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This, of course, is the big one. If Alabama can get a win over top-ranked LSU in two weeks, they should be well positioned to reach the national title game. Looking closely at the contest, it's almost too close to call. Both LSU and Alabama enter this showdown with perfect records, dominant defenses and solid offenses.
The only small advantage I can see is that after eight games, the Crimson Tide have been more efficient offensively that the Tigers, averaging 457.63 yards of total offense compared to LSU's 372.13. That's almost a 100-yard disparity, yet the two teams are almost dead even in scoring offense, averaging 39.4 and 39.3 points per game, respectively.
The key for both teams will be their ability to successfully run the ball against each other. Alabama and LSU each have rushing defenses that rank inside the nation's top five, with Bama leading the country in that category. The Crimson Tide have only surrendered a remarkable 44.88 yards on the ground and only two rushing touchdowns.
The Tigers' double-headed rushing attack in Spencer Ware and Michael Ford has proven too much for teams this season, but Alabama's front seven will be a different animal altogether. Likewise, Bama's Heisman hopeful Trent Richardson is 11 yards short of a 1,000-yard season. Already with 17 touchdowns, Richardson has run over the opposition game after game.
If LSU can hinder Richardson, it will put more pressure on A.J McCarron to make plays. While the Alabama QB has proven he can make them, the less they have to test the LSU secondary, the better. The Tigers already have 11 interceptions in 2011.
It's worth noting here that a loss against LSU doesn't put the Tide out of the national title picture. While they will lose control of their fate, if Boise State, Oklahoma State, Clemson, Kansas State and Stanford lose one game, the voters are likely to rank Bama as the highest one-loss team, putting them right back at No. 2. It's not a stretch to think those five teams will lose before season's end, with all of their schedules containing at least one upset possibility.
Assuming Alabama will prevail, the Tide will be well poised to run the table afterward.