Alabama Crimson Tide vs. LSU Tigers: Keys To Victory


Saturday night the Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1) heads down to Baton Rouge, LA to meet the LSU Tigers (7-2) with big SEC and playoff ramifications on the line.

With three top 20 teams – two of those in the top 3 – left on the schedule, Alabama controls their own destiny. Fans looking to panic after Alabama was ranked just sixth in the first Playoff Poll need not worry. If Alabama wins they are in, regardless of anything else.

What will Alabama have to do to leave Death Valley with a win?

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

This Alabama team may very well be the most all-around talented team in the country, but has been a “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” type of team. They’ve looked like world beaters against Texas A&M and Florida, while making head-scratching mistakes against Ole Miss and Arkansas.

Alabama has to stay focused and be consistent in this game, stay away from the mistakes, and be efficient in all phases. Mistakes could be absolute game killers, not just drive killers, against an emerging team like LSU.

Establish The Run

LSU allowed 268 yards against Wisconsin, 302 yards to Mississippi State, and 298 yards to Auburn on the ground. The most physical teams have given LSU the biggest problems, and a running quarterback has added to it.

Dak Prescott ran for 105 yards and a score, while Auburn’s Nick Marshall had 119 yards and two TDs rushing. Both teams also had running backs go well over 100 yards.

TJ Yeldon is coming off of a sore knee, so things may rest on sophomore Derrick Henry’s massive shoulders in the ground game for the majority of the time. Henry is big and physical and his running style could be the perfect fit to ground and pound LSU.

Blake Sims will have a chance to take the pressure off of Henry and Yeldon with his feet and his arm. Over the last few games Alabama has utilized the read option with Sims much more, and it has led to long scoring runs against both Texas A&M and Tennessee.

The biggest factor in the running game for Alabama will likely be the offensive line. Alabama’s best lineman Cameron Robinson suffered a high ankle sprain against Tennessee and it is questionable whether he will play or not. Senior Austin Shepherd has moved from his usual right tackle spot to left tackle the last two weeks in practice, though Robinson has been practicing this week. Shepherd has never played left tackle at any level of football. Ryan Kelly is just coming off of a knee injury himself at center, so the line is banged up and it will be hard to find the chemistry it will need against LSU with so much shuffling going on. The Tide line will need to get on the same page to set up the offense the way it needs to be.

Stuff The Run

The bread and butter of the LSU offense is its running game. The Tigers run the ball over 60 percent of the time, and all-world freshman Leonard Fournette is an absolute beast at running back. The massive youngster has come into his own in recent weeks and leads the Tigers with 657 yards and seven TDs on the ground. Terrence Magee (418 yards, 3 TD) and Kenny Hilliard (416 yards, 6 TD) are also dangerous weapons on the ground.

Alabama has one of the best run defenses in the country and typically plays best against more traditional rush attacks like LSU’s. Alabama’s defensive line, which should be at 100 percent for the first time in a few weeks with Denzell Devall returning to the field, must be physical with the LSU offensive line and hold that ground game in check. Stopping LSU’s rush attack limits their ability to use the play action pass game, which much like Arkansas is the majority of their passing attack. Stopping the run and getting LSU in long third down situations will give the defense a chance to pin their ears back and get after LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings, who has been sacked 13 times and is prone to making mistakes.

Another Receiver Must Step Up

LSU’s pass defense is smothering and will certainly look to the way Arkansas played Amari Cooper to draw up the gameplan to take the All American out of the game. LSU can’t just double- or triple-team Cooper if another player stands up and makes an impact in the passing game. Whether it be OJ Howard, DeAndrew White, Chris Black, Christion Jones, or freshman Cam Sims, someone must step up and take the pressure off of Cooper.

It will also be intriguing to see what type of formations and plays Lane Kiffin throws at LSU. In recent weeks Yeldon has been lining up outside at receiver, much like Kenyan Drake did before his injury, with a pretty big difference. Drake would typically run go routes when matched up with a linebacker to take advantage of his speed. Yeldon, though, has been mainly running slant routes if matched up with a safety to utilize his size and power.

This game is without question a massive game not just for both of this teams but in the playoff landscape in college football. It is in all purposes an elimination game. Alabama plays LSU at 7:00 PM (central) on ESPN Saturday night.