After an incredible Thursday night appetizer of Stanford knocking Oregon from the ranks of the unbeaten and Baylor flexing its muscle against Oklahoma, Saturday’s main course is a prime-time battle between SEC West rivals.
Alabama and LSU have consistently treated college football fans to nail-biter classics in recent years. In fact, Alabama holds a mere 191-179 scoring edge in the past 12 meetings, largely due to its 21-0 national title win against LSU in 2012.
There are plenty of storylines to keep an eye on when these heavyweights face off Saturday. Let’s dig into a few.
The overarching storyline for any college football game featuring a Top 10 team this late into the season is the implications on the BCS. Alabama is the reigning king and will remain in the No. 1 spot as long as it keeps winning, so plenty of interested parties will be tuning in Saturday.
The Tide don’t exactly have a cakewalk to the national title game if they can get past LSU, with Auburn and the presumed SEC championship game remaining, but the Tigers have been their major hurdle in recent years. LSU has beaten Alabama three times since Nick Saban took over the program in 2007 (more than against anyone else), including two of the last three regular-season matchups.
Considering Les Miles and company already handled Auburn in September, this is probably Alabama’s stiffest remaining test. Fans in Columbus, Tallahassee and Waco will certainly be tuning in, especially after one half of the anticipated Oregon and Alabama title game fell apart Thursday.
On the other sideline, LSU isn’t just playing spoiler. The Tigers still have a legitimate chance at a BCS at-large bid with a victory over the nation’s top team.
LSU Passing Game vs. Alabama Secondary
While the BCS implications may be the dominating theme of this showdown, the game itself could be decided when LSU tries to throw the ball downfield.
If Alabama is vulnerable anywhere, it is the secondary. Johnny Manziel lit the Tide up for 464 yards and five touchdowns when Texas A&M hosted Saban’s bunch early in the year. However, Alabama’s defense leads the nation in points given up, so perhaps that game said more about the defending Heisman Trophy winner’s brilliance than Alabama’s leaky secondary.
It is still worth keeping an eye on because the Tigers have serious weapons at the receiver position. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry have combined for nearly 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns, with Beckham ranking in the top five in all-purpose yardage. Zach Mettenberger has had plenty of success targeting these two, and LSU ranks in the top 30 nationally in passing yards per game (279.4).
According to The Washington Post, four cornerbacks have started alongside Deion Belue for the Tide, meaning either Beckham or Landry could find himself with a favorable matchup on any given play Saturday.
Home-field advantage plays a role in any marquee college football game, but it may not be as important as you think when LSU visits Tuscaloosa.
The Tigers have won five of their past six trips there and will likely bring plenty of visiting fans as well. Alabama won last year in dramatic fashion at LSU, so Miles and company will be looking to return the favor as road underdogs Saturday.
This is not to suggest being the home team isn’t an advantage at all. However, Mettenberger is an experienced quarterback who has played in hostile SEC environments before. He won’t be intimidated, and neither will his teammates.
And that’s half the battle against the juggernaut that is Alabama.