It's LSU vs. Alabama: Part III

Kyle Riviere
Freshman running back Jeremy Hill crosses the end zone after a huge 47-yard gallop in the game at Texas A&M.

Well, it's been the day everyone in Tiger nation has had marked in their calendars since Jan. 9 of this year, and it's finally here.

Top-ranked and undefeated Alabama will roll into Tiger Stadium Saturday night looking like a well-oiled machine. The only thing that stands in their way of a SEC title berth and opportunity at winning back-to-back national crowns is LSU and their 92,000-plus brethren.

They'll need the inspiration to pull the upset over a Crimson Tide squad that has looked like an unstoppable juggernaut thus far.

Not many people were expecting this from Alabama over the offseason. It was obvious they'd be a top-five team and title contender, but it didn't seem possible they would be so dominant considering all of the stars they lost from last year's championship team.

They lost their top two receivers and a Hesiman finalist in running back Trent Richardson, yet they're still putting up 41 points a game.

Much of that is due to the two-headed rushing attack of former Dutchtown star Eddie Lacy and freshman sensation T.J. Yeldon.

But most importantly, the Alabama passing attack has become more prolific than it has been in years with the growth of quarterback A.J. McCarron. McCarron has jump-started a Heisman campaign for himself on the strength of completing 69 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and no interceptions.

And even with defensive guru Nick Saban as head coach, no one expected the defense to be this dominant.

Last year's defensive unit was one of the greatest in college football history, but they lost seven key starters.

It hasn't mattered; the Crimson tide is still only giving up a miniscule eight points a game--which is the same amount they gave up last season.

No team has come within less than 19 points of the Tide this year. However, Alabama hasn't played a team as good as LSU.

The Tigers have a top-notch defense as well. They're only giving up 15 points a game, and they're fresh off of holding Texas A&M to only 19 points in College Station. The same Aggie offense put up 63 on Auburn last weekend.

The Tigers have been pretty stout against the run all year, and they'll have to be that and more this Saturday night to pull the upset. Alabama is averaging 214 rushing yards per game.

It's a matchup of the best offensive line in the nation (Alabama) vs. the best defensive line in the country (LSU).

However, the matchup that could go a long way in deciding the game will be the sputtering LSU offense against that scary Tide defense.

No doubt, the Tiger running game has picked up steam the past couple of weeks. Jeremy Hill has stepped in and run for over 124 yards in back-to-back games. The Tigers are averaging 208 yards rushing per contest.

But if LSU can't get more production out of Zach Mettenberger and the passing game, it could be another long night for the Tiger offense.

It's hard to imagine LSU winning or even staying close with only 97 passing yards--like they had in their last outing against Texas A&M.

Third down conversions will be huge as well. They'll have to be much better than their abysmal 2-16 third-down performance two weeks ago.

Outside the numbers, LSU will have the intangibles working in their favor.

It's Saturday night in Tiger Stadium; enough said. LSU has won 22 straight in Death Valley--that includes a 24-21 victory the last time Alabama visited in 2010.

The Tigers will certainly have the revenge factor in their favor. If they're not motivated enough after the humiliating loss Alabama dealt them in the BCS Championship Game earlier this year, they'll never be.

It should also be a help that LSU had two weeks to prepare for the game. They got to rest up last week while Alabama had to play No. 11 Mississippi State.

However, none of those intangibles are going to matter if LSU doesn't do a few important things. Defensively, they'll have to contain the Alabama rushing attack and get pressure on McCarron.

And offensively, they'll have to run the ball well, make some plays in the passing game, convert third downs and not turn the ball over.

If the Tigers can pull the upset, they will thrust themselves right back into serious title contention and have the inside track at making it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.