Tuscaloosa, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - A top 10 showdown is on tap in Tuscaloosa this weekend, as the 10th-ranked LSU Tigers take aim at the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
Les Miles' Tigers (7-2) took a break from SEC and FBS action last time out and made light work of FCS foe Furman in Baton Rouge, 48-16. The team enjoyed a bye this past weekend and definitely needed the extra time to prepare for the task at hand, especially sitting two games back in the SEC West Division at 3-2.
Nick Saban's Crimson Tide are once again in the driver's seat for not only the SEC West crown, but a third straight appearance in the BCS National Championship Game. Of course there is still some work left to do, but at 8-0 overall and 5-0 in conference play, Alabama sits atop the national polls and owns the coveted No. 1 position in the BCS rankings. The Tide, who also were idle this past weekend, destroyed Tennessee last time out, 45-10.
Alabama holds a 47-25-5 lead in the all-time series with LSU and has won two straight and four of the last six meetings, overall. Last season's matchup was a thriller, with Alabama coming from behind to post a 21-17 victory in Baton Rouge.
Saban recognizes the significance of this matchup.
"This is not the kind of game that anybody could not get excited about playing in. Obviously this rivalry in the last few years has always meant a lot, whether it is national rankings, SEC West, very meaningful game. Two really good programs, two really good teams. LSU is one of the best programs in the country in terms of the quality of players they have."
The Tigers will certainly present some problems for Alabama thanks to a potent and balanced offensive attack that is generating 40.2 ppg on 480.0 yards per outing. The ground game has been strong at 200.6 yards per game (5.2 ypc), while the passing attack has been equally productive (279.4 ypg).
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has evolved into one of the nation's top signal callers, as the strong-armed gun slinger has completed 65.4 percent of his throws, for 2,492 yards this season, with 19 touchdowns against seven interceptions. It certainly helps to have one of the nation's most potent receiving tandems at his disposal in wideouts Jarvis Landry (58 catches, 882 yards, eight TDs) and Odell Beckham Jr. (48 catches, 1,009 yards, eight TDs).
Landry knows that a couple of big plays could decide this outcome.
"(Alabama) does a lot of great things well, but we also do a lot of great things well. It just comes down to individual guys making plays. That's what this game is going to be about."
The ground game has thrived as well, with LSU scoring a whopping 28 touchdowns via the rush over the first nine games. Leading the charge in that regard is tailback Jeremy Hill, who is averaging 115.2 yards per game. Hill has amassed 922 yards on an impressive 7.2 yards per carry and has scored a team-best 12 touchdowns.
LSU's defense is a step or two behind the offense in terms of productivity, but is still brimming with talent throughout. Foes are averaging 21.9 ppg against the Tigers and doing so on 351.7 yards of total offense. The squad has done a nice job making plays upfield, with 49 TFL and 20 sacks on the season.
Senior linebacker Lamin Barrow leads the way with his team-high 64 tackles. Sophomore cornerback Jalen Mills (38 tackles) has impressed in the secondary, with three sacks and two interceptions to his credit. Junior tackle Anthony Johnson (27 tackles) is tied with sophomore linebacker Kwon Alexander (52 tackles) for the team-lead in TFL (6.5) and is responsible for three sacks as well.
LSU's defense will be taken to task by a balanced offense in Tuscaloosa, as the two-time defending champions are once again putting up big numbers. Alabama comes in averaging 41.2 ppg on 462.8 yards of total offense. The team is over 200 yards both rushing (210.8 ypg) and passing (252.0 ypg).
It certainly helps to have one of the nation's most seasoned leaders under center in AJ McCarron. The 6-foot-4 senior is completing just under 70 percent of his passes on the year, for 1,862 yards, with 16 TDs against just three INTs. Despite being known as a running team, Alabama has a deep and talented receiving corps this season, highlighted by junior Christion Jones (27 catches, 281 yards, two TDs), Kevin Norwood (23 catches, 348 yards, three TDs), DeAndrew White (22 catches, 329 yards, three TDs) and Amari Cooper (20 catches, 304 yards, two TDs).
The rushing attack is spearheaded by sophomore tailback T.J. Yeldon (729 yards, 6.3 ypc, 10 TDs). Fellow sophomore Kenyan Drake (491 yards, 7.8 ypc, seven TDs) can also move the chains.
Alabama once again boasts arguably the nation's top defense. The Crimson Tide lead the country in scoring defense (9.8 ppg), rank seventh in rush defense (101.9 ypg), eighth in pass defense (179.0 ypg) and fifth in total defense (280.9 ypg).
All-American C.J. Mosley leads the way from his linebacker position with a team-best 59 total tackles. Safeties Landon Collins (34 tackles, one INT) and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (31 tackles, one INT) are a formidable duo in the secondary. Freshman defensive end A'Shawn Robinson (23 tackles) has shown flashes of brilliant play off the edge and leads the team in both TFL (5.0) and sacks (4.0).