Following an Ole Miss loss to Auburn, No.5 Alabama is now back in control of their own destiny in their quest to reach the SEC Championship Game. The Crimson Tide are just outside of the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings, and a victory on Saturday would put them one step closer to playing for the national title.
With three games remaining against ranked opponents, Alabama begins the most difficult stretch of their schedule with a visit to the No.16 LSU Tigers. On the road, the Crimson Tide have been named 6.5-point favorites.
Despite laying nearly a touchdown at Tiger Stadium, Alabama faces a difficult task. LSU suffered two early losses in SEC play, but has gone on to win three straight. Their most recent victory came against Ole Miss, who handed Alabama their only defeat.
LSU was able to accomplish what Alabama couldn’t by allowing just seven points to the Rebels, making them the No.4 scoring defense in the country. The Tigers limited Bo Wallace to just 176 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. The quarterback threw for three scores against Alabama.
During their three-game winning streak, the Tigers haven’t allowed opposing quarterbacks to have much success. Since Oct. 11, LSU has held other teams’ starters to 605 yards, two scores, three interceptions and a 50 percent completion rate.
Blake Sims has played well for Alabama since their only loss, combining to throw and rush for nine touchdowns, while not being intercepted. However, the only time Sims faced a defense comparable to LSU’s, he had his worst passer rating of the season against Ole Miss and failed to throw for a touchdown.
LSU will have their hands full with Amari Cooper. The wide receiver might be the best offensive weapon in college football, posting at least 135 yards in six games.
While LSU’s key to winning might be shutting down Alabama’s passing game, the Crimson Tide will focus on the Tigers’ running attack. LSU relies heavily on the run, with a passing attack that ranks 101st in the nation. Starting quarterback Anthony Jennings has completed just 50 percent of his passes for an average of 132.2 yards per game.
The rushing attack led by Leonard Fournette, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard has come up big in SEC wins, averaging 254 yards on 4.9 yards per attempt. In two losses during conference play, the Tigers totaled 227 yards on 3.2 yards per carry.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, it’s nearly impossible for any team to run the ball well against Alabama’s No.2 ranked defense. They allow 78.1 rushing yards per game, and even in their loss to Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide surrendered just 76 rushing yards on 32 attempts.
Considering both teams have such strong defenses, the contest isn’t expected to feature a lot of points. Alabama has scored at least 33 points in six of eight games, and LSU is averaging 27 points per game during their winning streak, but the over/under is 45.5 total points.
Saturday marks the ninth time that Les Miles and Nick Saban will face off as coaches of their respective teams. Saban and Alabama have gotten the better of their rivals in three consecutive years, winning by an average of 15.3 points.
PREDICTION: Alabama over LSU, 20-10