By Edwin Stanton
The question of Tua Tagovailoa’s health gives the Tigers the edge here. Joe Burrow, the SEC’s leading passer (2805 yards, 30 TD), is having a phenomenal season and deserves the high praise he has received.
Trevon Diggs and the Crimson Tide rank second in the SEC in pass defense while the Tigers are second in run defense. Both are pretty solid all around and not much separates these two.
Alabama’s punting effort has improved but is still last in the SEC. LSU has missed just two field goals in 13 attempts this season. Alabama’s big weapon has been Jaylen Waddle, who is second the league in punt return average.
Ed Orgeron deserves a lot of credit for turning LSU into one of the nation’s most powerful offenses. Alabama is one of the top offenses in the country thanks to offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian utilizing the Tide’s arsenal of talent.
There is a lot of distractions (President Trump’s visit) and discussion about this No. 2 vs. No. 3 matchup. Alabama is in its comfort zone at home and has been even keel all week. Alabama has been on the big stage before and rarely disappoints.
LSU 35, Alabama 28
The Tigers won the previous Game of the Century in 2011, also played in Tuscaloosa. LSU has come so close before and not been able to knock off the Tide, but this is the best chance it has to end an eight-game losing streak.
For this game both teams feature a top 5 scoring offense and a Heisman candidate quarterback. It will all depend on Tua Tagovailoa’s status, if he plays and is his usual self, the Tide should roll. If he doesn’t, they’ll be singing “Neck” on University Boulevard.
Tua’s ankle is fine, but Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings are better. They force LSU to be the first offense to blink in this (relative) shootout, and if there is any worse position to be in than forced to play catch-up with Alabama’s offense, I’d like to see it.
There actually is a game being played Saturday even if it has been relegated to secondary status by celebrity-watching. By the point in the second quarter when fans settle in their seats, things should be getting exciting. History favors Alabama.
Game of the Century II will be nothing short of a classic. This will be a contest decided by whoever has the ball last. Tua Tagovailoa comes back from an ankle injury to lift the Crimson Tide to victory and, just maybe, has his Heisman moment.
Tua Tagovailoa is reportedly close to full health, which could set up a shootout with both national championship and Heisman Trophy implications. Both offenses will hit on several big plays and the game will go down in Alabama-LSU lore despite being vastly different from previous matchups between the two
I don’t think Tua Tagovailoa will play the entire game and that’s a problem for the Alabama offense. LSU is ranked fourth in offensive production and I expect more of the same from Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson.
So between three polls (Coaches, AP, CFP), Alabama is ranked first, second or third. The ranking won’t matter since this is Alabama’s first opportunity to really make a statement against a high-caliber opponent. A healthy Tua Tagovailoa is needed to keep up with the firepower LSU brings to the table this year.
This will be unlike any Alabama/LSU game we’ve seen in recent memory. Obviously a lot depends on the health of Tua Tagovailoa, but it appears he will be ready to go. This is the biggest home game for Alabama in years, and the home field advantage will help push the Tide over the Tigers.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
By Carey Reeder
Position: Wide receiver
Key Stat: Ranked second among Alabama receivers with 682 yards and eight touchdowns and leads in catches with 52
Buzz: Jeudy will have to catch fire down the stretch of the season to match his 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns from a year ago, but what better time to have a huge game than this one. The junior has been somewhat overshadowed in certain games by teammates Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith. Jeudy could be due for a big day on Saturday.
Position: Defensive back
Key Stat: Leads the Crimson Tide with 56 tackles
Buzz: Arguably the most important player on the defense, McKinney has been a leader for a relatively young Alabama squad all season. McKinney is on pace to surpass his total of 74 tackles last season and has been a nuisance in coverage. In order to slow down the fourth-ranked offense in county, McKinney will have to be in top form.
Key Stat: Three interceptions this season, including an 84-yard return for a touchdown against Arkansas
Buzz: One of the lone seniors on the defense and another defensive back on this list, Diggs is having his best year in his fourth season at UA with 22 tackles and three interceptions, both career highs. Diggs is tasked with holding Heisman hopeful quarterback Joe Burrow in check and not allowing deep passes down the field that LSU thrives on.
Position: Wide Receiver
Key Stat: 819 yards and nine touchdowns this season, career highs
Buzz: The LSU receiver and Alabama defensive back matchups intrigue me a lot in this game. Jefferson, the third Jefferson brother to play at LSU along with Jordan and Rickey, is the most explosive receiver in a lethal corps for the Tigers. You don’t become the fourth-ranked offense in the country by four-yard runs. Expect LSU to continue to air the ball out.
Position: Wide Receiver
Key Stat: 749 yards and nine touchdowns this season
Buzz: The fastest receiver in the corps for LSU, Chase has blown his numbers from freshman year (313 yards and three touchdowns) out of the water. Along with Jefferson and Terrance Marshall Jr., LSU’s receivers have relished in the great play of Burrow and capitalized on the opportunity. This LSU offense is worth the talk and hype and will cause the Alabama defense problems down the field.
Key Stat: 27 tackles and two sacks through eight games following his redshirt year last season
Buzz: Chaisson has come on strong in his first season after suffering a season-ending injury last season in the opener against Miami. Chaisson’s work load and assignments will be altered this week after the release of Michael Divinity from the program. If Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa healthy and playing, it’s a different type of offense from what LSU has seen this season and the adjustments in the first quarter will be crucial.
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