LSU Football: 5 Keys to Beating Alabama
Early November signals one of the great football rivalries in the Southeastern Conference: LSU vs. Alabama.
The Crimson Tide lead the all-time series 45-23-5 and have won the last two meetings.
Entering the 2010 edition on Nov. 6, both squads have identical 7-1 (4-1) records. But LSU comes into this game ranked lower, getting inconsistent play at the quarterback position, and are no longer in control of their SEC West destiny.
The good news for the Tigers is that they have two weeks to get over the Auburn thrashing and prepare for the Crimson Tide. The bad news is Alabama also has a fortnight to get ready for LSU.
For LSU to beat Alabama, here are five things they will need to accomplish.
No. 5: Establish the Offensive Line and Rushing Game
Alabama's run defense has been stout, allowing about 113 yards a game. Getting to the outside is difficult on the speedy Crimson Tide linebackers.
The Tigers offensive line has been effective with their interior run blocking. Most people haven't noticed because LSU hasn't broken many long dashes. Bayou Bengal fans complain that Stevan Ridley is not a breakaway threat.
But that's okay. LSU can live with three and four-yard gains. The key is to stick to the ground attack and hopefully wear down the Bama front seven.
No. 4: Win the Field Position Battle
LSU's opponents haven't given Patrick Peterson many kick or punt return opportunities since the West Virginia game. And he's been well contained on the few chances he's had.
The top return man in the SEC (third nationally) doesn't have to score a touchdown, although it would help. But he does need to give the LSU offense excellent field position. The shorter the field, the better the chance LSU can get points out of the possession, even if it's just a field goal.
That was one of LSU's biggest problems in the loss to Auburn. Tigers punter Derek Helton pinned Auburn inside their 10-yard line five times. Conversely, LSU had five straight possessions in the second half begin at their 40-yard line or beyond. They only produced seven points from all that good field position.
No. 3: Randle and Toliver Vs. Lester and Kirkpatrick
Alabama has the best pass defense efficiency in the SEC, while LSU possesses the worst pass offense efficiency.
Don't expect Tigers quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee to improve on the nation's 113th ranked passing unit with big yardage down the field.
But to keep drives going, they will need find their tall wide receivers Rueben Randle (6'4") and Terrence Toliver (6'5") on inside slants and out routes against Alabama's big cornerbacks Robert Lester (6'2") and Dre Kirkpatrick (6'3").
It won't be easy. Lester (5) and Kirkpatrick (3) combine for over half of Alabama's nation-leading 15 interceptions this season.
No. 2: Get a Pass Rush on Greg McElroy
South Carolina got to McElory seven times in Alabama's lone loss.
LSU will need to put together a similar effort. McElroy has been sacked 22 times this season, second most in the SEC.
Despite ranking second in the SEC with 22 sacks, the Tigers defense is either feast or famine when it comes to bringing down the opposing quarterback. Eighteen of those sacks came against UNC, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Florida.
While no one will confuse McElroy with Cam Newton, LSU needs to clean up on the missed sacks they squandered versus Auburn.
No. 1: Contain Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson
The Gamecocks held Ingram to 41 yards and Richardson to 23 yards in their victory over the Tide.
For LSU to have any shot of doing likewise, the Tigers must spend these two weeks on tackling, which was horrendous in the Auburn loss.
How bad was it? LSU dropped from top ranked in the SEC (83.5 yards/game) to seventh best (128.1). Auburn's 440 rushing yards against LSU represents 43 percent of the total allowed by the Tigers all season.
Alabama's offense is based on Ingram and Richardson being able to pound opposing defenses into submission. LSU needs to stand strong and return to the gang tackling mentality that propelled through the first seven games of the season.