I know, I know, just reading a headline about this LSU team beating this Alabama team makes most of you want to go out and get me one of those white jackets with the arms that tie around the back. Right?
The Crimson Tide come into Baton Rouge as a two-touchdown favorite. That’s almost insane. The last time a top-five team was a double-digit underdog at home was when the Tide played at Auburn in 2013. That was the infamous “Kick Six” game that Auburn won in the most stunning fashion.
Well look closer college football fans, for I think we’ve already seen some cracks in the armor of those unbeatable behemoths in the crimson and white unis. Here are five reasons why LSU is going to stun the college football world and take down the No. 1 team (and defending national champions) this Saturday.
1. Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night
Yes it’s special. Yes it’s magical. And yes sometimes it turns into a certain kind of spooky mojo that weird things start happening for the Tigers. A bizarre untimely turnover. A field goal that caroms off the upright. A mishandled snap that turns into a 50-yard touchdown run. Those things happen in Tiger Stadium, especially at night. And certainly expect this Saturday’s decibel level to be louder than a Guns N' Roses concert. Tua Tagovailoa has been in some big-time situations, sure. But he’s never been in an environment like this. This will be one of those special nights that will be etched into the Tiger Stadium lore.
“We know our fans are going to be there for this one,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said earlier this week. “I know the energy in the stadium is going to be something we haven’t seen in a long time.”
2. This isn’t your father’s Alabama defense
Oh make no mistake, these guys are still wildly talented. There is still a cadre of future NFL players on this Tide defense. But let’s be honest, this isn’t the type of shut-down unit that we’ve seen in the recent past from the Tide. Ranked 16th overall, giving up 307.6 yards per game, the Tide relent almost 17 points per game. Good. But not impossible to move the ball on. And to be honest, they still give up a big play or two or three in each game, including some receivers being left alone in the moonlight. So look for the Tigers to have a few big plays to ignite that Saturday night crowd. And if LSU’s offensive line (now getting back left guard Garrett Brumfield from injury) can open up some running lanes for Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, this one gets verrrrry interesting.
3. LSU’s defense
Speaking of that side of the ball, the Tigers are seventh nationally, giving up just 15 points per game, and doing so against a much tougher schedule. And as you’d guess, LSU is statistically the best defense the Crimson Tide have faced so far. What else is far better that anything the Tide have faced? That Tiger defensive backfield is one BAD unit. And yes, “bad” as in really good, ranking fifth in the country in passing yards allowed per game. This is without a doubt going to be the best deep seven the Tide will face all year. Just look at what the Tigers did vs. Jake Fromm and Georgia. Fromm went 16-for-34 and was picked off twice. Now, can they rattle Tua and Co.? Probably so, yes. Ball-hawking free safety Grant Delpit is second nationally with five interceptions and cornerback Greedy Williams has famously said, “You try to throw on me once... okay. But if you wanna throw on me a second time? Nah.” That’s the kind of moxie you need to beat Alabama.
4. LSU finally has a quarterback
It has been a long time since we’ve seen an LSU QB that could handle the Alabama defense. Maybe you have to go as far back as Matt Flynn off that 2007 national title team. Well Joe Burrow may not be an all-world signal-caller, but he has shown a knack to keep his cool in some really big games this season and make key plays when needed. He is not going to give up a bad turnover or three like some of the recent QBs that have been thrown to the elephants and freaked out in games vs. the Tide. Alabama has four defensive touchdowns this season – their specialty. But Mr. Burrow is an expert at limiting the damage and making good decisions.
5. Special teams
As all you pigskin fans know, the most important and overlooked aspect of any game is special teams. Both Alabama and LSU have good coverage teams and game-breakers that could take a punt back for six at any time. But where they differ is in the actual foot meeting the ball. Cole Tracy has been a force for LSU this season, as the Assumption College transfer has made 21-of-23 field goals with his only misses being from beyond 50 yards. Also, Zach Von Rosenberg is averaging 46 yards per punt, good for seventh in the country. Meanwhile, the Tide have had some issues on both fronts as they are on their second field goal kicker of the season, Joseph Bulovas, who has missed three kicks inside of 38 yards. Their punter, Skyler DeLong has been DeShort much of the season, averaging a little more than 34 yards per punt. In fact, Alabama is 104th in the FBS in net punting, while the Tigers are a very efficient 14th.
So there you go. Under the night skies at Tiger Stadium, LSU has as good a chance in years to finally break that Alabama hex it has lived under since the 2011 season. Now, the big question is, can the Tigers beat the Tide a second time in the College Football Playoff? Oh hell no. But for now, all that matters is what transpires this Saturday.
— 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.