coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
On 11/03/2013 09:28 AM in NCAA Football

LSU Tigers at Alabama Crimson Tide: Preview and Pick

LSU Tigers at Alabama Crimson Tide: Preview and Pick

The biggest game of the season in the SEC is this week as the LSU Tigers will travel to Tuscaloosa to battle the No. 1 team in the country in the Alabama Crimson Tide. These two rivals always provide a great football game for everyone to enjoy and there is always plenty at stake. For the LSU Tigers who already have two losses on the season, this is a must win against the Crimson Tide.

LSU Tigers at Alabama Crimson Tide Odds

The college football odds for this game will favor Alabama since they have the home field advantage as well as the No. 1 ranking in the current college football polls. Make sure to follow your top rated sportsbooks to find this line and watch it change leading up to kickoff.

Alabam may not have a loss, but this is a must win for them too. A November loss wasn't enough to derail the Crimson Tide's national title aspirations in 2011 and 2012. The first time, Alabama only needed some help from Oklahoma State over the final four weeks of the season. In 2012, it received necessary losses from Oregon and Kansas State in a shorter time frame.

This year, it appears Alabama would need even more help to get back into the top two if it were to lose to LSU because Florida State, Oregon and Ohio State don't look like they'll be losing anytime soon. Alabama would prefer to control its own destiny as it vies for its third consecutive national title. A win over LSU would knock away one of the biggest hurdles.

ESPN's College GameDay will be on campus and CBS picked this game for its lucrative primetime slot for the third consecutive year, yet the hype likely won't be anywhere near what it was at this time two years ago. Did 2011's matchup between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama spoil college football fans to the point where No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 13 LSU isn't all that appealing? The ratings will tell us the story at this time next week, but Alabama fans can already anticipate less buildup from national networks as the game draws closer. But make no mistake about it; this game has all the appeal of the biggest game of the week and maybe even the biggest game of the season!

LSU Tigers at Alabama Crimson Tide Pick

With plenty of time before kickoff we will wait for more information to come in before we select a side on this contest. Make sure to check back on the day of the game to see who we select as our winner for this big game.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
11/04/2013 04:33 PM

Here is a portion the Les Miles question/answer session with the media......

Q. Just looking back at that Alabama game a year ago and then Clemson and Georgia and Ole Miss, how have you changed the way you defend a lead in the final few minutes in the game?

COACH MILES: We certainly have looked at it and work on the opportunity to maintain the ball. I think there's some differing strategy pieces and I think there's some different personnel in effect. But it's something that certainly we hope to have that opportunity again this year.

Q. Not that you don't always, but in a game like this, how much emphasis do you put on your big guys up front on both sides to set a tone at the line of scrimmage?

COACH MILES: In any game and really in every game, there is a point of ‑‑ you know, your defensive front must, you know, take the line of scrimmage. Your offensive front must take the line of scrimmage.

This will be a great challenge. Alabama has got a great style of play. And certainly on offense, they are a very talented offensive line as well. So yeah, these games many times are won in the trenches. Sometimes you can see it and sometimes you can't.

Q. From your perspective, what is Bama week like and do you enjoy this type of week?

COACH MILES: What it's like is just a little more energy in the step of your team, their attention to detail is greater. Their attention to watching film and extra time is something that they put in. And yeah, I enjoy it very much. I've always enjoyed the competition with some of the better teams in the this country and certainly Alabama is that.

Q. Last year's game against Bama, Zach had a great output and propelled him to finish strong the rest of the season. Will this team need a similar performance in order to beat Alabama on Saturday?

COACH MILES: Yeah, I think our quarterback has to play well. I think we have to have balance, both run and pass, so that it becomes something that he can do routinely or without having to make great plays. And I think that it'll always be balance that allows us to really have the best quarterback play.

Q. In a game like this, what is mental toughness mean, to believe you can go in there and win? And how do you convey that to your team during the week

COACH MILES: Well, you have to have a confidence in your preparation. You have to know what you're going to see. And the good news is we've been down there every other year, and we play Alabama every year. So the understanding of who we're playing, I think we get that. I think the enjoyment and the want to play in this game kind of, you know, is the individual piece and kind of fits a team philosophy.

We're looking for those guys that want to go down there and play just in this game and look forward to playing in games like this. I think our guys have that.

Q. Coach, when you watch Alabama's defense, particularly their corners, what do you see in their ability and what kind of advantage might you have with two talented receivers that you have going head‑to‑head with them, forcing them into some things they don't like to do?

COACH MILES: We like the matchup. We think that we kind of give them some challenges on the perimeter. We got a quarterback, first of all, that can make the throw and several receivers that can get open in space.

Again, once who we're playing, they are a very good team, but we think there is a matchup there that benefits us.

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
11/04/2013 04:34 PM

Sit down, Michigan-Ohio State. Take a back seat, Alabama-Auburn. Not so fast, Florida-Florida State. Try a little harder, Notre Dame-USC. Better luck next time, Oklahoma-Texas.

Although you're all amazing rivalry games, you just don't currently compare to the new rivalry in town: Alabama-LSU.

No, this game doesn't have the hatred that comes with the Iron Bowl or the storied tradition that Michigan-Ohio State possesses. But when it comes to the national championship, no other game holds the importance of Alabama-LSU. In the past few years, this game has been the game of the season.

On Saturday, when No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) hosts No. 13 LSU (7-2, 3-2), it will mark the eighth consecutive time these two have met as ranked opponents, and it will yet again have major SEC West Division championship and national championship implications in the balance.

The past three games in this series have all dealt with the phrase "Game of the Century." And when the SEC West and the national championships have all been on the line, it's hard to argue against the hyperbole.

Since the 2006 season, these teams have delivered a few gems together. Four times, both have been ranked in the top 10, and twice they've met as No. 1 and No. 2. Oh, and once was in the national championship back in 2011.

"Every year -- past the first year we've been here [2007] -- it's [been a big game]," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

"We have a tremendous amount of respect for them, being one of the most challenging opponents that we have in this league. The fact that they've been really, really good and we've been pretty good makes this game -- more than it has -- a tremendous amount of significance for both teams. ... It's a great game, and it's a game that players on both sides probably look forward to, but it's a tremendous challenge."

It certainly has become quite the challenge for both teams. Since 2006, Alabama has a 4-3 advantage over the Tigers but has lost at home twice. The winner of this game -- and the loser in 2011 -- has played in the national championship four times and won the SEC West five times. The average margin of victory in the six regular-season meetings between these two during that span has been 6.3 points. Alabama blanked LSU 21-0 in the BCS National Championship at the end of the 2011 season.

Two months earlier, the teams played their first "Game of the Century" when No. 1 LSU went to Tuscaloosa and left with a draining, 9-6 overtime victory over No. 2 Alabama. People poked at the offenses, but the story of that game was just how good both defenses were, as neither team gained 300 yards of offense and both defenses grabbed two takeaways.

Two freight trains smashed into each other in the middle of Bryant-Denny Stadium, but the one coated in purple and gold emerged still on the tracks.

Things were even more entertaining last fall, when No. 1 Alabama won 21-17 in thrilling, comeback style in Baton Rouge, La. While the 2011 game in Tuscaloosa had special-teams blunders and beautiful defensive stops, this one had a high-flying LSU passing game and a screen pass from AJ McCarron to T.J. Yeldon with 51 seconds remaining that put McCarron in tears and etched its place in the college football highlights hall of fame.

We also saw a classic in 2010, which featured two LSU fourth-down conversions and Les Miles introducing us to his appetite for eating grass. The 2009 game had that wonderful 73-yard Julio Jones touchdown and an interception that wasn't for LSU corner Patrick Peterson.

