Earlier this week I reached out to my colleague and the managing editor at FanSided’s Alabama website, Bama Hammer, Tony Breland to ask him about the rivalry between the two SEC west schools and what he’s looking forward to seeing on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Here is part one from the resulting Q&A.
1. How does this year’s team compare offensively and defensively to the National Title teams in years past under Saban?
This is a team that had a lot of question marks going into the season, including a rebuilt offensive line and no solid backup quarterback. But the line has really gelled, and AJ McCarron is having a fantastic year. This is probably the best coaching job Saban has done at Alabama, in terms of having to manage expectations, juggle the egos of so many star players, and keep this team focused each week. If Alabama goes on to win the national championship this year, Saban could walk away from the game as one of the greatest ever.
2. How will Alabama try to generate a pass rush to disrupt Mettenberger?
Zach is having a good year, and Alabama will have to get him off the field on third down. The Tide will have to disguise coverages, send blitzes from all directions, and not allow him to get into a rhythm.
3. Can Alabama’s rotating cast of cornerbacks slow down LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry?
When Mettenberger does get off a pass, LSU’s receivers can make guys miss. Alabama’s secondary will have to play within themselves and play physical to disrupt the Tigers. True freshman Eddie Jackson is playing well opposite Deion Belue, and Landon Collins is becoming a star, which gives defensive coordinator a lot to work with.
4. How important has C.J. Mosley been to this year’s team in terms of leadership and on-the-field production?
It’s hard to overstate the effect Mosley has had on this team. He’s arguably the best player on the field when he’s out there, and is a vocal leader that understands what his coaches are trying to do, and gets his teammates on board. He’s been in on 59 tackles thus far this season, and is looking like another first-round draft pick for Saban. Mosley helping direct this Alabama defense is one of the keys to victory against LSU.
5. Alabama has shut down opposing running games since Virginia Tech, but haven’t seen a back like Jeremy Hill, how much of a challenge does he present to the Tide’s defense
Hill is certainly a challenge, but Alabama’s success comes from not keying on any one player. Last season, for instance, Alabama’s defense was so caught up in stopping Johnny Manziel from scrambling that they over-pursued and gave him what he wanted. Alabama’s defense should be able to contain Hill, but only by playing their game, and not allowing LSU’s offense to get going.
6. Assess the job Landon Collins has done first filling in for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and then last game for the injured Vinnie Sunseri
Landon Collins is beginning to live up to the hype. He was a Nick Saban steal out of Louisiana, and he has made his momma proud despite her earlier reluctance. He’s now started in his last five games – the last two at strong safety – and has brought speed to the position that Alabama didn’t quite have with Sunseri. He’s second on the team with 34 tackles, and now has an 89-yard touchdown return on his stat sheet. It’s safe to say Alabama fans are happy with Collins so far.
Related: Part 2 with Bama Hammer