Alabama is 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the SEC, sharing the lead in the SEC West with the Tigers. Bama's wins came against Western Carolina (1-8), Vanderbilt (5-3), Arkansas (5-3), Houston (5-3), Mississippi (2-7), and Tennessee (5-3). Their losses came at home against Georgia (6-2) and on the road against Florida State (5-3) - two losses in a row.
Overall, the Tide have a reasonable offense, gaining 413 yards and 31.5 points per game. QB John Parker Wilson has had a decent year, throwing for over 1800 yards so far with a 119.4 rating. Wilson and Flynn match up fairly well across the board. Wilson's been protected fairly well all year, with only 14 sacks against the Tide, five less than LSU's 19 allowed. Offensively, this is Bama's key to the game. If the Bama offensive line can protect Wilson long enough to have a receiver break free, then they have talent enough to march down the field and score. Bama has a fairly balanced attack, but relies mostly on the passing game with D.J. Hall, statistically the most prolific receiver in the SEC, averaging nearly 100 yards per game. Bama's leading rusher is Terry Grant, an all-purpose back with 87 yards per game on the ground, 15 receiving, and 8 touchdowns.
Honestly, the Tide and the Tigers offenses have put up similar numbers all year. Total production is 413 to 435 (Tide to Tigers), points per game is 31.5 to 36.8, and turnovers are 9 to 8. LSU relies a bit more heavily on the run than Bama, but not significantly so.
From a defensive standpoint, the two teams aren't as similar. Bama's defense gives up 355 yards per game, 131 on the ground and 224 in the air. That's significantly more than LSU's defense allows (232, 72, 131). They give up an average of 21 points per game to LSU's 15. Bama has not been very effective shutting down opposing offenses, and they haven't pressured the QB very well with just 14 sacks this year, 5 of them against Houston. This may be the key to the game. If Bama cannot find a way to shut down LSU's running game and keep Matt Flynn off balance, they may find it hard to keep the Tigers from scoring on almost every possession. They may also find it tough to win enough time of possession to keep pace on the scoreboard when their talented offense finally gets the ball.
Bama's special teams play can be dangerous, with some speedy punt return specialists in Lowe and Arenas. And Bama has the fewest penalties of any SEC school besides Vandy, averaging only 5.5 penalites per game. LSU averages almost 9.
Both teams have proven that they can play four quarters of football and seem to be focused on conditioning. LSU likely has an advantage in overall stregnth and speed.
One more interesting tidbit: when the Tigers and the Tide have met since 1970, the home team is 11-25-1. That's a .311 win percentage for the home team.
As a reminder, the game is in Tuscaloosa this year. We won't be paying attention to this stat next year - in case you're wondering.
Overall, the biggest advantage LSU has in this game may be the road they've had to travel thus far. Where Bama's toughest game came in a loss to Georgia, LSU had to wade through Virginia Tech, Florida, Kentucky and Auburn. The Tigers are battle-tested. Bama hasn't exactly had an Ohio State-style cake walk, but as it turns out the teams they've played (besides Georgia) aren't the class of the conference.
Both offensive units are capable of putting 40 points up without much difficulty. Defense, however, will be the key to this game. The Tigers need to rattle Wilson by creating hurries, hitting him hard enough to make him think of LaRon Landry last year, and sacking him 4 or 5 times. He hasn't faced a defense as tough as LSU's - not even close.
Conversely, Bama has not played tough defense this year. And they haven't had to play Florida, or Auburn (yet) or Kentucky. LSU's offense, however, has put up an average of 37 points against defenses that are much tougher than Bama's.
If LSU can minimize dumb penalties and continue an impressive turnover ratio, then this game won't be as close as some might think.
Early Doucet, who is marching up the SEC reception leader board even after missing multiple games due to injury, will show up D.J. Hall and have a 100 yard plus night. Flynn will have another career game, completing over 60% of his throws and having a fine night running as well. Craig Steltz will lead tacklers again and may get his fifth pick of the year. And Patrick Fisher will punt less than 4 times. Unfortunately, one of those punts will be returned for a score in the first half. No matter, Tigers win easily now that they're in the downslope of a brutal SEC schedule.
LSU 41 Bama 17