You want talent? There have been 31 players selected in the NFL draft who were on the Alabama or LSU rosters in the 2011 BCS title game.

Outside of the tremendous play on the field, you have the sideshow of Saban versus Miles. Saban is the ultimate perfectionist, and Miles' quirkiness can get the best of both him and his opponents. It truly is a match made in heaven, just like this game.

The animosity and disdain that seeps into every major rivalry isn't really there for this one. Sure, there was the Saban storyline that lingered for a few years because he's coached and won a national championship at both schools, but the loathing between players and fans in other rivalries really doesn't exist here.

This game has more of a mutual respect about it because of what is on the line when the clock hits zero. There isn't a shiny trophy or in-state bragging rights to claim. No, this game's winner is looking for bigger, more important awards, such as a division title and national championship.

"If you played at Alabama or LSU, it's one of those games you measure yourself by," Peterson said. "Look at the players who've come out of both schools, how many of those guys are in the NFL. It's the game in college football."

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
11/05/2013 01:06 PM

At his Monday press conference, Nick Saban had plenty to talk about in relation to the upcoming LSU game.

In regard to the contest with LSU, Saban said his team has been able rest and recover for the November homestretch. “Some guys who have been playing a little nicked up, we were able to rest a little bit and get healthy, so we don’t really have a lot of injury issues,” he said.

“We have a difficult November schedule, starting out with this game. This is not the kind of game that anybody could not get excited about playing in,” Saban said. “Obviously, this rivalry, in the last few years, has always meant a lot to national rankings…the SEC West… it’s two really good programs, two really good teams.”

Saban said LSU will be formidable on both sides of the ball, with a high-powered and balanced offense and a tough physical defense with great speed.

LSU has an NFL prospect at quarterback in Zach Mettenberger, and the leading rusher in the SEC in Jeremy Hill.

“They are very good on third down, the best in the country. They have a 58% conversion rate,” Saban said. “It’s been hard to get them off the field on third down. They are the most explosive and talented team we’ve played all year.”

“Les Miles has done a fabulous job, in my opinion, of having, consistently, a really good football team for a long time, and this team is no different.”

Saban said the Tide will try to hide its defensive schemes to keep Mettenberger guessing where to throw. Saban said LSU will feature a receiving corps that is as good as anybody in the country.

“You have to disguise what you are doing so he can’t anticipate where to go with the ball,” Saban said. “You have to pressure him in the pocket, but when you do that you put a lot of pressure on your secondary. You really have to do ‘all of the above.’ If he knows what you are doing before you do it, he’s gonna have a really good chance of getting the ball to the right place at the right time. A lot of the timing routes they run are difficult to defend. We had close coverage on him last year and he was still able to put the ball where he needed it. “

Saban said Mettenberger will complete his share of passes. Part of Alabama’s defensive strategy will be to stop short passes from turning into big plays.

The Alabama Crimson Tide has been able to absorb losses in November over the past two seasons, and still advance to the BCS National Championship. Saban was asked if that could happen again.

“I really can’t answer that, because it’s kind of hypothetical in terms of what’s going to happen,” he said. “I think the thing we can control here is to try to get our players to play the best they can and focus on playing winning football against some very good teams we have coming down the stretch here.”

“How about let’s focus on what we can do to make that happen for us in a positive way? You have to have a tremendous amount of respect for what you have to do. There are three or four plays in every game that determine the outcome, and you never know when they are coming. It’s like a heavyweight fight. You can’t fade in any round.”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
11/05/2013 01:08 PM

It will not be a top-5 matchup as it was three times in the last two seasons.

LSU enters its annual Crusades with hated Alabama with two losses for the first time since 2008, meaning that, barring several miracles, there are no SEC or BCS national championship implications for LSU on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

It will not be a “Game of the Century” as the 2011 affair was. It will not be for the BCS national championship as it was just two months later.

