Alabama Football has put an emphasis on running the football in recent weeks.
After having to all but abandon the run game in a win over Texas A&M, Bama re-established the ground game in wins over Arkansas and Tennessee. In both games, it ran 42 times while attempting just 21 passes, maintaining a 2:1 run-to-pass ratio and effectively controlling both games.
This emphasis on the run could pay off in a major way as Alabama Football takes on LSU in a battle for first place in the SEC West. For one, LSU has struggled defending the run. The Tigers rank 12th in the SEC allowing 156.5 yards per game, and rank 13th giving up 4.7 yards per carry.
These numbers may be somewhat skewed by a 317-yard debacle against Ole Miss, but LSU has surrendered more than 3.5 yards per carry against every opponent it has faced, including Grambling State and Army.
Perhaps more importantly, Alabama Football could use an effective rushing attack as a form of damage control. LSU has the most prolific offense in college football, leading the nation in both total offense and scoring offense. The more the Alabama offense can keep Jayden Daniels and company off the field, the better.
Additionally, it will take pressure off Jalen Milroe if Bama can lean on the run game. While Milroe’s turnover “issue” has been greatly exaggerated (five interceptions, one lost fumble in 2023), running the football remains a categorically safer option.
Bama’s game against Tennessee was evidence of this; despite not making any egregious poor decisions, Milroe committed two turnovers trying to put the ball in the air. A strip sack and an interception off a deflected ball gave the Vols a 13-point first half advantage, which is a hole Alabama cannot afford to dig against the Bayou Bengals.
If Bama can run the ball consistently, something it hasn’t done much of this season, it can mitigate risk on both sides of the ball.
Senior Jase McClellan has been the bellcow back this season. He has racked up 569 yards and four rushing touchdowns while receiving at least 10 carries in every game. McClellan has gotten 43 carries in Bama’s two most recent games, by far the biggest workload over any two-game stretch in his career.
The Tide will lean heavily on McClellan against LSU, likely implementing a dose of Roydell Williams as well. Williams (339 yards, one touchdown), is a very physical alternative to McClellan. Together, this duo can wear defenses out in the second half of games. While the fan base would also like to see Jam Miller and Justice Haynes get some touches, it’s a tough proposition in such a big game.
How effective can Alabama Football be on the ground in this game? It may need a little more than its average of 147 yards per game. The LSU defense can be had, especially considering the absence of Mekhi Wingo and several other Tiger defenders.