Game Day Preview: What you need to know about Alabama-LSU
It’s already been four years since “The Game of the Century.” And while this Saturday’s contest features No. 2 vs. No. 4, the hype machine was whirring tenfold when No. 1 and No. 2 came together in November 2011.
LSU and Alabama’s rivalry has been the country’s best since Nick Saban returned to the SEC in 2007. No matchup has consistently dictated the national picture like this one over the past eight years. Saturday is no different.
Here is everything you need to know about Alabama-LSU before kickoff:
No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1 SEC) vs. LSU Tigers (7-0, 4-0 SEC)
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 7, 8 pm ET (CBS)
Weather: High: 68 degrees, Low: 49 degrees, 80-90 percent chance of rain (Weather.com)
Line: Alabama -6.5
By the numbers
5-3 – Record of the visiting team the past eight times these schools have played (not counting the 2012 BCS title game).
0 – Interceptions thrown by LSU quarterback Brandon Harris this year. That’s No. 1 in the nation for all passers with at least 67 attempts. Harris is 75-of-128 on the season for 1,098 yards and nine scores.
29 – Combined rushing touchdowns for LSU’s Leonard Fournette (15) and Alabama’s Derrick Henry (14). Last year’s rushing touchdown leader — UGA’s Nick Chubb — needed 13 games to reach 14 scores.
Storylines to watch
Leonard Fournette vs. Derrick Henry
Fournette can solidify his Heisman campaign with a huge game (let’s say: 200-plus yards and two-plus touchdowns) at Alabama. But that’s much easier said than done against a ‘Bama front seven that has allowed just 78.5 rushing yards per game, third-best in the country.
Henry is currently on the fringes of the Heisman discussion, but he’s in the midst of a historic season. The junior only needs 211 more yards to crack Alabama’s single-season Top 10 list, 427 more yards to reach No. 3 (Bobby Humphrey) and 635 to reach No. 1 (Trent Richardson).
He’ll have at least five games (counting one postseason game) and as many as seven (counting the SEC championship and national championship) to get it done. Much like the ‘Bama front, LSU will present a big challenge; the Tigers are allowing just 93.5 yards on the ground per game, sixth in the country.
Tide in a funk at Bryant-Denny
Visiting teams have been posting early leads and sticking around longer than anticipated in Tuscaloosa. It’s a trend that began in September, when Ole Miss shocked Alabama for the second straight season.
The Tide were dominant in subsequent road games at Georgia and Texas A&M, but flirted with disaster against unranked Arkansas and Tennessee at home. Saban blamed “friendly fire” distractions, but those probably won’t matter as much this Saturday.
Both LSU and ‘Bama have been inundated with hype this week, and everyone involved understands that the nation’s eyes will be glued to this game. Unlike the Razorbacks and Vols, there’s no flying under the radar for the Tigers, who were just ranked No. 2 by the College Football Playoff committee.
Playoff chances on the line
This game is critical to either team’s national title hopes. A loss for Alabama means the Tide are out of the picture, while LSU would need to play perfect football — and get some serious help — the rest of the way.
Recent history has not been kind to the Tigers, as Alabama has claimed the past four contests, beginning with the 2012 BCS championship game.
Prediction: Alabama 34, LSU 17
LSU will be able to establish its running game at some point, but Alabama’s defense has been excellent at bending, not breaking, this year. A couple big plays from the Tide’s passing offense will eventually force the Tigers to put the ball in the air — a scenario that Les Miles wants to avoid on a wet night. Count on Brandon Harris’ interception-free streak to end in the rain at Bryant-Denny.