For the third straight season, the SEC West will be decided in early November when LSU travels to Tuscaloosa to play No. 1 Alabama.
The teams will have different paths in getting there. Alabama's schedule is full of cupcakes. The Tigers still have to battle Florida next week and Ole Miss the week after.
Still, it is never to early to think of the premiere matchup in the SEC. The Tigers are the only team left on Alabama's schedule that can defeat the Crimson Tide.
The old tackle football adage says the best defense is a good offense. But at LSU under Les Miles, the worst defense has come with the best offense.
LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has made the Tigers look like the Triple-A affiliate of the Denver Broncos.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger and his supporting cast shredded their latest opponent, Mississippi State, en route to a 59-26 victory Saturday night. The 59 points is a season high for LSU and the most the Tigers have scored against SEC opposition during Miles' tenure in Baton Rouge.
Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Jeremy Hill continue to serve as Mettenberger's most lethal weapons. The trio accounted for 451 of the 563 yards of total offense and four touchdowns against the Bulldogs. This season, Beckham Jr., Landry and Hill are accountable for 68 percent of the Tigers offense.
The Tigers could be the best pro-style offense in the nation, though the LSU defense is a different story.
LSU cannot stop anybody. The Tigers allowed 468 yards of total offense to Mississippi State. In three SEC games, LSU's opponents have averaged 466 yards and 30 points per game.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis deserves some of the blame. But Chavis' players continue to miss tackles and not make game-changing plays.
But LSU is not the only historically great defense that has turned porous. Alabama's offense carried what was left of the Crimson Tide defense in their last two games against Top 10 SEC opposition.
The LSU offense will be able to move the football against Alabama. Mettenberger, Hill, Landry and Beckham Jr. all played well against the Crimson Tide last year. Now playing at a higher level this season, they should be able to do the same.
There are two issues for the LSU offense when they travel to Tuscaloosa later this season.
The Alabama defense has gotten better since Texas A&M. Nick Saban's latest masterpiece was the shutout of Ole Miss. Freshman cornerback Eddie Jackson provided a spark for a Crimson Tide secondary that has struggled the last two seasons guarding great receivers.
The LSU offensive line has yet to put together a consistent, cohesive performance in SEC play. They struggled communicating against the 3-4 defense of Georgia. Alabama runs a 3-4 as well, except with better defensive lineman.
The big problem will be on defense for LSU.
Quarterback AJ McCarron has come up big against LSU the last two times he has played the Tigers. TJ Yeldon made himself a household name after his game-winning touchdown against the Tigers last season.
LSU linebacker's core have been in disarray. The defensive line gets little penetration in the running or passing game. The secondary continues to allow big play after big play.
The Crimson Tide offensive line proved to be the difference in the Crimson Tide's thrilling 49-42 victory against Texas A&M. They pummeled the Aggies on the ground and will look to do the same against LSU.
McCarron statistically has not been as spectacular as the other elite quarterbacks in the SEC. But the threat of Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White on the outside should scare LSU fans.
Alabama, like LSU, should be able to move the football successfully.
The combined score of the last two regular season meetings when the Tigers have faced the Tide has been 27-26 in favor of Alabama. Most would say with certainty that scoreline will be eclipsed in this season's game.
Remember when this game was all about the Miles-Saban bowl and great defense?
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