To every other place in the country, this time of year may be all about Halloween, but here in Louisiana, it's simply Alabama week.
To every other place in the country, this time of year may be all about Halloween, but here in Louisiana, it’s simply Alabama week.
For the sixth straight season, LSU will have their annual clash with the Crimson Tide in prime time, under the lights of Death Valley.
This one will be a little different, though. The Tigers won’t have Les Miles prowling the sideline randomly eating blades of grass. Instead, they’ll be led by interim head coach Ed Orgeron—who can make a huge case for keeping the gig if his team can pull off the upset.
LSU has played phenomenally ever since Miles was fired and Orgeron took his place.
Prior to the move, the Tigers were just 2-2 and averaging 22 points a game. Ever since, LSU has gone 3-0, and in those three wins, they’re putting up 42 per contest.
An offensive record has been set in all three outings.
In a 42-7 win over Missouri, LSU set a new school record for most yards in an SEC game with 634. In the 45-10 victory over Southern Miss, they set a school record for most yards per play at 10.9.
Finally, in their 38-21 victory over Ole Miss last Saturday, Leonard Fournette returned after missing nearly a month of action with a high ankle sprain. He set a new school record for most rushing yards in a game with 284, and he did it on just 16 carries.
With the exception of three turnovers, the Tigers looked exceptional against the Rebels.
Offensively, they continued to put up big numbers.
They chalked up 515 total yards—with Danny Etling complimenting Fournette’s huge performance with 204 passing yards and a score.
However, it was the defense that might have been even more impressive.
They held one of the top offensive teams in the country to just 325 yards. Prior to Ole Miss’ final drive with just over a minute remaining in the game, they had just 54 second-half yards.
Quarterback Chad Kelly was held 90 yards under his season average passing, and he was picked off twice.
The 21-point output was a new season low for the Rebels. Prior to the loss, they hadn’t failed to score at least 30 all season.
The victory was sweet, but there’s nothing sweet about the Alabama team coming to Baton Rouge this Saturday.
The top-ranked defending champs have virtually steamrolled their competition in their 8-0 start. They have won by an average margin of 44-15 each game.
The Tide offense has been much more explosive this year than they have been in the past. They have scored at least 33 in every win—including five games where they scored more than 40 points.
Much of this improvement has been because of true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. His strong play as of late has thrust him into the heart of the Heisman discussion.
Hurts has been so dangerous because of his running ability. He is the team’s second-leading rusher with 521 yards and nine touchdowns.
Though, he has also proven to be a capable passer. He has thrown for 1,578 yards with 12 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
The Tide have one of the best duos at receiver in the country. Both Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart have at least 472 receiving yards.
Running back Damien Harris quietly has 700 yards rushing and averages a whopping 8.1 yards per carry.
The Alabama defense is what you would expect an Alabama defense to look like under Nick Saban.
They rank No. 4 in total defense, and they rank No. 1 against the run—only yielding 70 yards per game.
The Tigers still have nightmares about last year’s matchup when the Tide front held Fournette to just 31 yards on 19 carries.
Etling will have to make plays in the passing game—something Brandon Harris failed to do in last year’s 30-16 loss.
The Alabama pass defense has given up yards in 2016. They rank 35th. Both Kelly and Arkansas’ Austin Allen threw for over 400 yards against them.
The Tide also just lost starting safety Eddie Jackson. His season ended last weekend with a broken leg against Texas A&M.
The challenge will be getting passes off.
Alabama has the best pass rush in the country—collecting a high of 32 sacks behind Jonathan Allen and Baton Rouge native Tim Williams. The two have combined for 12.5 quarterback takedowns.
The good news for LSU is that they will be healthy heading into Saturday night.
Fournette and offensive lineman Will Clapp are nearing full strength after missing games with injuries, and guard Toby Weathersby is expected to play for the first time in over a month after being sidelined with a high ankle sprain.
The Tigers will be desperately seeking to end a five-game losing streak to Alabama.
The last two times the Tide played in Baton Rouge, they won by a combined 11 points.