Then last year, No. 1 Alabama beat No. 5 LSU 21-17 in the final moments in Tiger Stadium and went on to win a second straight national championship.

But it is still LSU-Alabama. And and it is still a top-10 pairing. And CBS is still televising the game nationally as usual. And for the third straight season, the game kicks off in prime time.

“You can’t hide the fact that this rivalry is huge,” LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson said Monday.

“I think Alabama fans hate us, then Auburn, then Tennessee,” said LSU fullback Connor Neighbors, who grew up in Huntsville, and should know. His brother, Wesley, played on Alabama’s 2011 national championship team. His father, Wes, played at Alabama from 1983-86, and his grandfather, Billy, played on Bear Bryant’s first national championship team at Alabama in 1961.

“That’s how the people I know see it,” Neighbors said. “The LSU game means the most to the Alabama people now.”

That may be because LSU has won nine of the 14 matchups against Alabama since 2000. LSU beat Alabama five straight from 2003 through 2007. In his LSU career, Saban was 4-1 against Alabama from 2000-04. Since coming to Alabama in 2007, Saban has posted a 4-3 mark against his former team.

LSU head coach Les Miles is 5-4 against Alabama and is 3-1 in Tuscaloosa. He is 3-4 against Saban.

Alabama leads the all-time series 47-25-5, but since 1982 its lead is just 16-15-1.

“I think this team, kind of historically at LSU, looks forward to playing Alabama,” Miles said. “I think it’s the same this week. I think our guys are really looking forward to playing their best against their best opponents. There is just a little more energy in the step of your team. Their attention to detail is greater. I enjoy it very much. I’ve always enjoyed the competition with some of the better teams in this country, and certainly Alabama is that.”

LSU could beat Alabama and No. 15 Texas A&M on Nov. 23 and still not reach the SEC title game, but a victory over the red team would still be sweet. It would make LSU's season and likely break Alabama's.

“The situation we’re in with two losses, we did it to ourselves,” Ferguson said. “But this is a game that we can make a statement about our team and still have a very good season. This is the type game you look forward to all year. Every time I see those guys, I think about playing in the backyard against them. It’s that type of game.”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
11/06/2013 03:22 PM

LSU may be favored to lose by as many as 12 points at Alabama on Saturday night, but a closer look reveals at least one possible advantage for the Tigers.

LSU’s pass offense against Alabama’s pass defense could be the key to victory for Les Miles’ No. 10 Tigers (7-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) against the No. 1 Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 SEC) in Bryant-Denny Stadium (CBS, 7 p.m.).

On the surface, statistics show Alabama to once again be superior against the pass. The Tide is No. 1 in the SEC and No. 8 nationally in pass defense with just 179 yards allowed a game. It is No. 2 in the SEC and No. 8 nationally in pass efficiency defense with a 104 rating based partly on eight interceptions against six touchdowns allowed.

“They’re not invincible,” said LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who is second in the SEC with 6.4 catches a game and fourth in receiving yards with 98 a game on 58 catches for 882 yards and eight touchdowns. “No defense is invincible.”

Especially when one considers that Alabama’s list of opponent offenses has been suspect since it held on to win at Texas A&M, 49-42, on Sept. 14 despite allowing a Tide record 628 yards to the Aggies. A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel threw for 464 that day as he feasted on a revolving door of Alabama cornerbacks for 28-of-38 passing and four touchdowns, including a 95 yarder to Mike Evans off cornerback John Fulton.

Alabama coach Nick Saban has been switching cornerbacks — opposite dependable senior Deion Belue — like sweaters ever since. Fulton has not started since A&M. True freshman Eddie Jackson started the three games after A&M, but did not start the last three. Sophomore Cyrus Jones, a wide receiver last season, started the last game. Sophomore Bradley Sylve started the two games before the last one. He is expected to start Saturday, but he has been bothered by a high ankle sprain. True freshman Maurice Smith has not started, but he has played a lot.

