This Saturday, Nick Saban’s top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide roll into Baton Rouge to take on Ed Orgeron’s No. 15 LSU Tigers in Death Valley.
The Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 SEC) soar into the matchup looking to trample the hopes of a rejuvenated LSU squad, while the Tigers (5-2, 3-1) are eager to cement their return to prominence after a 2-2 start that resulted in the firing of Les Miles.
Alabama boasts strengths on every front, especially in the offensive and defensive backfields, but LSU’s running game is nothing to scoff at either.
True freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts leads the way for the Crimson Tide on offense, as his 1,578 passing yards and 521 rushing yards rank sixth and 18th in the SEC, respectively.
Hurts has provided more than stats. His catalytic style of play has launched Lane Kiffin’s offensive scheme to new heights. The Tigers’ quarterback, Danny Etling, isn’t nearly as impactful as Hurts, but should find comfort with the presence of Leonard Fournette in the backfield.
In his return to competition against Ole Miss, Fournette galloped for 284 yards and three touchdowns on just 16 touches, a program record for rushing yards in a single game.
Now, Fournette and LSU must face a ball-hawking Crimson Tide secondary led by Minkah Fitzpatrick, as well as studs in the front seven such as linebacker Reuben Foster and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen.
The Tigers also feature a fierce defense. Defensive end Arden Key is second in the conference in sacks, while Kendell Beckwith holds down the No. 3 ranking in tackles. Combined with Orgeron —long known to be a defensive guru— LSU’s defensive attack could prove to be the toughest Alabama has faced all season.
With a win, the Crimson Tide would remain undefeated and remain in the driver’s seat for the program’s 17th championship. By the same token, an upset for LSU could potentially remove the interim tag for Orgeron and grant him the opportunity to lead the charge in Baton Rouge. Furthermore, a victory would give the Tigers a chance to capture the SEC West.
When asked about the game, Orgeron —in his Cajun twang only he can manage— expressed optimism over his football team.
“We have some excellent football coaches on our staff and we have some excellent players, perhaps the best player in the country in Leonard Fournette,” Orgeron said. “We have great defensive players … I believe we match up with Alabama. We got to go play them.”
On the other hand, Saban views LSU as “an undefeated team,” which it is since Orgeron took over.
The Tigers boast a strong running game, but the Tide’s defense is too strong. Fournette will come out firing, but as the game wears on, he’ll be swallowed time and time again by Alabama’s athletic front seven. Hurts and wide receiver Calvin Ridley will establish a connection and overwhelm a talented LSU defense. In the end, offense puts the Tide on top, 35-21.
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Chris Parent