Jerry Jeudy and the Tide's talented receiving corps will test the mettle of the Tigers' secondary
There are a couple of things you can count on like clockwork in our sport of college football as the calendar turns to November. The new College Football Playoff rankings are released. The bowl projections pick up in earnest. The bitching and moaning from fan bases around the country gets louder. And LSU loses to Alabama in a Neanderthal-like slogfest.
All those things will ring true once again here this November. Well, except for the "slogfest" part. Yes, you can believe it, this isn't 2011 any longer. The Tigers and Crimson Tide have acclimated to the times and can actually score like crazy now. It's true. Going into this week's showdown in Tuscaloosa the Tide are second nationally and the Tigers are fourth in scoring, averaging 49 and 47 points per game respectively. These two traditional ground-and-pounders also can fling the pigskin around like crazy, ranking second and third in passing efficiency as well.
Unlike past years this one should be a high-octane, entertaining shootout that will require extra batteries for the scoreboard. And no, we're not living in some bizarre altered universe with imposters filling these jerseys. The new-look Tigers vs. Tide will be one wild ride.
But here is why the Red Elephants will come out on top for the ninth straight time in this series and the Tiger fans will want to wring the neck of Nick Saban once again for taking this job.
5 Reasons Why Alabama Will Beat LSU
1. Because Tua Tagovailoa WILL play
Oh come on, you know the island boy isn't going to miss this one. No way. He's too much of a competitor not to. Even if he is forced to play a little bit gimpy, he will make sure to suit up and riddle the LSU secondary. Sure, he may have to simplify his game and eschew the occasional scramble, but his quick-hit decision-making and quick release will be fine here.
Tagovailoa had surgery just after suffering the high ankle sprain against Tennessee. His "tightrope" procedure was similar to the one he had on his other ankle after the SEC title game last year. He had four weeks to recover before playing Oklahoma. This time it's just been three weeks. Will he be 100 percent? And more importantly, will he need to be 100 percent?
2. Protection plus
One good thing about having Tagovailoa possibly a little gimpy is that the O-line he'll be operating behind is another blue-ribbon protection crew that has improved the most of any unit on the team since the beginning of the season. The Tide line has given up just nine sacks, good for 13th in the country. And one of the things that LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has been lamenting about since last season has been the ineffectiveness of getting a push on opposing quarterbacks using just a four-man rush. Look for the Tigers to dial up different types of blitz packages in this one, but that also leaves the Tiger D vulnerable to Tagovailoa's audibles and check-downs. That's the working definition of playing with fire.
3. The leaky pass defense
Call the Tigers "DBU" all you want but the numbers don't lie. This year the purple and gold are giving up 217.5 passing yards per game, which ranks way down at 60th in the country and eighth in the SEC. And the pass-catching unit that the Tiger deep seven will be facing this weekend could be the best group of collegiate receivers in recent memory. DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Jaylen Waddle have combined for 24 touchdowns and about three country miles of yardage after the catch. Meanwhile, defensively the Tide D is second in the conference in passing yards allowed per game at 180.
4. The special special teams
Nothing kills an upset like dominant special teams play. Waddle is now leading the country in punt returns, averaging 22 yards per return and Ruggs has lent his talents to the kickoff return team, averaging nearly 24 yards per return, which is second in the SEC. Also, the Crimson Tide have blocked both two punts and two field goals already, so the Tigers will have to be on point. Any mishaps here and it's a game-changer for the Tide.
5. Home sweet home
The last time LSU won in Tuscaloosa was that infamous snooze-fest in 2011, a 9-6 win in overtime. Since then the Tide has gone 53-2 at home, losing to a guy named Johnny Manziel in 2012 and getting upset by Ole Miss in '15. Since that loss, Saban's crew has won 31 straight at Bryant-Denny Stadium, which is the longest streak in school history. LSU has played the Tide fairly well in Baton Rouge, but the last three meetings in T-town have resulted in a combined 92-43 rout.
Even though CBS screwed up and made this an afternoon start instead of under the lights, I suspect it'll still be a raucous atmosphere in Tuscaloosa and the Tide will win... again.
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.