LSU TIGERS (6-2)
at ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (8-0)
Bryant-Denny Stadium – Tuscaloosa, AL
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Alabama -21.5, Total: NA
#1 Alabama will put its undefeated record on the line when the team hosts #19 LSU on Saturday.
Weeks 3 through 5 of the college football season did not paint a flattering light on the LSU Tigers and newly full-time head coach Ed Orgeron. Sandwiched around a nine-point win over Syracuse, LSU suffered embarrassing losses in the forms of a 37-7 blowout to Mississippi State and a 24-21 loss to Troy that caught even the biggest Tiger haters by surprise. The loss to Troy knocked the team off the national radar, but they have quickly crawled back to No. 19 in the AP poll thanks to consecutive wins over Florida, Auburn and Ole Miss to reach 6-2 (3-5 ATS). But with a matchup against archrival Alabama looming this week, few believe LSU has what it takes to win a fourth straight game. That's because, at 8-0 (4-4 ATS), the Crimson Tide have looked like easily the country's most dominant team this year, only showing signs of even remote vulnerability in an eight-point win over Texas A&M on October 7. In the two games after, Bama beat Arkansas and Tennessee by a combined 70 points. Both the Tide and the Tigers are coming off of byes this week, and will enter Saturday night's showdown well rested. Over the last 10 seasons, favorites of 21.5 to 31 points that have outrushed their opponents by 100+ yards in three straight games (BAMA) are 39-12 ATS. In the same time frame, though, road underdogs that averaged 6.0+ yards per carry in their last game (LSU) are 83-34 ATS in matchups involving two teams that are averaging at least 4.8 YPC on the year.
LSU RB Derrius Guice began the season at the top of the list for Heisman candidates, and he went for 100+ yards and two touchdowns against both BYU and Chattanooga to open the season. After that, though, he went four straight games without reaching 80 yards on the ground, and his injury-induced absence against Troy certainly played a role in the loss. But in the Tigers' most recent game, Guice looked like an absolute monster against Ole Miss, racking up an astounding 276 yards (and a touchdown) on only 22 carries. His 126 yards in the first half alone were enough to give him a season high. Backup RB Darrel Williams also got 22 carries and took them for 103 yards on the night. Guice has taken time off practice in the days since that win, and he should be in top form against the Tide. LSU will rely on Guice for explosiveness, as that's not exactly the forté of QB Danny Etling: he's sixth in the SEC with 1,452 passing yards. That said, he's been effective and efficient this season in a way that Tigers QBs have largely failed to be in the last decade. He's thrown nine touchdowns and only one interception on the year, and his 9.4 yards per passing attempt are third-best in the conference. Against Ole Miss, he completed 9 of 13 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. Williams caught four of those passes for 105 yards, and he's the team's second-leading receiver on the year both in terms of receptions and yardage. WR D.J. Chark leads the squad with 22 catches for 535 yards, but is yet to pull in a TD. TE Foster Moreau leads the team with three touchdown catches.
It speaks to Alabama's talent that they are able to blow out opponents so consistently while sticking to fairly conservative game scripts. At the center of this philosophy is QB Jalen Hurts, who has kept in the Bama quarterback tradition of trying to remain mistake-free while all of the five-star recruits that surround him make plays. His numbers aren't all that different from Etling's: He's thrown for 1,223 yards on the year to go with nine touchdowns and a single interception. He brings a second element to his game with his running ability, though, and is 11th among all SEC players with 572 yards (and six TDs) on 84 carries. Alongside RBs Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and, to a lesser degree, Najee Harris, he forms part of probably the best running backfield in the nation. Harris is the star running back, leading the league with 8.6 yards per carry. (Hurts is third at 6.8.) Scarbrough is the bruiser, and he had two touchdowns against Tennessee despite only gaining 18 yards on nine carries. Harris had 50 yards on seven carries in that game, and his YPC numbers have steadily increased as the season has gone along. As they face more difficult competition, the Tide could probably use more consistent targets out wide. WR Calvin Ridley is targeted so much more often than other receivers that it's almost comical, as he has 41 catches on the year (523 yards) and Bama's next leading receiver, freshman WR Jerry Jeudy, has 12. His fellow freshman WR Henry Ruggs III has five catches on the year, and they've all been touchdowns.