Perhaps the most highly-anticipated position group matchup in this week’s SEC West tilt between Alabama Football and LSU is the Bama secondary vs the LSU receiving corps.
The Tigers feature two of the best wide receivers in all of college football, but will be challenged by an equally talented Crimson Tide secondary. Whoever wins this matchup could very well dictate the outcome of the game.
Malik Nabers is the top target for LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, and might just be the best receiver in the nation. Nabers has hauled in 56 passes for an FBS-leading 981 yards and nine touchdowns. With his average of seven receptions per game, he is clearly a high-volume player. Still, Nabers has been an explosive playmaker, generating well over 17 yards per catch.
Brian Thomas Jr. is less discussed, but might be the more dangerous weapon in this game. Thomas Jr.’s 42 receptions have gone for 732 yards (17.4 YPC), and his 11 touchdowns tie for the national lead. At 6’5”, he is a rangy athlete and a major deep threat. Additionally, he has had huge games against quality competition such as Florida State and Ole Miss.
In addition to Nabers and Thomas Jr., the Tigers have other quality options including tight end Mason Taylor and wide receiver Kyren Lacy, who averages nearly 20 yards per reception.
How does the Alabama Football secondary match up?
Alabama is loaded with talented defensive backs, and it starts with the corners. Junior Kool-Aid McKinstry and redshirt sophomore Terrion Arnold pose the toughest obstacle yet for the LSU receiver duo.
McKinstry has started for 2.5 years, and is poised to be a first-round NFL Draft pick at corner. Meanwhile, Arnold has been the best corner on the field for Bama this season. In addition to his coverage skills, Arnold’s size and physicality make him a force in run support.
When Arnold exited with concussion-like symptoms against Tennessee, Trey Amos stepped in and didn’t miss a beat, so Bama has cornerback depth at its disposal.
At star, Malachi Moore is the vocal leader of the Alabama secondary. Moore will probably spend a lot of time covering tight end Mason Taylor when he isn’t busy wreaking havoc in the LSU backfield. This will be a critical one-on-one matchup in third down and red zone situations.
Two new additions have proven to be revelations for the Crimson Tide at safety. Transfer Jaylen Key has been solid, and true freshman Caleb Downs has been one of the top safeties in the SEC. He leads the team with 63 tackles and two interceptions.
The safeties will play a big role in this game. Against Texas, they let talented receivers get behind them for explosive plays. The LSU receivers may be even more dangerous vertically. Downs and Key must stay over the top of Nabers and Thomas Jr. while also honoring their responsibilities in the running game.
Quarterback Jayden Daniels’ electric ability as a ball-carrier further complicates things. Playing safety against this offense will be a difficult job, but Alabama Football has two of the best in the business.
With both teams coming off their bye week, it will be fascinating to see the chess match unfold between these two elite units.