Alabama football faces LSU for primetime matchup

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Sports Editor

After a bye last Saturday, the Crimson Tide returns to action on Nov. 6. Alabama football will host the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium in the second of four straight home games for the Crimson Tide. 

These two teams couldn’t be any more different heading into Saturday’s matchup. Alabama has met almost every expectation this season. The Tigers have stumbled. 

Fans and analysts were optimistic that LSU would return to their 2019 form and challenge Alabama for the SEC West. Led by players like cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, LSU looked primed and ready for another run. 

Then everything came crashing down. 

“It’s just been an onslaught. Everything that could’ve gone wrong at the start of this season really did,” Jared Brodtmann, said a reporter for The Reveille.  

Before the season began, then-projected starting quarterback Myles Brennan broke his arm a week before preseason practices started. Max Johnson was now the starting quarterback for the Tigers. 

Hopes were still high as LSU played their first game of the season against the UCLA Bruins. The Bruins had just defeated the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors 44-10. Still, few thought UCLA would challenge a top SEC school. 

The Bruins defeated LSU 38-27 at the Rose Bowl Stadium on Sept. 4. The key to UCLA’s victory will be the path Alabama needs to take. 

Alabama will need to have plenty of big plays in the air and on the ground. 

UCLA head coach Chip Kelly implemented the play-action pass to extreme success against LSU. It helped the Bruins get several big plays down the field — like a 75-yard pass from UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson to tight end Greg Dulcich to tie the game in the second quarter. 

Later in the third quarter, Thompson-Robinson connected with wide receiver Kyle Philips for a 45-yard touchdown pass. 

The Tigers have been vulnerable to big plays all season and losing their two starting corners didn’t help. 

Alabama head coach Nick Saban said the Crimson Tide still needs to improve on big yardage plays. 

“We’ve made a lot of explosive plays this year, but not all of them have been deep balls,” Saban said. “I think we’ve got to take what the defense gives. But I do think that’s one of the things that we have improved on, is our ability to throw the deep ball. But I think it’s a work in progress that we need to continue to work on.” 

If there was a team to test the deep ball against, it would be LSU. 

LSU’s opponents have averaged 11.3 yards per catch this season — just 1.2 yards below LSU’s average of 12.5. Alabama has averaged 9.4 yards per attempt this season, and quarterback Bryce Young is ranked No. 5 nationally in passing efficiency. 

The highest-ranked quarterback in passing efficiency the Tigers have faced so far is Central Michigan quarterback Daniel Richardson, who is ranked No. 41. 

Alabama had 17 big plays against Tennessee: 10 passing plays of 15 yards or more and seven rushing plays of 10 yards or more. The Crimson Tide is ranked No. 17 in passing plays of 20 or more yards. 

The rushing attack for both teams is just as important as their passing attacks.

LSU’s opponents have rushed for 1,328 yards on 304 attempts this season. Opponents have 12 rushing touchdowns. 

Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. has 11 rushing touchdowns himself this season. 

LSU will need to get their rushing attack going early. The Tigers will try to get their backs in space and make the Alabama defense come up with the tackles. 

“A lot of the running plays LSU has had success on have been those outside zones and toss plays to the outside,” Brodtmann said. “Those have been the ones where they are getting into space.” 

The rushing attack for the Tigers has improved drastically since a 48-yard rushing performance against UCLA. 

Despite running back John Emery Jr. being ruled academically ineligible to play this season, LSU has had two freshmen step up. 

“The good news is that the emergence of two freshmen, Armoni Goodwin and Corey Kiner, ended up supplementing the absence of Emery,” Brodtmann said.

Goodwin and Kiner have been the shifty, pass-catching running backs needed to compliment running back Ty Davis-Price. It’s no secret that Alabama has struggled with open field tackling this season. Alabama will have to make some critical plays in space to keep the Tigers at bay. 

In what has been touted as yet another physical matchup for both teams, Alabama and LSU continue their seasons on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN at 6 p.m. CT. 

Questions? Email the Sports desk at [email protected].