Alabama’s final away game of the regular season will be no cakewalk, with a much-improved and hungry LSU squad awaiting their arrival tomorrow.
After beginning the year at 2-2, which resulted in the firing of head coach Les Miles, the Tigers have ripped off three straight wins under interim coach Ed Orgeron. Along with Texas A&M and the Crimson Tide, LSU has the look right now of one of the mighty Southeastern Conference’s best teams.
But Orgeron’s crew ain’t going up against the likes of Missouri right here. They’re facing the country’s most ferocious and best defense, along with an offense, led by a stud freshman quarterback, that averages eight yards per play and 44 points per game.
Last year, LSU’s magnificent running back Leonard Fournette was the Heisman frontrunner, until he came up against an Alabama defense that held him to 31 yards on 19 rushing attempts.
Fournette has been bothered by ankle troubles this year, but after sitting out two straight games, he returned in grand style last week while slicing, dicing and overpowering Ole Miss for a school record 284 yards on 16 carries. The gifted junior scored on touchdown runs of 59, 76 and 78 yards in the process.
If LSU makes this a game, it will have to start with their work in the trenches. Fournette is averaging a robust eight yards per carry, Alabama gives up an average of 2.2 yards per rush while limiting opposing offenses to 70.1 yards per game. They’ve only surrendered three rushing touchdowns all year.
“I haven’t really seen a guy dominate a game like [Fournette] did that game for a long time,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said earlier this week. “We have a tremendous amount of respect for him, and he looks as good as ever and maybe even better.”
He’ll have to be at his absolute best if LSU has hopes to knock Alabama off of its #1 perch. If they constantly find themselves jammed up on third-and-long situations, with Fournette unable to crack the code on some long runs, Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson and the rest of the Crimson Tide’s defensive bullies will cause more mayhem than Luther did when he shot Cyrus in The Warriors.
In addition to needing Fournette and the running game to flex, LSU will also need some production from their passing game. Alabama smothers an opponents running game, then pins their ears back to harass, sack and pummel the other team’s unlucky quarterback. The secondary is no joke either, having intercepted eight balls thus far this year, but they’ll be without their best player, Eddie Jackson, for the rest of the year due to injury.
Tigers QB Danny Etling, who has replaced the ineffective Brandon Harris, will have his hands more full than Jared Lorenzen at an all you can eat buffet.
Alabama’s defense is so dominant that we often view their offense as an afterthought. But if you haven’t seen their freshman signal caller Jalen Hurts, you’ll be shocked to see how versatile, deadly, unpredictable and fun they are now that coordinator Lane Kiffin has the perfect weapon for his preferred spread attack. Hurts has passed for 1,578 yards and 12 touchdowns this year, while rushing for 521 yards and nine more scores.
But LSU has NFL caliber talent at every defensive level, with athletes that can cover a lot of ground in a very short amount of time.
We know that Alabama is great. And we think that LSU is good. Great beats good on any day of the week, but this is college football we’re talking abut here, so anything can happen.
The other sexy matchup of the weekend is No. 10 Nebraska coming to Columbus to take on No. 6 Ohio State. Ohio State looked invincible early on, but after losing to Penn State, they’re not pumping fear through anyone’s hearts right now.
They gave up 400 yards to Northwestern last week in a game that came down to the wire. It was the third time this year that they’ve given up that many yards.
That doesn’t seem like a good recipe when facing Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr., who has rushed for 380 yards and six touchdowns while throwing for 1,764 and 11 more scores this year, along with running back Terrell Newby.
Ohio State is tied with Penn State and a game behind Michigan in the Big Ten’s East division, while Nebraska has a one-game lead in the West. The winner of this game will remain alive for a spot in the playoffs.
The loser will be saying, like Aaron Hall crooned, bye-bye baby!!!
No other team in the Top 25 is playing against a ranked opponent. If you think that trends toward a boring weekend of blowouts, you’re sadly mistaken. Look for a few teams to get bitten with upsets.
No. 11 Florida, No. 5 Washington, No. 9 Auburn and No. 12 Penn State better knuckle up and ignore those odds in Vegas. Because this is the weekend, when they least expect it, to get caught slipping.