Alabama football has the best defensive mind in college football and what LSU must battle will be schemes the Tide has not shown this season.
LSU has prospered by NFL-style passing. For the first time in forever, the Bengal Tigers are using the pass to set up the run. Should Alabama football fans be worried its young and relatively inexperienced defense is vulnerable? The answer is no and the reason is Nick Saban.
The Alabama Crimson Tide is 8-0 while playing defensive schemes best described as ‘vanilla.’ A big reason for the simplified schemes has been starting two freshmen at inside linebacker. After LaBryan Ray’s injury as many as six true freshmen play in various first-unit sets.
It was necessary to give the youngsters time to learn Nick Saban’s complicated defensive schemes. Plus, the offenses the Crimson Tide has faced so far were not elite. The best scoring offense, based on current NCAA stats, is Texas A&M at No. 37 in the FBS. The next most prolific Crimson Tide opponent has been Duke at No. 63 in the FBS.
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LSU is at a different level. Joe Burrow can beat you through the air and Clyde Edwards-Helaire can beat you on the ground. Also, Burrow is not incapable of running for a key first down. What the Bengal Tigers do best is get the ball out of Burrow’s hand quickly. Such rapid-fire requires pre-snap reads. Nick Saban will counter that with a press defense on the LSU’s three wideouts. Take away the quick slants and timing routes and Burrow has to read after the snap.
Saban and Pete Golding will look to disguise some sets to confuse Burrow. What looks like a two-deep safety, may switch into a safety and a linebacker flooding passing lanes. Two things need to happen with the Tide’s defensive front. The front four must get consistent pressure. Without regular help from a safety, the Alabama football defensive line and linebackers must contain Edwards-Hellaire.
LSU will use straight forward counter plays, other misdirection and screens, trying to force the young Tide defense into mistakes. As well as the Auburn defense played in Baton Rouge, they were burned by LSU counters. Auburn DC, Kevin Steele frequently used a rare formation; a 3-1-7 and it was effective by keeping everything in front of them. With its offense, the Tigers could not afford to surrender explosive plays.
The Alabama football offense does not need to be protected by its defense. The Crimson Tide will score plenty, even with Tua at less than 100 percent. The Tide defense only needs to play competently. What Auburn accomplished with its superb defensive line was frequent QB pressure rushing only four. Pete Golding will seek the same result with four, three and occasionally five pass rushers. Calling a few blitzes may be mostly about the threat of doing it more often, being implanted in Joe Burrow’s brain.
Nick Saban will not need an exotic scheme to try to slow the Bengal Tigers. The Crimson Tide defensive backs are built for press coverage. LSU will not be able to consistently contain the pass rush of Terrell Lewis, Anfernee Jennings and Christian Barmore.
LSU will move the football and score points. The Alabama football offense will score more.