It comes later than expected, but Alabama-LSU is the matchup people want to see.
On Wednesday, Nick Saban told reporters in the SEC Coaches Teleconference he feels ‘fine’ and expects to coach the Crimson Tide on Saturday at Tiger Stadium. Whether it is in the running for a national championship or conference title, one of LSU’s main goals is to spoil Alabama’s success.
As it enters at 3-4, Ed Orgeron said his team is ‘excited’ and ‘up for the challenge’ of facing the Tide at home. In carrying the top ranking for the College Football Playoff, Alabama looks for its ninth straight win.
Under the leadership of Steve Sarkisian, the Crimson Tide’s offense has been excellent.
Through eight games, Alabama ranks No. 3 in the nation for points (48.5) and No. 6 in total yards (535.6) per game.
Before it takes on a defense that’s allowed 30.3 points/game, including three 40-point matchups, yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine lays out five impactful offensive standouts for the Tide against the Tigers.
Mac Jones, Quarterback
He watched Tua Tagovailoa suffer a heartbreaking loss to LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2019.
People outside the program had their doubts on Mac Jones, but he has earned everyone’s respect.
The junior stands as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and is the catalyst behind an offense totaling at least 40 points in seven straight games. Jones chimes in with five 300-yard performances, including three 400-yard games.
He ranks in the top-six of college football in every major statistical category for a quarterback. The 6-foot-3, 214-pounder has been spreading the wealth to all of his receiving options, as he completed 76.2 percent of his throws for 2,728 passing yards with 23 touchdowns to three interceptions.
Jones carries the highest total quarterback rating (95.5) in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
In taking his first trip to Tiger Stadium as the starting quarterback, he has a chance to vertically attack a young defensive secondary.
JaCoby Stevens is a senior leader, but Derek Stingley is the playmaker of the group.
The sophomore has four pass breakups and he has helped Eli Ricks — a freshman — record a team-high three interceptions, with one going for a touchdown. Jones will take some shots, however, he cannot afford to force plays.
Najee Harris, Running Back
Najee Harris grew up and became a complete player last year versus LSU.
He collected 146 yards rushing, 44 yards receiving and two total touchdowns.
Media pundits from the National Football League and scouts from various pro teams saw the California native put it all together. Instead of declaring for the draft, Harris returned to school for his senior year and it was a smart decision. He’s totaled three 100-yard rushing performances and seven 100-yard outings from scrimmage.
Harris chimes in with 17 rushing scores, which is the most by any running back in college football. His output of 893 rushing yards is 10th in the NCAA.
LSU’s defensive front has allowed 123 rushing yards per game and 10 scores.
For Harris, he has scored one touchdown in seven of eight games. Also, he is averaging 111.6 yards per matchup. After not being able to stop his momentum in 2019, it will be a challenge for the Tigers to stop Harris this weekend.
DeVonta Smith, Wide Receiver
College football has one prayer right now: “Jesus, do not let Alabama have a No. 2 vertical target at wide receiver.”
At this point, defenses have no answers for DeVonta Smith.
He has taken over games and cannot be stopped. Much like Harris, Smith owned the Tigers last year. The senior burned Stingley for 213 yards receiving and two scores.
He has five 100-yard games and one 200-yard output versus Mississippi State. Smith is third in the nation for catches (72) and yards (1,074), while carrying an NCAA-best 12 touchdowns. He is the fourth receiver in Alabama history to have multiple 1,000-yard campaigns, joining Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy and D.J. Hall.
A native of Amite, La., Smith and Cooper are the lone two career 3,000-yard receivers for the Tide.
It will not stop him, but LSU hopes to at least slow Smith down. Alabama would like to see one of its true freshmen — Javon Baker, Traeshon Holden and Thaiu Jones-Bell — have an impact, but keep all eyes on John Metchie too. He has 590 yards receiving with six touchdowns on 31 catches. The 6-foot, 195-pounder averages 73.8 yards per matchup through eight games.
Jahleel Billingsley, Tight End
Steve Sarkisian has the tight end position involved in the passing game.
The tandem of Miller Forristall and Jahleel Billingsley have combined for 17 catches and two scores.
In the absence of Forristall, Billingsley has stepped up. He’s caught five passes for 111 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown reception, in two games. Billingsley, a sophomore, executes routes like a receiver and is growing into being a matchup nightmare.
LSU has Arik Gilbert, but Billingsley puts Alabama fans in the mind of Irv Smith Jr.
He is getting better as a blocker, but watch him this week on the receiving end.
Emil Ekiyor Jr., Offensive Line
He won the starting job at right guard in preseason camp.
Alabama paired Emil Ekiyor with its four returning starters from last year, and it has worked. As a sophomore, Ekiyor is on arguably the most balanced group in the sport. He did not start versus the Tigers, so this will be his first time working this particular matchup. Ekiyor has allowed just one sack and seven quarterback hurries through 537 snaps. In facing a defensive team that wants to frustrate Mac Jones and limit Najee Harris, the Indianapolis (Ind.) native must have his best game.
If he and Evan Neal seal the right side, the Tide should have full control of the line of scrimmage.
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