TUSCALOOSA, Ala. —No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) travels to Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday for an SEC West clash against No. 13 LSU (5-2, 3-1). Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on CBS.
Here are five things to watch:
5. New secondary
We’ll get our first look at Alabama’s secondary without Eddie Jackson on Saturday.
Based on what we’ve seen at practice, it appears that Minkah Fitzpatrick has made the move to safety opposite Ronnie Harrison. Junior Tony Brown has replaced Fitzpatrick at the star (fifth defensive back) in Alabama’s nickel and dime packages.
Fitzpatrick’s versatility allows Alabama to use him all over the field in the secondary. The Brown move is big because it means the coaching staff trusts Brown to execute his assignments.
4. Show improvement in the passing game
Alabama has had two weeks to work out some of the kinks in its passing game, so we should expect improvement.
This is by far the best secondary Alabama has faced to this point so there might not be a lot of clear throwing windows for freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Expect LSU to play tight coverage and force Hurts to beat them.
3. Contain Fournette
LSU running back Leonard Fournette has rushed for 670 yards and 5 touchdowns this season despite missing two games and losing another because of Hurricane Matthew.
Fournette has struggled in two career games against the Crimson Tide (21 carries, 79 yards and no touchdowns as a freshman in 2014).
Alabama was one of two teams to hold Fournette under 100 yards last season. He ran for 31 yards and a touchdown for an average of 1.6 yards per carry (19 carries).
This year, Alabama is holding teams to a nation’s best 2.18 yards. That’s the best during Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa.
2. Offense must travel
In four meetings in Tiger Stadium during Saban’s tenure, Alabama has needed overtime, a last-minute touchdown and overtime to get its three wins.
The biggest reason for that is that Alabama’s offense hasn’t traveled well to Baton Rouge.
Alabama is averaging 22 points per game in its four trips to Death Valley. In two of those four games, Alabama scored its lowest point total of the season (2012, 2014).
This year, Alabama is top-10 in the country with an average of 44 points a game.
The Crimson Tide need to put points on the board to take some pressure off its defense, and to not have to worry about the possibility of overtime.
1. Block out the crowd
There is almost a consensus on Death Valley being the toughest place to play in the SEC.
The fans are extremely loud and they don’t hold back anything, especially during night games.
It’s going to be tough for Alabama’s offense to hear anything on Saturday so the Crimson Tide is going to have to be sound in its execution. We’ll see a lot of silent counts and signals for the center to know when to snap the ball. That means the rest of the offensive linemen can’t commit penalties by moving early.
The best way to take a raucous crowd out of the game is to score early and often.