Injuries have been partly involved in the switching around, but mainly Saban has been looking for the right combinations. Not since his first season at Alabama in 2007 has he experimented more at cornerback. He has been letting each week’s practices decide the starter.

“None of these guys understand what it takes from an intensity standpoint, a mental focus standpoint, week in and week out to prepare for a game and be able to go out and execute in a game,” Saban said on his radio show last week about the younger cornerbacks. “I call it casual. They’re so casual about how they go about things because they don’t know any better. It’s not because they want to be or intend to be, but they’ve just never done it any other way.”

In addition to the issues at cornerback, Alabama has been without junior safety Vinnie Sunseri since the Arkansas game on Oct. 19 when he tore knee ligaments and is out for the season. Sunseri was one of Alabama’s best playmakers in run support and blitzes, and he returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season with four pass breakups and a quarterback hurry.

“Vinnie was very active and made a lot of plays,” Mettenberger said.

Sunseri’s replacement, though, may be as good or better, particularly in coverage. That would be sophomore Landon Collins of Dutchtown High in Geismar — 20 minutes from Tiger Stadium. Collins, the No. 2 safety in the nation out of high school, is second on the team in unassisted tackles with 28 and has five pass breakups along with two quarterback hurries and an 89-yard interception return for a touchdown against Tennessee in Alabama’s last game.

Since that game against Manziel, who is fifth in the nation with 2,867 passing yards and is fourth in efficiency with a 185 rating, Alabama has been able to pad most of its passing defense statistics. Five of its six opponents since A&M are below 49th in the nation in passing. The last three — Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee — are No. 95, 117 and 108 in the nation in passing with below 200 yards passing a game. A&M is sixth with 372 a game.

LSU will enter Saturday’s game No. 28 in the nation in pass offense with 279 yards a game. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, meanwhile, will be the first quarterback Alabama sees since Manziel that is in the top 50 in passing efficiency. Mettenberger, who has completed 151 of 231 passes for 2,492 yards and 19 touchdowns with seven interceptions, has struggled in his last two games with five interceptions, but he remains second in the SEC and sixth nationally in efficiency with a 177.2 rating.

“We’re confident, really confident,” Landry said. “Mettenberger has really been good at checking us into the right plays and having the confidence to throw it to us even if we look like we’re covered.”

If Belue is on Landry, one of the “casual” cornerbacks will be on wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who is second in the SEC and 12th in the nation with 112.1 receiving yards a game on 48 catches for 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns.

“It’s tough to cover No. 80 (Landry) and No. 3 (Beckham). So not only will we have our work cut out for us, they’re going to have their work cut out for them,” said Mettenberger, who had the best game of his first season as a starter in the 21-17 loss to Alabama last year as he hit 24 of 35 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown.

Landry caught eight passes for 76 yards and a 14-yard touchdown that put the Tigers up 17-14 early in the fourth quarter of that game, while Beckham caught four passes for 73 yards.

“We just want to make them feel our presence,” Beckham said. “It’s exciting to be on the same team with Jarvis. We can do a lot of things with Zach. But they’ve got a great defense led by a great defensive coach. It’s going to be about sticking to our technique against their cornerbacks. It’s not going to be nothing we haven’t seen. It’s just a matter of using your technique and beating their technique.”

LSU studied Alabama’s strong technique in recent games as well as its questionable technique against A&M.

“It’s a fun game to watch,” Mettenberger said. “But we don’t use the same formations and plays as Texas A&M. Obviously, they did show you can put points on the defense.”

And Manziel moves much better than Mettenberger, who tends to stand still. Mettenberger has not been sacked an alarming number of times, however. LSU is sixth in the SEC with 14 sacks allowed and will be healthier Saturday as left tackle La’el Collins and center Elliott Porter return after nursing injuries in the last game.

