3 things to know as No. 1-ranked Alabama football travels to meet LSU, avenge 2019 loss

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Three weeks later than anticipated, the Alabama Crimson Tide is making its trip to Baton Rouge to avenge its loss from the 2019 season.

Here are three things to know going into Alabama’s game against LSU:

DeVonta Smith approaching more history

Alabama’s star wide receiver, already in possession of the SEC record for career receiving touchdowns, is on the verge of making his name even more prominent in the record books. 

He is four receptions short of tying DJ Hall for third in school history for career receptions and six from tying Julio Jones for third in UA history in single-season receptions. Because Smith is averaging nine receptions, both marks are well within his reach.

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He is also four scores short of tying the school single-season record for receiving touchdowns and breaking into the top 20 in NCAA history for career receiving touchdowns.

Smith is unlikely to break the record against the Tigers, but how he performs in Baton Rouge will go a long way to determine when and if he will break the UA record for career receiving yards. He is 280 behind Amari Cooper in that respect.

LSU missing pass catchers

Of last year’s five leading receivers only two returned to LSU, and both have since opted out. Ja’Marr Chase opted out before the season and Terrace Marshall Jr. opted out last weekend — after playing in LSU’s first seven games and being by far its most productive player, racking up 18 more catches than any other Tiger, 392 more yards and eight more touchdowns. He is responsible for 10 of LSU’s 17 receiving touchdowns.

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With senior receiver Racey McMath injured and doubtful to play against Alabama, LSU’s top three available receivers will all be underclassmen with fewer than 350 receiving yards on the year: freshman tight end Arik Gilbert (339), sophomore receiver Jerry Jenkins (321) and freshman Kayshon Bouttee (208). Of the other 13 SEC schools, eight have at least two receivers with more than 350 yards.

The personnel drain at receiver comes as the Tigers face a UA defense that ranks tied for first in the SEC in yards per attempt allowed and first in completion percentage allowed. The Crimson Tide has not allowed more than 275 passing yards in any of its last five games, and in three of those five, it allowed fewer than 175. In those five games, it has eight interceptions to four touchdown passes allowed.

Pass rushers galore

This game will feature three of the 14 SEC players with at least four sacks: Christopher Allen from Alabama and a pair of Tigers, BJ Ojulari and Andre Anthony.

Alabama has allowed 13 sacks, ranking tied for third in the SEC, and the 1.63 sacks allowed per game ranks just outside of the top 30 nationally.

LSU allowed two sacks and nine quarterback hurries in last week’s loss to Texas A&M. LSU coach Ed Orgeron was critical of the pass protection, placing the passing game troubles more on the shoulders of the offensive line than the freshmen quarterbacks (TJ Finley and Max Johnson) trying to replace the injured Myles Brennan.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson