Ultimate Guide to Alabama vs. LSU

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterNovember 8, 2013

Ultimate Guide to Alabama vs. LSU

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    On Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the Crimson Tide get the chance to take one more step toward a third straight BCS National Championship. The team standing in its way is the same squad it had to go through to start this current streak of titles.

    Now, with less than a month of regular-season football left, the nation will be watching to see how Alabama handles the pressure and if LSU can pull off the upset. This game, as has been the case recently, features star power all over the field—coaches Les Miles and Nick Saban and players like AJ McCarron, Jeremy Hill, TJ Yeldon and Odell Beckham Jr.

    Both rosters are full of talent, but execution will be the key in this game. Someone is going to have to make a play for their football team, and that will be the big difference in what is shaping up to be another classic meeting.

    As your guide to this game, check out the articles and videos here. They will certainly get you prepared for Saturday night.

Why the Bye Week Was Such a Big Deal for Both Teams

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    Both teams enter this monumental contest off a bye week, and that's an advantage for each of them. For Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, it's about getting bodies healthy and ready for the physical fight against LSU. For Les Miles, the bye week was about retooling the offense after a slump in recent weeks.

    At the SEC Blog, Barrett Sallee hits on which team stood to benefit more from the bye week. This LSU team started out like gangbusters and had an offense that was torching opponents with both the run and the pass. To win this game, that offense needs to return to form in the hostile confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

    Alabama needs guys to get healthy, especially in the secondary. With Vinnie Sunseri out for the year with an ACL tear, getting players like Eddie Jackson and Bradley Sylve healthy is a must to avoid going further down the depleted cornerback depth chart.

    The bye week can yield some big things from both a health and game-planning standpoint. The team that got the most out of its bye week should pull out the victory. 

What to Expect When LSU Has the Football

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    LSU's offense has been a revelation in 2013, with quarterback Zach Mettenberger benefiting from working with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. have emerged as premier targets and Mettenberger has shown an ability to get them the ball consistently.

    For Alabama, stopping the run is job No. 1. The secondary has been the area of vulnerability. Vinnie Sunseri is out for the Tide, leaving Landon Collins and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to cover over the top and help out the cornerbacks.

    Deion Belue's been the stalwart at one cornerback spot while the other position has been somewhat of a revolving door. The Tide seemed to find a fix with Eddie Jackson stepping in, but the freshman went down with an injury. He is progressing well, having played in the last two games, and is fighting to get back into the lineup full time.

    Here, The Program previews what happens when the Bayou Bengals have the football. Alabama certainly needs Jackson in the game because he is the most reliable corner opposite Belue. Mettenberger is going to take his shots. This element of game will be about Alabama stopping Landry and Beckham from racing through the secondary for big plays.

    Nick Saban had high praise for Tigers' offense, according to Charlie Potter of the Crimson White:

    Saban also praised LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger for the way he’s led his offense. He credited Mettenberger and running back Jeremy Hill with making LSU’s offense so dangerous this season.

    “This is by far the most explosive, most talented offensive team that we’ve faced all year long,” Saban said.


Get Ready to See Two of the Nation's Best Running Backs

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    There will be plenty of eyes on quarterbacks Zach Mettenberger and AJ McCarron, but two of the game's premier running backs will also be featured in this contest. LSU's Jeremy Hill enters the game as the SEC's second-leading rusher, posting 115.3 yards a game. Alabama's T.J. Yeldon comes in fifth in the league with 91.1 yards a contest.

    They have two different running styles, but both are wildly effective. Hill is the more violent runner, while Yeldon has great vision and a knack for getting loose into space. Neither is an easy target to tackle and both can frustrate defenders and defensive coordinators.

    Over at the SEC Blog, Barrett Sallee compared Yeldon and Hill. 

What to Expect When Alabama Has the Football

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    In recent history, this game has been about running the ball and trying to impose one's will on the opposition. Alabama is still going to work to do those things with a rushing attack led by T.J. Yeldon. Over the course of the season, the Tide have seen their offensive line come together and become a reliable, body-moving group. They're looking to continue that growth against LSU.

    LSU has had an up-and-down season defensively. The interior defensive line has not played as well as expected, and that has led to teams having success on the ground. Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia and Auburn all found success on the ground and Alabama will be hunting for the same.

    This video from The Program highlights how the Crimson Tide plan on attacking LSU, including a secondary that has issues communicating in the back end.

LSU's Defensive Backs Have to Be on Top of Their Game

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    LSU's secondary has its work cut out for it against AJ McCarron and the Crimson Tide air attack. Amari Cooper came alive against Tennessee, and with him in the mix, McCarron has plenty of weapons at his disposal. As the season's progressed, the Tigers have made critical and costly mistakes in the secondary. On Saturday, that could be the difference between winning and losing, just like it was against Georgia. 

    Carter Bryant, B/R's LSU featured columnist, takes a look at the secondary's woes and where it must improve to beat Alabama's passing attack. That starts with communication, something that has been a problem for the Tigers at points this year.

    If LSU's secondary does not come to play, expect to see Cooper and running mates DeAndrew White and Kevin Norwood catching deep balls and strolling into the end zone.

A Game with Heisman Implications

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    Alabama's title hopes require a win in this game, but there is certainly icing to a victory for AJ McCarron, a quarterback still in the Heisman race. With Oregon's Marcus Mariota losing to Stanford, and struggling mightily in the process, the door has been opened up for other contenders.

    Jameis Winston at Florida State is the lead dog, but McCarron is in the hunt with the likes of Baylor's Bryce Petty, Clemson's Tajh Boyd and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. A dominating win with big numbers on a big stage against LSU would help further McCarron's case. 

    Alabama featured columnist Marc Torrence takes a look at where McCarron fits into the Heisman picture. Mariota's returned to the pack and Winston's the clear leader, but with a lot of football left to be played, McCarron can stay in the big picture and wait for Winston to falter.

Former LSU QB Jordan Jefferson Talks About Beating Alabama

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    Jordan Jefferson played a critical role in his games against the Crimson Tide. On the plus side, he was able to hurt Alabama with his legs and arm in big moments. However, many people will remember Jefferson for the poor performance in the BCS National Championship rematch against the Tide.

    LSU featured columnist Carter Bryant got a chance to talk to Jefferson about this game, and the former quarterback was quite candid. Jefferson hit on his feelings surrounding LSU, his mistakes, how the game impacted his teammates and plenty more.

    Check out the interview in its entirety here, as Jefferson gives Bryant some insight into this ever-growing rivalry. 

The Hype

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    Alabama vs. LSU. Geaux Tigers vs. Roll Tide. The Bayou Bengals vs. the Crimson Tide.

    Nick Saban against Les Miles. 

    This game has been one of college football's most intriguing contests over the last few seasons, and this year, even with a two-loss LSU team competing, the game can shape the BCS Championship. LSU's coming to play spoilers. With Oregon going down Thursday night, the Bayou Bengals have a chance to join Stanford as a team that sank someone's title hopes.

    Alabama is a team on a mission, with a coach eyeing yet another BCS title. Last year, the win required serious heroics out of T.J. Yeldon on a beautifully called screen pass. This year, both teams get a chance to add to the legend. Saturday night should be quite the contest.