What could also help LSU is the fact that Alabama has not been pressuring quarterbacks as well as it has in the recent past. The Tide is 12th of 14 SEC teams with 11 sacks on the season and has not gotten typically great nose guard play from junior Brandon Ivory. Alabama has gotten more of a push in recent weeks from true freshmen A’Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen on the line.

And to top it off, new LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron — a major reason why LSU has its best passing attack since the 2007 national championship season — will match wits with Saban for the first time in a college game since 1998. Cameron, an NFL offensive coordinator for 10 of the previous 11 seasons, was Indiana’s head coach in ‘98 while Saban was Michigan State’s head coach. Saban won that one 38-31 in double overtime to go to 2-0 against Cameron. He and the Spartans won the previous season by 38-6.

Miles was asked about what advantage Landry and Beckham may have against Alabama’s revolving cornerback position.

“We like the match-up,” he said. “We think that we kind of give them some challenges on the perimeter. We’ve got a quarterback, first of all, that can make the throws, and several receivers can get open in space. They are a very good team, but we think there is a match-up there that benefits us. ”

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
11/07/2013 01:54 PM

So it's not the "Game of the Century," or maybe even the game of the week.

No. 1 Alabama versus No. 10 LSU is still a made-for-prime-time matchup in the Southeastern Conference on Saturday night and maybe even a must-win in the Crimson Tide's bid for a third consecutive national championship.


Alabama (8-0, 5-0) has overcome down-to-the-wire November defeats the past two seasons - to Texas A&M and the Tigers - and still managed to claim the title, thanks to timely losses by other contenders.

Now, four other unbeaten teams are lined up just waiting for the Tide to falter, making perfection the only guaranteed ticket to the BCS title game in Pasadena, Calif. AJ McCarron isn't banking on one loss cutting it this time - or worrying about it.

"Probably not, but I'm not thinking about everybody else," the Alabama quarterback said Monday. "I could care less about what their record is. It's no disrespect to them. They're all having great seasons, but we're worried about us and what we need to do to take care of business."

That doesn't mean some Tide fans won't be tuning in Thursday night for No. 2 Oregon's visit to No. 6 Stanford in the rare game that casts a bigger shadow during Alabama-LSU week. Or taking a peek at what's happening with No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Baylor.

Just in case.

Tide coach Nick Saban dismisses that one-loss scenario as one of those hypotheticals not worth thinking about. But this is one of the two biggest obstacles to perfection remaining for Alabama in the regular season.

The Tide will be heavily favored in at least two of their last three regular-season games against Chattanooga and Mississippi State before facing No. 7 Auburn. Alabama is an 11-point favorite over LSU.

"This is not the kind of game that anybody could not get excited about playing in," Saban said.

The Tigers (7-2, 3-2) already have a pair of three-point road losses to then-No. 9 Georgia (now unranked) and Mississippi, but have recovered well enough to make this the fourth consecutive meeting when both Alabama and LSU are ranked in the top 10.

"I can tell you that our guys are in college football for these kind of games," LSU coach Les Miles said. "We look forward to playing in them. It's a great opportunity for all. Any time you line up against Alabama, there's a rivalry. There's national prestige.

"I think the greatest compliment that we can pay an opponent is our best efforts, and certainly Alabama will get that."

Besides the stakes, this game has been notable in recent meetings for dramatic finishes and tight games, the national title rematch in January 2012 when Alabama won 21-0 being a notable exception.

The last three regular-season meetings have been decided by four points or less, and LSU won two of them.

Last season, T.J. Yeldon took McCarron's screen pass 28 yards for a touchdown with 51 seconds remaining for a 21-17 victory.

"Last year's game hurt," LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson said. "We played a great game until the last minute. Now, I'm just getting ready for this game. Every year we play, it's a huge game, a rivalry game. Everybody is doubting us. I just want to prove them wrong. We play better when everybody is against us.

"This is a chance to showcase our talent. It's like an Ali-Foreman fight every time we play. The intensity level is like no other game."

