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Alabama at LSU: Previewing Another Battle in the War for the West

Alabama DT Jarran Reed (#90) grabs RB Leonard Fournette in 2015 game versus LSU
Nov 8, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) is grabbed by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jarran Reed (90) during the first quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Crimson Tide are on the verge of the most impressive season under Nick Saban but Alabama still has a few tests before it’s all over. The first starts on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. in Baton Rouge. Another chapter in the LSU-Alabama rivalry has major implications not only in the SEC West, but on a national level.

Both teams were ranked in the top 15 of the initial College Football Playoff poll and each team feels like they can win a national title this season. Alabama is on the right track but might not be able to afford a loss with other SEC teams on its tail. LSU’s two losses are redeemable if the Tigers can win out, which could include an SEC Championship.

This rivalry has given us plenty of classics over the years and the last two games in Baton Rouge came down to the final possession. Alabama is a 7-point favorite but the Crimson Tide will likely have their hands full for 60 minutes (or more) on Saturday night.

Fournette’s Revenge

In his two meetings with Alabama, Leonard Fournette has just 110 rushing yards on 40 carries for the Tigers. The Crimson Tide’s front seven has been able to shut down the most talented back in the country in back-to-back seasons. However, Alabama will be without the big A’Shawn Robinson this season who was a huge force in the middle against the Tigers. There’s also no question Fournette had his better game at home in 2014, finishing with 124 all-purpose yards on 23 total touches.

Tonight, Fournette will be the focus of LSU’s offense and his success will be their key to the game. The junior running back did not catch a pass in either of the two meetings with Alabama but Fournette has gotten better in that area of his game. He’s had a receptions in eight straight games, catching 24 passes in those games. Look for Alabama’s Ryan Anderson to be the key to stopping Fournette on Saturday night. His ability to lock down outside tackle runs has been a strength to the Tide’s defense this season.

Defensive Talent

Both teams are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball but the two defenses combined probably have 20 to 25 future NFL players that will see playing time tonight. Alabama fans are familiar with the Tide’s defense, featuring start players like Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster and Minkah Fitzpatrick. The key will be to see how the Tide respond to Eddie Jackson’s season-ending injury. Tony Brown will be seeing more playing time on Saturday night and will need to be a playmaker for the visitors.

LSU’s defense is just as star-studded as the Crimson Tide’s. Linebacker Kendell Beckwith leads the team with 69 tackles, including 5.5 for a loss, and is the captain of the Tiger defense. LSU has not been able to force turnovers at a high rate so far this season but their secondary is filled with playmakers. Senior Tre’Davious White, who will likely matchup with Calvin Ridley for most of the game, has two interceptions this senior and five pass deflections. The Tigers have 13 different players that have recorded a pass deflection this season.



After being stuck in traffic for way too long in Baton Rouge, my preview had to be cut short. But here are my final predictions of the day.

1) Leonard Fournette gets his 100 offensive yards but at least 50 of them come through the passing game. Expect Anderson and Foster to be the key players locking Fournette down in the run game.

2) Alabama gets another defensive touchdown because at this point, I’m scared to bet against them. I’m guessing this one goes to Shaun Dion Hamilton because apparently everyone will get one by the end of the season.

3) O.J. Howard will be the team leader in yards from scrimmage. I expect him to break two or three big plays on the night with the Tigers focused on Ridley and Hurts.

4) Alabama does not cover the small spread but they get another win in Death Valley. I’ve got the Tide winning 23-20 with a possible overtime or two to decide this one.

Caleb Turrentine is a columnist and contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He also does work for Alabama’s team page at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.

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