The Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0) are the top ranked team in the country and they have absolutely destroyed every opponent they have faced thanks to the top ranked defense in the land. However, they may be in for a rude awakening vs. LSU (7-1) in Baton Rouge Saturday night, where the Tigers have won 23 straight games and have lost just once since 2009.
And yet Alabama is favored by 9½ points while playing in Death Valley at night, when LSU is doubly tough. Its enormous home field advantage aside, here are three football reasons why LSU will shock the world.
1. Convert on short fields created by the defense: While a lot of the talk surrounding this game has centered around an Alabama defense allowing only 8.1 points per game, LSU is ranked third in total defense while allowing 2.7 yards per rush and 4.7 yards per pass, with that latter figure being better than the 5.2 yards per pass attempt that Alabama is surrendering. The Tigers must feed off of the energy of the frenzied home crowd and use that defense to win the field position battle, and then capitalize on those short fields.
Obviously touchdowns would be ideal, but even kicking filed goals would be a positive, provided that the Tigers maintain the field position edge following the subsequent kick-off, thus playing much of this game in Alabama territory.
2. Mettenberger must complete some passes: While we freely admit that quarterback Zach Mettenberger has been a disappointment so far, he is still a better passer than any of the quarterbacks LSU had last season, and it may behoove Coach Les Miles to open up the offense a bit as that might take the Tide a bit by surprise. That means throwing more on first and second down and not waiting until obvious third down passing situations to throw the ball as the Tigers have done many times this season; that is a key reason why Mettenberger is completing only 56.6 percent of his passes.
Now we are not calling for a monster game from Mettenberger by any means, but he must complete enough passes early to force Alabama to have to respect the pass, and that would set up LSU to do what is does best offensively later, with that being running the football. Conversely, the Tigers would be in serious trouble if Mettenberger is ineffective and the fantastic Alabama run defense can concentrate solely on stopping the run.
3. LSU wins the turnover battle: Winning the turnover battle is obviously big for either team, but it is more so for an LSU squad that needs to play a near flawless game to spring the monumental upset. We fully get that Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron has yet to throw an interception this season, but he has yet to face a pass defense as good as LSU’s either, and aside from ranking fourth in the country in pass defense (148.5 yards per game) and first in defensive passing average (4.7 yards per attempt), the Tigers also rank eighth in interceptions with 13.