In 2011, the 1 versus 2 so-called "Game of the Century" came down to the kickers with LSU winning 9-6 in overtime.

"Great defense on both sides, people making plays left and right," Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley said.

The 2010 meeting was notable for Miles enjoying his tradition of nibbling on a blade of grass before DeAngelo Peterson went 23 yards on a fourth-down reverse in the fourth quarter to set up a go-ahead touchdown in LSU's 24-21 victory.

Clearly when it comes to this game, "pretty good" won't likely be enough.

"Coach always tells us to go out and play our best game," Alabama wide receiver Kevin Norwood said. "We don't look for pretty good, we look for the best that we can play."

coleryan Posts:21705 Followers:24
11/08/2013 02:00 PM

- Marquee matchups

This marks the 23rd time the Tide and Tigers have met when both teams are ranked. Alabama holds a 13-8-1 advantage in those meetings.

- Signature win: No. 1 LSU 9, No. 2 Alabama 6 OT (2011)

In the last "Game of the Century" turned out to be a defensive struggle in Tuscaloosa. Alabama missed four field goals, including the go-ahead field goal in overtime. Drew Alleman's 25-yard field goal gave the Tigers the upset. LSU went on to win the SEC championship.

- Signature win: No. 2 Alabama 21, No. 1 LSU 0 (2011)

Of course, the Tigers also faced a rematch against the Crimson Tide in the first-ever all-SEC championship game. Alabama built a 15-0 lead on five first-half field goals, and LSU didn't cross midfield until the fourth quarter. Trent Richardson's 34-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter gave Saban his second national championship with Alabama.

- Nick Saban vs. LSU

Saban is 76-13 at Alabama, including just six losses at home. LSU, however, handed Saban three of those losses, including two in Bryant-Denny Stadium. This game is the biggest roadblock in the Tide's bid for a three-peat. Yes, we know about the Iron Bowl.

- Les Miles in Tuscaloosa

Miles' unconventional coaching style couldn't be more different than Saban's methodical brand of assignment football, but don't expect Miles to back down. He's 3-1 at Alabama.

- Key matchup: A.J. McCarron vs. Zach Mettenberger

This matchup comes down to the quarterback who wins third down. McCarron is 25-of-33 passing with three TDs and two interceptions on third down and six yards or more. Mettenberger, meanwhile, is 23-of-42 in the same situation, but it comes with five TDs and no interceptions. Which quarterback delivers a big play on third-and-long?

- Key matchup: LSU receivers vs. Alabama safeties

Alabama safeties HaHa Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins can't get beat over the top by LSU receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry — each of whom have eight TDs. The matchup between Beckham — who averages 21 yards per catch — and Clinton-Dix — who recently was reinstated from a suspension — is particularly intriguing.

- On the spot: Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU

Alabama has allowed teams to reach the red zone just 13 times this season, and the Tide have allowed just three rushing TDs. Hill has 12 rushing TDs, including eight in the red zone. Hill has to close given the opportunity.

- On the spot: Alabama receivers

The Crimson Tide haven't had a wide receiver score a TD against LSU in the last four meetings. In fact, Julio Jones is the last Alabama receiver to score a TD against the Tigers. Four Alabama receivers — Kevin Norwood, DeAndrew White, Amari Cooper and Christion Jones — have at least 20 receptions. Which receiver steps up?

- Stat that matters: Alabama rushing yards

When two teams this good hook up, it really can be this simple. In the Saban vs. Miles series, Alabama averages 157.5 rushing yards per game in four wins; 72.7 rushing yards per game in three losses. If LSU stops T.J. Yeldon, things could get wild.

- Stat that matters: Fourth-quarter scoring

Alabama holds a 47-41 advantage in the fourth quarter in the last seven meetings. That's not a lot of points, and the winning team has given up seven fourth-quarter points or less in all of those games. It's about who gets stops in crunch time. LSU didn't do that last year.