LSU and Alabama set for another top-10 showdown

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Both LSU and Alabama are ranked in the top six in stopping the run. Photo by LSUsports.net.

It's the first week of November, and for college football, that means one thing: it's time for a top-10 clash between LSU and Alabama.

The rivalry has become arguably the best in the country. It has become such a must-see event that CBS has penciled it in for their only night game of the season for the fifth year in a row.

LSU is looking for things to turn around for them. Ever since pulling out the 9-6 overtime victory over Alabama in 2011, they haven't been able to beat the Tide.

Just two months later, they were blanked, 21-0, in the national title game, and ever since, the Tigers have lost three straight regular-season meetings--two of which have come in gut-wrenching fashion.

Last year's meeting saw LSU leading fifth-ranked Alabama 13-10 in Tiger Stadium with just 50 seconds remaining.

However, a squib kick out of bounds put the Tide at their own 35-yard line. It allowed them to quickly push the ball 55 yards downfield for a tying field goal.

Alabama eventually won in overtime, 20-13.

This time around, LSU comes into the game as the higher-ranked team, but the Tide is still the favorite playing in Tuscaloosa. The last time the Tide hosted the game, they rolled to a 38-17 victory.

That Alabama team featured a high-powered offense that featured AJ McCarron, Amari Cooper and T.J. Yeldon.

This Tide attack has struggled in spots this year with questions at quarterback and a talented but young receiving corps.

Alabama played musical chairs with their QBs until finally settling on Jake Coker.

Coker struggled in the beginning of the year, but has played better down the stretch. He is completing 64 percent of his passes, and he has thrown 11 touchdowns to seven interceptions.

True freshman Clavin Ridley has emerged as the Tide's most dangerous receiver with 45 catches for 525 yards and three scores.

However, if the Tigers want to stop Alabama's offense, it will begin and end with Derrick Henry.

The 6-foot-3, 242-pound wrecking ball has established himself as one of the best running backs in the country and a Heisman candidate--rushing for 1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Henry has rushed for at least 143 yards in three of his last four outings. This includes a 236-yard day against Texas A&M.

LSU's greatest strength on defense has been their ability to stop the run. They rank sixth in that category--only yielding 94 yards per game, and they haven't allowed a player to exceed 66 yards rushing all season.

The Tigers are hoping to get back injured defensive tackle Christian LaCouture for the matchup. If he can't go, it will be a big blow to LSU's defense.

The Tigers are still looking for a complete game from their secondary--a unit many projected as the nation's best group before the season began.

They're ranked just 64th at this point in the season.

There have been six coverage busts in the past five games. Five of those have resulted in touchdowns.

Top cornerback Tre'Davious White missed most of the victory over Western Kentucky with a knee injury. He's expected to be back for this Saturday's matchup.

Safety Jalen Mills should see much more action after playing sparingly the past two games.

The matchup everyone is waiting to see is Leonard Fournette vs. the Alabama defense.

LSU's rushing attack ranks fourth in the nation, and Fournette has rushed for 1,352 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Alabama's front seven is arguably the best unit in the country, and they rank third in stopping the run, giving up a miniscule 79 yards per contest.

Maybe Brandon Harris and the improving Tiger passing attack will be their best chance to get Fournette going.

After a very slow start, the passing game has really opened up for LSU.

Harris has thrown for over 200 yards in three straight games--including a 286-yard effort against Western Kentucky. His completion percentage has been at least 64 percent in two of those three outings.

Overall, Harris has not thrown an interception in 128 pass attempts this season. He has nine touchdowns and zero picks.

Much of his success has been aided in the improved play of receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre.

In the past three games, Dupre has 275 yards receiving and four scores, while Dural has 306 yards and two touchdowns.

With Alabama's run defense being so dominant, this could be the key for victory for LSU. The Tide is ranked 38th against the pass.