by Jeff Pizzo
Around 7:30 pm on Saturday afternoon, we should all know the winner of the LSU-Alabama game. Can the "hat" (LSU coach Les Miles) go into Tuscaloosa again and pull out a victory? Or will the "hair" (Alabama coach Nick Saban) beat his old team and the current 3rd ranked Tigers?
There are many sidebars to this game. Saban's first game against his former employer. Ryan Perrilloux not making the trip due to an altercation at
the Varsity Theater last Friday night. Derrick Odom and Jeremy Benton being kicked off the LSU team. Saban dealing with 9 million questions about facing LSU for the first time as Alabama coach and more specifically answering the "those are your players over there, how do you feel" question. So much outside stuff, but little is being discussed about the game in general. Being an LSU fan and the fact that I write this blog, here's my take on what LSU needs to do in order to win on Saturday.
1) Stay within itself.
Basically, don't do anything stupid. Miles has recently become known as a guy who takes chances and is a bit reckless, so I'm hoping for the sake of this game, that persona disappears. If LSU runs the ball (preferably with a game breaker like Keiland Williams or Charles Scott more than 5 times) and doesn't try to do anything crazy, LSU should be successful. Alabama currently gives up 355 yards per game on defense, while the LSU offense averages 435 yards per game. So on paper, LSU should be able to control the line of scrimmage, from an offensive perspective, and move up and down the field.
Defensively, look for LSU to blitz and blitz often. John Parker Wilson is not the most mobile of guys and if he his hit and harassed all day, look for him to commit a mistake or two. LSU hounded Wilson last year in Baton Rouge and did the same exact thing to a similar QB, Brodie Croyle, in 2005 in Tuscaloosa. Simply said, the defense needs to set the tempo from the get go and let Wilson know that they will be in his face until the game ends.
This is a key in every game, but more so in games like this. In LSU's only loss this year to Kentucky, the Tigers committed 12 penalties for 103 yards. Do that again on the road against a pretty good football team and they'll find themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Dumb penalties like false starts and personal fouls absolutely kill drives and will only help feed a raucous crowd in Tuscaloosa.
3) Catching the ball
You throw the ball. You catch the ball. Seems pretty simple doesn't it? Well, the catching part seems to be a little troublesome for some members of the LSU team, namely Brandon Lafell. After his performance during the first 2 1/2 quarters vs Auburn and his 6 drops vs Kentucky, Lafell seemed to work his way down the depth chart as Freshman Terrance Toliver and JUCO transfer Demetrius Byrd played the majority of the 4th quarter. Now, both Tolliver and Byrd have dropped passes, but not at the rate Lafell has. Due to the coaches reaction to Lafell's play and essentially sitting him in the 4th quarter of the Auburn game, I'm thinking that Doucet, Tolliver & Byrd will be the top 3 receivers with Lafell being the 4th guy when the team goes to a 4 wide formation. I mentioned above that LSU averages 435 per game. Just think what that number would be if the wide receiver core caught the ball more consistently? Scary.
Playing within itself, keeping penalties to a minimum and catching the ball much more consistently are the three main keys for an LSU victory in Tuscaloosa Saturday. I will be attending the game and leaving Friday afternoon. Aside from a crowd similar to the LSU-Florida game this year in Baton Rouge, I'm not really sure what to expect from 'Bama fans when LSU fans come onto campus. Let's just hope for Tiger fans, that they leave with smiles on their faces after showing Alabama how the west was won.