LSU-Bama Preview: Life Without Julio
Bama WR Marquis Maze
Bama WR Marquis Maze
Posted Nov 1, 2011

In 2010, Alabama rolled out Julio Jones, and defenses quaked (most of the them, anyway). This season, with a new quarterback and a team built far more to run, Bama's passing attack has taken a step back. At this point last season, the Crimson Tide was ranked fifth in the nation in pass efficiency; today they're 41st. CFN's Joshua Jovanelly takes a closer look at life without Julio.

By Joshua Jovanelly

Any time you lose a receiver as special as Julio Jones there is going to be some fallout. Jones had a phenomenal career with the Crimson Tide, especially his third and final season where he caught 78 passes for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns. Defenses had to gameplan specifically against him or else he made sure they paid for it.

Of course, Jones is now an Atlanta Falcon and ‘Bama has had to adjust accordingly. The Crimson Tide ranks roughly in the middle of the NCAA in terms of passing offense (at No. 63), with just more than 228 yards per game through the air. At this time last year, the Crimson Tide had the 37th best passing offense.

In 2010, ‘Bama's offense ranked fifth in passing efficiency while this year it has sunk to 41st. A Julio-less 2011 Alabama team knows it can't chuck it downfield all the time. Now Nick Saban's team is a playing to its strengths and has owned a new identity: one of a power running team.

So far, being more one-dimensional has not translated to less success. The No. 2 Tide is unbeaten through eight games this season heading into the showdown with top-ranked LSU. They own the 14th best rushing offense in the nation, putting up more than 229 yards per contest. Quarterback AJ McCarron is perfectly content handing the ball off to Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy and Jalston Fowler. But will life without Julio finally catch up to Alabama in this game?

While ‘Bama would obviously be better if Jones still lined up at receiver, his absence will not decide the outcome of this game. Like any great SEC battle, this match-up-of-the-century will be a defensive game decided in the trenches. LSU owns a staunch defense against both the run and the pass. The Tigers give up only 76.6 yards per game on the ground and 174.7 yards passing, giving them the fourth-best total defense.

Julio Jones would not change that much. Remember, last season Jones caught 10 passes for 89 yards against LSU and ‘Bama still fell short, 24-21.

McCarron may not have Jones, but he still has options. Senior Marquis Maze has established himself as McCarron's go-to target, with 39 catches for 482 yards. Beyond Maze, Darius Hanks and Brad Smelley are reliable, if not spectacular. Let's not forget that in 2009, when the Tide last won the national title, their pass offense was even worse than this season (84th in passing yards and 55th in efficiency).

Alabama knows what it does well and that's run the ball. LSU happens to be pretty good at stopping the ground attack. This is where the game will be decided and something has got to give. Regardless of life without Jones, the Crimson Tide will win if they run the ball like they have all season.

Follow Josh on Twitter @jjovanelly

LSU-Bama Preview: Who is QB AJ McCarron?
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tiger Offense
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tide Offense
LSU-Bama Preview: Bama's "New" Stadium
Point/Counterpoint: McCarron v. Mathieu et al
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tiger Defense
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tide Defense
LSU-Bama Preview: Famous Two QB Programs
Point/Counterpoint: LSU's QBs v. Bama's D