Way back in November, I took a stab at what Alabama would need to do to beat LSU. As we inch closer to game time (hey, we’re less than a week away now), I thought it would be interesting to look back at this analysis to see how accurate it was, plus to see what has changed. Let’s take a look…
** Don’t turn the ball over.
Yes, it’s a cliche, but in this case it’s very true. LSU is +15 in turnovers – 18 takeaways and three turnovers – and they make sure to make you pay if you give the ball up. Just ask the Oregon Ducks. Alabama doesn’t just need to win the turnover battle, they need to avoid their own turnovers altogether and take a couple from the Tigers.
This is still a cliche and still very true. LSU is now +22 in turnover margin and the Tigers still seem to create turnovers at the opportune times to stun their opponents. Bama suffered two turnovers in the first game and each proved very costly. Eric Reid’s interception on the goal line likely saved the game for the Tigers and AJ McCarron’s near pick six allowed LSU to kick a field goal and those points also cost the Tide the game.
** Don’t allow the “big” play.
The Tide’s defensive statistics are stellar and all, but that didn’t stop Florida and Ole Miss from hitting big plays their first drives. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the Tigers take a deep shot on their first drive. They’ll also take a few more tries. Simply put, if the Tide can keep LSU from converting on these big throws, it’ll make the game much harder for the Tigers.
Defensively, Alabama didn’t allow any big plays against the Tigers. Alabama’s defensive backs bracketed Reuben Randle and took away the Tigers’ deep threats, so expect Les Miles to insert a wrinkle or two to try to pull off a big play this time around.
** Get the LSU offense off the field.
Take a look at the second half of the LSU – Tennessee game. Each team had three possessions. LSU scored three touchdowns and sustained drives and the Vols got zilch. Game over. Obviously the Tide defense is much better than the Vols’ version, but getting the LSU O off the field is a big deal nonetheless.
Ditto for the rematch. The Tigers may try to create some big plays, but their bread and butter is running the football and getting them off the field is a big deal. The Bama defense did a very good job of this back in November and the Tide actually won the time of possession battle by 12 seconds. We need more of the same next week.
** Create some doubt.
Neither team has been severely tested this year and to each team’s credit, they’ve disposed of all comers. The Tide has had a wee bit of adversity after finding themselves behind versus Penn State, Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee. LSU hasn’t played from behind for very long this season. So what happens if the Tide somehow forces a couple of three-and-outs or perhaps lights Jarrett Lee up a couple of times? Or what happens is somehow the Tide manages to stay within a touchdown or two heading into the fourth quarter? Will the psychology of a quarterback battle show its head perhaps? Or perhaps we’ll see a little of LSU’s clock management strategy. Who knows? But I am interested to see how LSU reacts under a little pressure.
After LSU handled the Tide in Tuscaloosa and after seeing the Tigers come back from their deficit against Georgia, I’m not sure this is a viable option any longer.
** Hand AJ the ball and let’s see what he can do.
Most Alabama fans are concerned about how AJ McCarron will fare versus the LSU defense. Specifically, we worry that he’ll become a turnover machine. Maybe so. Maybe so. But you can bet LSU is game planning to stop Trent Richardson and force AJ to win the game. I say that if Oregon can pass for 24o and if West Virginia can go for 463, we ought to be able to throw for a few as well. If AJ can pass the ball for 200+, without turning the ball over, and take some pressure off the running game and Trent, I like our chances.
This was pretty much the strategy employed by Nick Saban and Jim McElwain back in November, maybe to a fault. AJ played pretty decently – 16 for 28 for 199 yards with one interception, but “pretty decently” won’t cut it next week.
I have to wonder if Saban and McElwain will try the same thing again. The Tide did move the ball effectively between the 30s, but never really got the running game going. I’m guessing we’ll see a little more Trent Richardson this go round, but don’t expect Saban to put AJ on the shelf. If we’re going to win this game, he’ll have to play a major part.