The LSU Tigers (7-2, 3-2 SEC) head to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 SEC) in a marquee matchup on Saturday night. Even though both teams are not ranked in the top five—as they were three times in the last two seasons—this rivalry is still a highly anticipated matchup.
When these teams last met in 2012, Alabama was able to come away with a 21-17 victory on the arm of AJ McCarron. Alabama's quarterback was able to shoulder the load once LSU took the lead.
Up until that point, McCarron had faltered against a very stout LSU defense, only accumulating 44 passing yards. However, once the game was on the line, he rallied and completed 10 of his final 16 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.
It is this kind of performance that makes this rivalry so intense. Looking at how these teams match up in 2013, we could be in for yet another close contest. A handful of key matchups will decide the outcome of Saturday's game.
After all, the players know what this game means. LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson summed it up during an interview with Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today. Ferguson simply said, "You can't hide the fact that this rivalry is huge."
Zach Mettenberger vs. AJ McCarron
Both of these quarterbacks have had similar seasons. Each has played well at times and struggled at others. However, when it all comes down to it, the numbers are similar:
|Zach Mettenberger vs. AJ McCarron in 2013|
McCarron's completion percentage and ability to avoid turnovers could be the difference in this matchup. Mettenberger has been able to create bigger plays through the air—he is averaging 10.8 yards per attempt compared to McCarron's 8.9—but in closely contested rivalries such as this, ball security is key.
Neither of these teams have been overwhelming in the interception department in 2013. Alabama has eight and LSU has six. Still, all it takes is one to turn the tide of this contest.
Jeremy Hill vs. T.J. Yeldon
Both of these running backs have been phenomenal so far in 2013. Like the starting quarterbacks, the running back position is very similar. Both Hill and Yeldon have been able to find the end zone in all but one game that they have played this season. Both backs have shown a consistent yard-per-carry average throughout the season as well:
|Jeremy Hill vs. T.J. Yeldon in 2013|
One thing that stands out when analyzing these rushing totals is that Hill has averaged almost one full yard per carry more than Yeldon.
That could go a long way, as both of these defenses are stout against the run, but Alabama has the edge. The Crimson Tide have allowed just 3.4 yards per carry to opponents, and LSU has allowed an average of 4.0.
Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry vs. Alabama Secondary
This may be the most highly anticipated matchup of this SEC showdown. Beckham and Landry have been a virtually unstoppable duo this season. Each have torched opposing defenses on numerous occasions and continue to be highly reliable targets for Mettenberger:
|Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry in 2013|
Even though these two receivers have had stellar seasons so far, they have not faced such a brutal opponent as the Alabama secondary. The Crimson Tide are ranked sixth in the NCAA against the pass and are only allowing an average of 179.0 yards per game through the air.
If Alabama can clamp down on these two dynamic receivers, LSU's aerial attack could be in trouble due to the lack of a consistent third option.
Colby Delahoussaye vs. Cade Foster
Kicker versus kicker. It's not a sexy matchup, but in this contest, it is extremely important. In 2011, we learned that solid kicking in a defensive struggle is absolutely key to obtaining a victory, as LSU defeated Alabama in Tuscaloosa by a score of 9-6. The way these two defenses have been playing this season, kickers could be heavily featured once again:
|Colby Delahoussaye vs. Cade Foster in 2013|
|FG Attempts||FGs Made||Percent Made|
Very similar numbers, indeed. Each kicker has only missed one field goal this season. However, one thing stands out above the rest—Foster has not attempted a field goal in the 30-39 yard range this season. Foster has been successful from longer ranges, as he connected on three of four field goals from 40-49 yards and made his only attempt from over 50. Still, the intermediate range remains uncertain.
Both of these teams come into the game as strong contenders in the SEC. Each have been able to find success through the air, on the ground and defensively in 2013.
Taking all things into consideration, the Crimson Tide's home-field advantage, stout defense and their ability to spread the ball around on offense will inevitably be the reasons that they come away with a victory and move to 9-0 on the season.
Final Score: Alabama 24, LSU 16