones for the starting nod at Sam linebacker and has tallied six tackles and one tackle for loss.
While LSU's starting linebackers have been good, the Tigers are getting competition from the Tide's linebackers. New Sam linebacker Adrian Hubbard has seven tackles, while Jack linebacker Xzavier Dickson has seven tackles and one sack.
This is a close debate, and both sets of new linebackers have performed well early.
Early-Season Verdict: VERY Slight Edge to LSU
LSU inserted Tharold Simon and Jalen Mills at its vacant cornerback positions, and Craig Loston took over at strong safety. Simon is a stud, and while he only has four tackles on the season, Simon is loaded with talent and can be the same kind of lockdown corner that Morris Claiborne was for the Tigers.
Mills stepped in for Tyrann Mathieu and already has 11 tackles, one pick and Week 2 SEC Freshman of the Week honors under his belt. Loston has also been impressive, tallying seven tackles on the season.
But LSU's newbies can't keep pace with Alabama.
Dee Milliner moved up to a starting spot after playing nickel last season, and he has responded with five tackles and one big interception and return in Alabama's opening-night win over Michigan. Junior college transfer Deion Belue added six tackles and a pick of his own.
Safety Vinnie Sunseri has eight tackles, one tackle for loss and one fumble recovery in the first two weeks, while co-starter Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix has seven tackles of his own.
Early-Season Verdict: Alabama
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger hasn't had to open things up yet, and as a result of that, his wide receivers aren't exactly setting the world on fire.
Sophomore Jarvis Landry leads all Tigers with nine catches for 102 yards, and junior James Wright isn't far behind with seven catches for 90 yards.
Alabama's Kevin Norwood, who emerged as a threat in last season's BCS National Championship game, has six catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns, and DeAndrew White and Christion Jones have combined for three receiving touchdowns.
Long-term, LSU's wide receivers will probably have the edge, but Alabama's newbies have the edge so far this season.
Early-Season Verdict: Alabama
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