Previewing Alabama Football regular season games: LSU

Mandatory Credit: LSU Athletics/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network
Mandatory Credit: LSU Athletics/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network /

Alabama Football will have another big challenge in November – or will it? What will LSU be when it comes to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 6. As always both teams will have a bye week to recover and prepare.

Most college football pundits expect the Bengal Tigers to be much improved over last season. That is not a high bar. Neither coordinator delivered for LSU last season and the result was a 5-5 collapse. Ed Orgeron uses three coordinators; offensive, defensive and the passing game. None of the 2021 trio of Jake Peetz (OC), D.J. Mangus (Passing) and Daronte Jones (DC) were at LSU last season. On a Nick Saban staff, such turnover is rarely a problem. Ed Orgeron is no Nick Saban.

LSU has talent – plenty of it. The talent level dropped in 2020, but not enough to justify losing half of their games. The all-SEC schedule last season provided more challenge than the 2019 regular season, but that doesn’t excuse going from 568.4 yards per game to 433.9 yards. The LSU rushing attack was a major weakness last season.

On top of the offense being less productive, the defense was also weaker. The normally salty LSU defense finished No. 31 in the FBS. Part of the problem was scheme and while Bo Pelini was both guilty and a fall-guy, Orgeron cannot escape blame. One of LSU’s  2020, embarrassing defensive performances was against Mississippi State. Five times in 2020, the Bulldogs scored 14 or fewer points. Mike Leach’s offense rang up 44 points on LSU.

The LSU defense should be improved for two reasons. One is the addition by transfer of Mike Jones from Clemson and JUCO, Navonteque Strong, will strengthen the linebacker group. The other is LSU probably has the best pair of cornerbacks in the SEC is Derek Stingley Jr. and Eli Ricks. The defensive line has more than enough talent to be disruptive. The safety position is the only serious question mark for LSU’s defense.

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Before quarterback Myles Brennan was lost for the season, offensive improvement looked probable. Max Johnson is solid and may be able to trigger improvement, but does not fit the mold of a game-changer. Losing offensive lineman, Dare Rosenthal to transfer was a big blow, but considerable O-line experience returns. The defection of Arik Gilbert to Georgia took a big playmaker away from Max Johnson. With T.J. Finley moving to Auburn, there is no experienced backup at QB should Johnson get injured. Besides Johnson, the only other healthy, scholarship QB is Garrett Nussmeier. The freshman may become an outstanding college player, but there is no guarantee he is SEC-ready.

Position Groups – Alabama Football vs LSU

  • QuarterbackAdvantage Alabama
  • Running BackDecided advantage Alabama (especially with a healthy Trey Sanders)
  • Wide Receivers and Tight Ends – Kayshon Boutte is tremendous, but LSU lacks the Crimson Tide’s talent and depth at wide receiver and no one equal to Jahleel Billingsley (and possibly Cameron Latu) at tight end – Advantage Alabama
  • Offensive Line – LSU does not have an Evan Neal and not an Emil Ekiyor either – Advantage Alabama
  • Defensive Line – LSU has some strength and will cause most teams problems – Slight advantage Alabama
  • LinebackerBig advantage Alabama
  • Secondary – Even with Stingley and Ricks, by midseason, the Tide secondary should be better. Until then, giving LSU the benefit of some doubt – Even
  • Special TeamsAdvantage Alabama

In a way-too-early guess at the November spread, Alabama Football should be a double-digit favorite.

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How will the Bengal Tigers do in the regular season? Bucking the trend in picks, I don’t see LSU as strong enough to win more than nine games and eight wins would not be a shock.