Alabama-LSU Preview: Three Keys to a Tiger Victory

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Alabama-LSU Preview: Three Keys to a Tiger Victory
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Ok, so unfortunately I can't give you the wordy beefed up tangents that you've come to expect because as I write this, I'm in the airport waiting for my flight back home.

It's a shame I've missed most of the lead up to LSU and Bama's battle for the west this week as I'm sure fans of both teams have enjoyed the pre-game jabs, predictions, and good ole' football talk.

We all know who coaches each team. We all know the drama of the story behind it. We all know what's riding on this game for both teams and its importance. We all know that Alabama plays this game at home and this year looks to be a better overall team than LSU.

But I don't think the Tigers are going to Tuscaloosa to lie down.

If LSU wants to leave T-town victorious and in the driver's seat in the SEC West; these three things must happen...

Get an early lead

Alabama's Nick Saban loves, and I mean loves, to play with a lead and rely on his defense. And with the defense he's put together at Alabama, you can't blame him.

On top of that, LSU's offense hasn't shown to be as explosive as it was in past years. So it will be imperative that the Tigers get some points in the early going and keep Saban and his boys on their heels.

If LSU allows the Tide to get a multi-score lead and the crimson defense can rattle sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson, the game might be over before it gets going.

LSU will need balance on offense and honestly some big plays to cut the Tide deep. The most important factor may be the continued improvement of the offensive line which garnered RB Charles Scott his first 100-yard outing of the season (albeit against Tulane).

Third phase

Just like fourth meal, people often forget the third phase in football; special teams. Alabama, on paper, is much better than LSU with Leigh Tiffin, who I'm pretty sure has kicked 100 field goals this year and the ever dangerous Javier Arenas ready to hit the home run on a return.

Minus an improbable Chad Jones return in Starkville and Trindon Holliday nickel and diming here and there, the return game is dormant for the Bayou Bengals. While Bama has shown some lapses in the coverage aspect, the Tide definitely have the defense to bail them out. LSU for the most part is solid in coverage, but Arenas may be best returner they will face all season.

Most experts are predicting a close game, and if that is the case than special teams could be pivotal in changing field position for two very good defenses, as well as knocking those three's through the uprights. A missed/blocked kick on Tiffin or Jasper could be disastrous in a low scoring contest.

Turnovers/Mistakes

A lower scoring game may create a smaller margin for error, and if that's the case, mistakes might be season-killers for either team.

Both Alabama and LSU are excellent at creating turnovers and it's probably why the teams have one loss between them. Both teams are going to keep trying to create mayhem for the opposition in the form of mistakes.

Of any other factor, this will be the most important. I don't care how many yards one team gains more than the other, I might not even care what team converted more third downs or wins time of possession.

The stat that will determine a winner on Saturday will be what team wins the turnover battle.

If one of these two teams wins the turnover battle and loses the game I would be shocked. I mean shocked. In the same way I would be shocked if you told me the Saints were 7-0.

Wait, they are?

Oh, nevermind.

Prediction

I felt better about this game a couple of weeks ago. But for some reason, I have a bad feeling. Nick Saban doesn't have the best record after byes, LSU hasn't lost to Bama in Tuscaloosa in the 2000's, LSU seems to be improving while Bama has seemed to level off; all of these things should make me optimistic.

When you think about it, this was supposed to be Alabama's year. LSU was looking at a 9-3 season (a mark they are still on pace for).

Nick Saban excels in focusing his team for big games and the road to the National Championship goes through LSU, then Atlanta with the Florida Gators.

His team has had two weeks to prepare, and despite a few wrinkles Miles may throw at him, I think LSU doesn't have enough bullets in the gun offensively. Especially against the Tide's stout D.

That will be the difference. Much like in the Florida game for LSU, the Tigers will need to force a low scoring game in order to have a chance.

I think LSU will fail to get on the board early. The Tigers will lose the special teams battle, and most importantly, will make more mistakes than the Tide. All this will be too much for the purple and gold.

Mark Ingram will put away the Tigers with a deciding score in the fourth quarter and Saban's squad will make a 17-13 game all but over.

It should be fun to watch if you like defense and hitting.

Alabama 24 LSU 13

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