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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. LSU Tigers Preview and Prediction

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Although the annual meeting between Alabama and LSU has lost a little bit of appeal, this is still one of 2012’s most-anticipated games. The Tigers’ loss to Florida in early October prevented these two teams from meeting as No. 1 versus No. 2 once again. However, there’s no question this game will have a significant impact on the national title race and should decide the champion of the SEC West. With LSU already having one loss, another defeat would knock it out of the national title chase. If Alabama loses, the Crimson Tide’s championship hopes would take a huge hit but are unlikely to fall outside of the top five in the BCS standings.

These two teams met twice last season, with LSU claiming a 9-6 victory in Tuscaloosa, and Alabama won the rematch 21-0 in the national title game. The Crimson Tide have won three out of the last five in this series, but the Tigers claimed back-to-back victories in 2010 and 2011. LSU holds an edge against Alabama in Baton Rouge recently, winning four of the last six matchups at Tiger Stadium.

In addition to the national title picture, there are plenty of other factors in play on Saturday night. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron could significantly improve his Heisman hopes with a strong performance against LSU, while the Tigers have revenge on their mind after a disappointing showing in the national title game last season.

Storylines to watch in Alabama vs. LSU

Which team can establish the run?
It’s a simple statement, yet will have a large impact on this game. LSU won the ground attack in last year’s first matchup, outgaining Alabama 148 to 96. And there’s not much separating these two teams in the stat column this year, as the Crimson Tide rank 22nd nationally in rushing offense (214.4 ypg) and the Tigers rank 25th (208.4 ypg). While both squads have been imposing their will with the ground attack, neither has allowed opposing teams to establish any rushing game. Alabama has not allowed an opponent to gain more than 100 yards on the ground this season, while LSU has allowed three – Towson, Florida and Texas A&M. Considering Alabama’s run defense ranks No. 1 nationally, and the Tigers have had to shuffle some personnel around their offensive line, the Crimson Tide should have an edge in the trenches. And the matchup between Alabama’s offensive line versus LSU’s defensive line is a must-see battle in terms of NFL talent. Expect a lot of three or four-yard gains early on, but both teams have to continue to run the ball to help set up the passing attacks.

AJ McCarron versus LSU’s secondary
The biggest advantage for Alabama in Saturday’s game is the play of quarterback AJ McCarron. The junior leads the nation in passing efficiency and has yet to throw an interception this season. McCarron threw for 199 yards and one interception in the first meeting between these two teams but exploited LSU’s secondary for 234 yards and 23 completions in the rematch. The Tigers don’t have Morris Claiborne or Tyrann Mathieu roaming in the secondary anymore but are allowing just 148.5 passing yards per game. Slowing McCarron and emerging star Amari Cooper at receiver isn’t just on LSU’s secondary, as the defensive line needs to get pressure to disrupt the passing attack. The Crimson Tide are allowing two sacks per game, while the Tigers are generating nearly three each contest (2.9). If McCarron has time to throw, he will have opportunities to take advantage of LSU’s youth at cornerback (freshmen Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins). The Tigers hope to counter with pressure to keep the junior quarterback from establishing a comfortable rhythm.