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Alabama vs. LSU Breakdown: The Tigers Passing Defense

Marvin Gentry - USA TODAY Sports

The matchup at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night pits what could be a national championship matchup, if the season ended today. The new College Football Playoff rankings have the visiting LSU Tigers at the #2 seed while Alabama sits in the #4 slot. Over the next three days, we will breakdown every aspect of the game and try to decide who has the advantage. We will cover each of the following categories:

LSU Offense vs. Alabama Defense – The Passing Game

Alabama Offense vs. LSU Defense – The Passing Game

LSU Offense vs. Alabama Defense – The Rushing Game

Alabama Offense vs. LSU Defense – The Rushing Game

Over the last three seasons, it has been the plays of the passing game that has helped push Alabama past LSU. In 2012, it was this screen pass to T.J. Yeldon that capped off the game-winning drive that helped Alabama to their second straight championship.

In 2013, A.J. McCarron had three touchdown passes including this 52-yard strike to O.J. Howard. It was the only catch of the game for the freshman tight end but it gave the Tide an early 10-7 and they never fell behind.

 

Last season, scoring wasn’t easy to come by. But two pass plays in the overtime period were key to Alabama’s fourth straight victory over LSU.  DeAndrew White scored the game winning touchdown but it was the first play of overtime that stood out: the 24-yard pass to backup lineman and tight end Brandon Greene.

So clearly the Alabama passing game will need to play a big role if the Tide wants to win Saturday night. The Crimson Tide could be in for a lot of success as they face an LSU defense that has allowed 222 passing yards per game, which is ranked 66th nationally. However, the Tigers have only given up 14 touchdown passes and allowed 6.0 yards per attempt.

LSU’s secondary was supposed to continue to be a major strength this season. They had plenty of talent coming back with two new four-star freshmen to add to the mix. Unfortunately, it hasn’t all work out for Kevin Steele’s defense. Two weeks ago, the Tigers allowed Western Kentucky to throw for 325 yards and three touchdowns. They also gave up 270 yards passing to backup Florida quarterback Treon Harris.

They are not without their playmakers though. Jamal Adams and Deion Jones have combined for five interceptions and nine pass deflections so far. What the LSU secondary is good at is limiting the completed pass plays. The Tigers have allowed the fewest (16) passes of 20-plus yards in the SEC.

A lot of the success of the visiting defense could come down to starting safeties Jalen Mills and Tre’Davious White, who are both dealing with injuries but should still play on Saturday. If those two key players are not at 100 percent against a strong Alabama receiving core, it could make a difference on the deep play-action passes that Lane Kiffin likes to throw.

The best part of the LSU pass defense might be on the defensive line. Alabama’s pass blocking has been less than ideal so far this season and they have a question mark at right tackle with an injured Dominick Jackson. The Tigers will often line up Lewis Neal on the left side of the defensive line.

Neal has been the force on the LSU defense. He has six sacks this season and often finds himself in the backfield affecting the opposing quarterback.  Whoever the Crimson Tide end up putting at right tackle will have their hands full with Neal.

Jacob Coker leads a passing attack that has averaged 233 yards per game and thrown for 12 touchdowns. Over the course of the season, Coker has had a number of options to work with and it seems like he has settled on a favorite.

Freshman Calvin Ridley leads the team in receptions (45), receiving yards (525) and receiving touchdowns (3). He came on strong after the injury to Robert Foster and now everyone in the country knows his name. Ridley’s big play ability could be the biggest test that the LSU secondary has faced all season.

Ridley’s complementing crew is not too bad either. Richard “Slottie” Mullaney is tied for the team lead with three touchdowns and has proven to be a reliable target for third downs. ArDarius Stewart is second on the team in receptions and is coming off his best game of the season. Tight end O.J. Howard has been used more often this season and running back Kenyan Drake is always a threat for the deep ball.

CONCLUSION: Alabama seemingly has the edge here, based off the team statistics. However, LSU has shown good discipline when it comes to the deep play-action passes. As everyone knows, that is what Alabama’s offense can thrive on. Alabama has a lot of young and talented targets but the experience of the Tiger secondary will not be an easy matchup. If the problems that the Tide has had on the offensive line do not get fixed, it could be a long night for Jake Coker. Advantage: Even

Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.

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