Oh Yeah, LSU vs. Alabama

Posted Nov 8, 2013

Week 11 Fearless Predictions & Preview - LSU at Alabama

LSU (7-2) at Alabama (8-0) Nov. 9 8:00, CBS

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Didn't you used to be the biggest game of the college football season?

We could all very, very easily be talking right now about the two-time defending BCS champion LSU Tigers and how they're going to once again try to deny Nick Saban a shot to get his third national title, but a break from the BCS gods to end the 2011 season, and an epic drive from AJ McCarron last year, flipped the script in favor of the Tide.

These two programs have played some epic doozies over the last few seasons, with Alabama winning three of the last five after LSU controlled the series for a stretch, and while this time around might not have quite the same sort of luster, it's still just as important to the national title chase.

One of these two teams has represented the West in five of the last six SEC championships, six of the last eight and seven of the last ten, and during that time, only No. 5 LSU in 2007 was ranked lower than third, and that Tiger team ended up winning the national title.

This year, as long as Alabama doesn't gag away the Iron Bowl against Auburn, it has the West all but won. There's still a two-foot put to make at Mississippi State next week, but for all intents and purposes, a win this week and an Auburn loss to Tennessee or Georgia would put the Tide back into Atlanta. LSU needs to beat Bama and get a lot of help from Auburn to play for the SEC championship, but at the very least, by winning this week, an at-large BCS spot would be on the table.

It's been an odd and disappointing year for an LSU team with more than enough talent to have been more in the national title chase. Unlike Alabama, the Tigers actually had to play someone tough from the East, and it proved costly with a 44-41 shootout loss Georgia, before it completely fell apart from injuries, and it was too sleepy in the first half against Ole Miss and failed to come back in a tough loss. However, by beating Auburn 35-21 in the SEC opener, the Tigers, the LSU version, will take the West by winning out – dealing with Texas A&M next week and with Arkansas to follow – while getting an Auburn upset over Alabama.

The stakes are far higher for the Tide, who almost certainly can't get into the BCS championship at 12-1 without losses from three of the other four BCS unbeatens – Florida State, Oregon, Ohio State and Baylor. Style points don't matter for the Tide like they do for the Seminoles and Ducks. As long as Alabama and its two-time defending champion résumé wins out and takes the toughest conference in college football, it's in.

Why LSU Might Win: The talent, speed and athleticism are there. Few teams in America can match Alabama NFL prospect for NFL prospect, and while the Tigers might not be mature enough yet on the defensive side, and they might be a bit inconsistent offensively, they have the better pro prospect at quarterback (yes, they really do), the better pro running back prospect (yes, really, they do) and by far the better NFL receiving tandem.

Zach Mettenberger turned his career around in last season's classic loss to the Tide, Jeremy Hill is running as well as any back in America, and the 1-2 receiving punch of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham have made gigantic strides in the last year. When and if it's fully focused – and it will be for a game like this – LSU has the ability to hit a relatively untested Alabama defense in a variety of ways. The Tide defensive stats have been great since the Texas A&M shootout, but they're a bit misleading considering Ole Miss is the lone offense with a pulse among the last five wins. However …

Why Alabama Might Win: The Tide offensive line could dominate the Tiger defensive front. There's NFL talent up front for LSU, but it's not always playing like it. Teams with running quarterbacks have put up nice numbers on the ground against the Tigers, and while that's not Alabama, a speedy back like T.J. Yeldon can fit the same mold, in a way. Auburn ran well, Georgia rumbled without a problem, and Mississippi State averaged six yards per crack. It might take a quarter or two, but once the Tide offensive front gets into a lather, it should be able to control the game. Considering LSU is lousy when it comes to time of possession, and Alabama keeps the ball over 33 minutes a game, the Tiger D should wear down as the game goes on.

Who To Watch Out For: Last year at this exact time, it was Collin Klein's Heisman to lose. One blowout loss to Baylor later, and that went bye-bye. This year, Jameis Winston could certainly stumble if Florida State struggles against the Florida defense, Oregon's Marcus Mariota has several nasty games to deal with, and Johnny Manziel won't win it a second time in a row. The Heisman door isn't open, but there's a chance the winning quarterback in this game – if he's impressive – could end up on enough ballots to end up in New York.

Zach Mettenberger has had problems with interceptions over the last few weeks, giving up three to Ole Miss and two to Furman, but he was fantastic in the loss to Georgia and has had a good all-around year. Nothing else matters, though, until now – one big game with a win over Alabama, and the dynamic changes. Last year, he completed 24-of-35 passes for 298 yards and a score against a brick wall of a Tide D. He deserved the win, but AJ McCarron had other ideas.

Always more of a caretaker and game manager, McCarron was terrific, but in several ways he was along for the ride. Who couldn't succeed behind that line and with that defense? Against LSU last year, with the team down 17-14, he marched the team in the final seconds to the game-winning drive, he cried, and then Alabama went on to lose to Texas A&M. Of course, it didn't matter, and the Tide went on to roll to the national championship, and now he has become even more of a factor. Steady more than spectacular, he doesn't throw picks – with just three on the year – and he's not making mistakes. Yes, he really is a game manager, but in this case it's a complement.

What Will Happen: This is where the Tide flexes its muscle. The LSU offense will come up with a strong, sharp gameplan, but the running game won't work for a full sixty minutes and Mettenberger will make just enough big mistakes to prove costly. The difference will be McCarron, who'll have a huge game against the Tiger secondary as Alabama takes control in the second half and further solidifies itself as the No. 1 team in America.

Prediction: Alabama 27 … LSU 17
Line: Alabama -12.5 o/u: 55
Must See Rating: (5 The Wolf of Wall Street – 1 Ass Backwards) … 5
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