The No.7 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1) and the No.4 LSU Tigers (7-0) have been the SEC’s best teams through the first two months of the 2015 college football season. The two conference powerhouses are set to meet in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night in matchup that has heavy College Football Playoff implications.
An early-season loss to Ole Miss probably means the Tide must win out the rest of their season to keep their national championship hopes alive. But Alabama has played as well as any undefeated school this season. Nick Saban’s squad has earned victories over three opponents that were ranked at the time of their matchups, including two teams in the top 10. Most recently, Alabama defeated Tennessee, 19-14, in their lone win by less than 13 points.
LSU has exceeded most expectations, thus far. Since starting the year with a two-point win over then-ranked No.25 Mississippi State, the Tigers have rolled to an undefeated start that earned them five first-place votes in the most recent AP Top 25 Poll. LSU’s best win came against Florida, who would be undefeated had it not been for their loss to the Tigers.
Even though Les Miles's squad has been even more impressive this year, oddsmakers still give the Crimson Tide the edge. Alabama is a six-point home favorite at Las Vegas sportsbooks, according to vegasinsider.com. The betting line reflects the recent matchups between the rivals, who have a history of tight contests. Eight of the last 11 meetings have been decided by less than 10 points, with Alabama winning six times.
The Crimson Tide beat the Tigers in overtime last season, 20-13, and the matchup needed more than four quarters to be decided in three of the last eight meetings. Six of the last nine games between Alabama and LSU have been decided by one possession. But Alabama has a four-game winning streak against LSU, winning by an average of 13.25 points.
If Alabama is able to beat LSU for a fifth straight season, it might be because they were the first team to contain Leonard Fournette. The running back has arguably been college football’s best offensive player, rushing for 1,352 yards and 15 touchdowns. The sophomore hasn’t rushed for fewer than 150 yards in any of the team’s seven games, and he’s averaging 189 yards per game against ranked opponents.
While slowing Fournette has proven to be a tough task, Alabama's defense appears to be up for the challenge. The Crimson Tide rank third in the nation, conceding just 78.5 rushing yards per game. They allow an average of 2.6 yards per carry, which is good for third in the country.
Fournette rushed for an impressive 1,034 yards on 5.5 yards per carry in 2014. But Alabama was able to slow him down in their meeting at Baton Rouge, holding him to 79 yards on 21 carries.
LSU's defense will also have a top running back to contend with. Alabama’s Derrick Henry ranks ninth in the nation with 1,044 rushing yards, and he only have one fewer rushing touchdown that Fournette. Henry has totaled 379 rushing yards in his last two games.
The Tigers rank sixth in the nation, allowing just 93.7 yards on the ground per game. Henry has been held to fewer than 100 rushing yards three times, though he’s made his way into the end zone at least once every game.
Alabama over LSU, 20-17