Alabama Football: Breaking Down Crimson Tide's Blueprint to Victory vs. LSU

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 3, 2012

September 29, 2012; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA;  Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron (10) looks to throw the ball against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half at Bryant Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE
John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

If there is one game this season where "game of the week" is a massive understatement, it will happen in Baton Rouge Saturday night, as the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide come in to take on the No. 5 LSU Tigers. 

The Tide come in as the undisputed No. 1 team in the country. Led by head coach Nick Saban, Alabama is 8-0 and has not won a game by fewer than 19 points thus far.

However, as always, LSU presents the team's most difficult matchup of 2012. This is a far different Tigers squad than the one that defeated the Tide last regular season, but is one that follows what seems to be the Les Miles mantra: win by any means possible.

Considering the Tide have played just two ranked opponents all season (both of whom were a little overrated), this should be a scintillating matchup. 

With that in mind, here is a look at what Alabama must do to defeat the Tigers on Saturday.


Connect on Downfield Passes Early in the Game

After watching the Tide's contests against Tennessee and Mississippi State, it's become apparent that they have started doing something many had called for all season: throwing the deep ball.

Quarterback A.J. McCarron had only completed two passes of more than 50 yards before Weeks 8 and 9, but the game plan seemingly changed in those contests. Facing off against relatively weak secondaries, the junior signal-caller threw three touchdowns of more than 30 yards and two 50-plus-yard completions against the Volunteers and Bulldogs. 

Those performances have taken McCarron from having a nice, but underrated season to almost an unquestioned Heisman finalist if his top-shelf play continues. 

Obviously, he won't have it easy against the Tigers. Coming into Week 10, LSU has given up just 149.1 passing yards per game, a figure that puts it fourth in the nation.

However, no one expects McCarron to have a coming-out party. Just one connection early in the game could cause hesitation in the secondary and open up slightly larger running lanes.

In hard-fought defensive battles, sometimes that's all it takes.


Give T.J. Yeldon the Lion's Share of the Workload

If the biggest takeaway of the past two weeks is that Alabama had the ability to throw the deep ball, T.J. Yeldon's emergence as the team's most effective back isn't far behind.

The freshman back combined for 213 yards and three touchdowns on just 25 carries, easily eclipsing Eddie Lacy after it had been a tag team of brilliance all season.

While Nick Saban would probably like to keep that two-headed monster status, the Tide are currently facing the teeth of their schedule. That means it could be time to make tough calls, and giving Yeldon an increase in carries is something that should keep Alabama unbeaten. 

Of course, I'm not suggesting phasing Lacy out entirely. He's been fantastic throughout 2012 and there's no reason to think he'll suddenly stop.

However, moving to a 60-40 or 65-35 split will make the Tide offense more explosive on the ground—an especially important factor on Saturday, considering LSU is giving up a meager 2.8 yards per run this season. 


Stop the Run, Make Zach Mettenberger do Zach Mettenberger Things

It's not exactly revealing ancient Mayan secrets to say that the Tigers will look to pound the ball throughout the entire game.

Forced turnovers and the running attack, led by Jeremy Hill and Michael Ford, are the only reasons LSU comes into this contest with one loss, having been integral to last week's victory against Texas A&M. Hill and Ford combined for 205 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries and continually served as the lifeblood of the Tigers offense. 

Meanwhile, quarterback Zach Mettenberger's frustrating struggles continued. The junior completed a paltry 11-of-29 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, giving Mettenberger his third straight game with fewer than 200 yards and a completion percentage lower than 50 percent.

If Alabama's defense, which gives up an FBS-best 1.9 yards per carry, is able to stifle the two-headed rushing attack, it would force Mettenberger into a starring role in LSU's offense.

As we've seen in recent weeks, that can only mean good things for the Tide as they look for their first road victory of the season against a Top 25 opponent.