LSU / Alabama Preview & SEC Week 10 Picks

If LSU is to pull an upset in Tuscaloosa Saturday, a different Tiger offense is going to need to be on the field. Not so different in personnel, but far different in ideology.

LSU is not going to be successful pounding out a ground game against Alabama. The Tide has held six of its eight opponents to under 65 yards of rushing, and opponents average a mere 1.8 yards per carry against Fonzie’s rush defense. That is stout, to say the least. The Magic of Russell Shepard might produce a bit of offense in the seams, but LSU won’t win on the ground.

The Tigers will have to win this one through the air. That will be no easy task, either, as Alabama is a respectable 20th in the nation in pass defense. But it seems the only path to victory in this game.

I don’t think Jordan Jefferson needs to post a 300-yard game to win, but I think he needs to complete a lot of passes. To overcome Alabama’s power run game, LSU will need to move the ball and not let Bama wear down the Tiger defense. A quick pass offense might be able to make that happen. Running Charles Scott up the middle won’t.

And a strength of LSU has been a deep corps of receivers. Toliver, LaFell, Randle, Dickson, Jackson, Mitchell and Shepard can all make plays. Scott and Williams can catch it coming out of the backfield. LSU will need to turn the passing game loose and craft a throw-first attack to get the ball moving in this one.

As usual, I’m not sure we’ll see that kind of smart gameplan from LSU’s coaches. But we’ll die on the ground in Tuscaloosa.

Defensively, it’s hard to know what to expect out of Alabama beyond Mark Ingram. Julio Jones is lying in wait should Bama’s passing offense wake up again (the Tide averaged 234 passing yards per game in its first four contests and 126 per game in its last four). But I wouldn’t expect Saban to lead with the pass. LSU’s offense hasn’t earned that sort of fear, so until the Tigers score some points I would expect the Tide to be conservative and grind things out on the ground.

LSU will need to focus heavily on the run, give Jones to Patrick Peterson to cover and try to press Bama to throw the ball. That seems doable with a strong effort. Not easy, but doable.

So I think this game is winnable by LSU. But it would take an extraordinary offensive effort for that to happen as well as excellent defense. Unfortunately I think that’s too much to ask from this LSU team.

Bama 24 – 17

Elsewhere in the SEC:

It’s a pretty weak lineup beyond the LSU / Bama game.

South Carolina at Arkansas. The Cocks’ bad offense against The Hogs’ bad defense. Or The Hogs’ good offense against The Cocks’ good defense. Take your pick. Both of these teams are bordering on “wait ’til next year” mode, though the Cocks still have an 8-win season in their sights. Arkansas has crumbled in the face of good defenses this year, so I’ll go with USC.

Cocks 28 – 24

Vanderbilt at No. 1 Florida. Remember back early in the season when LSU’s win 23-9 over Vandy was considered to be a very good showing? The ‘Dores are now 2-7 and 0-5 in the SEC. Don’t look for this to be a week the Gators get shocked.

Florida 45 – 10

Memphis at Tennessee. This game barely warrants a sentence. There.

Vols 31 – 13

Tennessee Tech at Georgia, Furman at Auburn, Northern Arizona at Ole Miss, Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky.

Georgia, Auburn, Ole Miss, Kentucky

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