The Alabama defense is the top ranked unit in the country having allowed an average of 9.8 points per game this season, but it’s LSU’s defense that will be under the microscope when the Tigers and Crimson Tide battle Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.
AJ McCarron and the Alabama offense has been on fire the past four games as they have averaged 47.5 points per game to lift them to the No. 11 scoring offense in the country. McCarron has tossed 10 interceptions in that time span without an interception and has spread the ball around to a host of talented playmakers.
As with any Nick Saban team, the running game is the focus of this offense and T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake are quite a 1-2 punch. That duo has combined for 11 rushing scores the past four games as Alabama is averaging more than 210 yards per game on the ground.
The key for LSU will be stopping Yeldon on first and second down and put McCarron in third and long situations and make them one-dimensional. Easier said that done though, right?
LSU has the 33rd ranked total defense which is the lowest in the era of Miles vs. Saban. The Tigers own the 53rd ranked rush defense at 155.5 yards per game, which is worse than teams like Akron and Troy, but LSU has the talent to step up and at least contain Yeldon and Drake on Saturday.
Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson are as talented as any defensive tackle tandem in the country, but they haven’t put together a consistent string to dominate the line of scrimmage yet. I would expect each of them to play their best games of the season against a rapidly improving Alabama offensive line.
Furthermore, Lamin Barrow is a linebacker NFL scouts are drooling over who needs to have a 12-tackle type of game and shed blockers and fill the holes and stick Alabama ball carriers. He has the talent, he just needs to do it on the biggest stage.
The same can be said about Craig Loston who has been in and out of the lineup with injuries this season. He didn’t play vs. Furman, so the extra time off should get him healthy for this contest.
He began the season as one of the top two-three safety prospects but has seen his draft stock drop with injuries and inconsistency. This is the week to build that stock back up and show the NFL scouts you’re one of the top strong safety prospects in the country.
You win first and second down and you play into your strength which minus the Georgia game has been the pass defense that ranks 29th in the country at 215.4 yards per game.
It’s not the same as it was when Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne and Eric Reid were patrolling the back end, but it’s got the talent to match up with Alabama’s receivers.
The veterans must play their best games of the season and perhaps their careers to slow down McCarron and his troops on offense. Alabama has punted five times in the last month and been outscoring opponents 151-0 in the first half since they played Texas A&M in early September.
LSU has been able to slow down McCarron and Alabama in the past, but they also had much better defenses at that time. Tiger fans have been waiting for this unit to step up and look like LSU defenses of old, so what better time than Nov. 9 to make a long-awaited appearance?