By Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)
Saturday's LSU-Alabama matchup is one of the most-anticipated games in recent memory. Athlon Sports breaks down a few keys for each team and its chances at victory.
Click here to read LSU's keys to beat Alabama.
1. Make sure the best offensive player on the field gets a chance to win the game.
Both teams feature outstanding rushing attacks, but Alabama boasts the best running back in the game, junior Trent Richardson. Both Richardson and Spencer Ware, LSU’s No. 1 tailback, have played six games vs. BCS competition (I am not including LSU’s game vs. Northwestern State or Alabama’s games vs. Kent State or North Texas). In those six games Richardson has outrushed Ware by almost 300 yards on only three more attempts. Richardson has 785 yards on 125 carries for a 6.3-yard average, while Ware has 492 yards on 122 carries for a 4.0-yard average. Ware is good. Richardson is better — much better. Alabama needs to be sure he gets the ball at least 25 times.
2. Don’t give up the big play on defense.
Alabama is in the top five in the nation in preventing plays of 10-plus yards (50, No. 1 in the nation), 20-plus yards (14, No. 1 in the nation), 30-plus yards (6, tied No. 4 in the nation) and 40-plus yards (2, tied for No. 4 in the nation). The Crimson Tide must make LSU drive the ball the down the field and not allow the Tigers to pick big chunks of yards.
3. Don’t let Jarrett Lee beat you.
That’s right. The same quarterback who threw 16 interceptions and 14 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman has emerged as one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the game as a senior. Stopping the run is no doubt important, but the Tigers have been very good throwing the ball due to Lee’s ability to make plays. He leads the SEC in passer rating due to a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 13-to-1. He has been solid in all situations, as well — third in the league in passer rating on third down; first in passer rating in the fourth quarter; first in passer rating in road games; third in passer rating vs. ranked teams. You get the point: Lee is very good — good enough to beat Alabama if given the opportunity.
4. Get the tight ends involved in the passing game.
LSU features one of the elite secondaries in the nation, and Alabama’s wide receivers — not exactly a team strength — might not have a ton of room to operate. But Alabama does have two solid pass-catching tight ends in Brad Smelley (16 catches for 165 yards) and Michael Williams (10 catches for a league-high 15.2-yards per catch). Don’t be surprised Smelley or Williams lead the Tide in receptions on Saturday night.