Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
Line: Alabama by 12.5.
Radio: 95.5 FM
1. Put them away: Alabama had an opportunity to put LSU away on the road last season, but had a turnover that allowed the Tigers to keep it close. With LSU coming in as a underdog, the last thing the Tide wants to do is give the Tigers confidence and let them hang around. Alabama needs to have a killer instinct early and take away the Tigers’ fight. Alabama can’t afford a loss if it hopes to play for a national championship in January.
2. Stop the run: LSU tailback Jeremy Hill, with a rare combination of size and speed, is one of only three SEC running backs to average more than 100 yards with 115.25 a game. He’s found the endzone 12 times and gains 7.2 yards a carry. He’s rushed for more than 100 yards five times this season. If Alabama is able to slow Hill and the other LSU running backs, it will make the Tigers one dimensional and more predictable.
3. Stay alert: With few people giving LSU a chance to win, don’t be shocked if Les Miles’ and his staff are loose with the play calling. The Tigers really have nothing to lose as their national championship hopes are out the window. So what better way to turn a season around than knocking off the best team in the country and your biggest rival in the past five years? Miles has shown he isn’t afraid to take chances, and the trick plays always end up giving his team confidence. Look for the Tigers to throw everything including the kitchen sink at the Tide.
4. Long drives: Alabama’s offense will have to help its defense in this one by sustaining long drives and finishing them with touchdowns to keep LSU’s offense on the sideline. Alabama’s defense has been playing great, but the Tide hasn’t faced an explosive offense like LSU’s since Texas A&M. The last thing the Tide wants is another shootout.
Alabama’s secondary versus LSU quarterback/wide receivers: LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger has thrown for 2,494 yards (276.9 a game) while completing 65.4 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns to seven interceptions. On the perimeter, he has two of the best wide receivers in the nation with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Beckham is one of three SEC receivers who averages more than 100 yards with 112.1 a game. He also has eight receiving touchdowns. Landry isn’t far behind with 98 receiving yards a game and eight touchdowns. Alabama’s secondary is still shuffling at cornerback as Cyrus Jones likely will get the start opposite Deion Belue. With safeties HaHa Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins, expect the Tide’s defense to use more bracket coverages to slow the Tigers’ receiving duo.
For the past five years, this has been the best rivalry in college football. It won’t have the same national championship implications for both sides with LSU having two losses, but it will still be a great game. Still, with LSU’s defensive struggles, Alabama should be able to pull away late. ... Alabama 31, LSU 17.