Laken Litman, beat writer, FoxSports/Scout.com
GAMEDAY: Alabama’s offense has truly been balanced all season, and the Tide has shown the ability to win games on the ground and when throwing the ball. Will that balance hold up against the vaunted LSU defense or will the Tigers force the Tide to be one-dimensional?
Laken Litman: It’s hard to say because, like we say every week, Alabama hasn’t legitimately been tested (on either side of the ball). Mississippi State’s defense was probably the toughest the Tide has faced this year and it held Eddie Lacy to 26 yards rushing and Alabama’s running attack as a whole to 179 yards. Alabama’s passing game did go up against some future first-round draft pick cornerbacks in Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, but Amari Cooper, Kenny Bell and Co. were still able to make big plays. So I do think that LSU’s stout defense will try to make Alabama one-dimensional and halt the run, but if that’s the case, as AJ McCarron always says, he’ll take what the defense gives and exploit them that way.
GD: Alabama’s defense has teed off on stationary quarterbacks and Zach Mettenberger is like a statue in the pocket. How effective can Mettenberger be against Alabama’s defense and does he have the ability to beat Alabama with his arm?
LL: For LSU to win this game, Mettenberger will have to make plays, and that’s something he hasn’t done this season. In the Tigers’ last game, Texas A&M, whose passing defense ranks 12th in the SEC, held him to 97 yards.
LSU is lacking an offensive identity and Mettenberger looks like he still hasn’t adjusted to the speed of SEC defenses. If Alabama can step up its pass rush (which is an area Nick Saban says he’d like to see improve every week), Mettenberger will have problems getting anything going.
Not to mention that if Alabama cuts off LSU’s running game and makes them one-dimensional, the Tigers will have to rely on Mettenberger’s arm and that means trouble against the SEC’s best secondary.
GD: Nick Saban and Les Miles have different personalities and coaching styles, but both are winners. In your opinion, which team has the upper hand from a coaching standpoint?
LL: It’s hard to say, because players who come to Alabama get up for Saban because they like his coaching style, and the players who go to LSU get up for Miles because they like his coaching style. Not everyone can handle a drill sergeant for a coach and not everyone can handle a mad hatter. But those who can, do, and do it well. It’s a matter of player opinion, really.
GD: AJ McCarron’s Heisman hype continues to grow with every game. He torched this team in the BCS Championship game back in January. What would a big game against this defense do for his Heisman stock?
LL: It would have to soar. He has 18 touchdowns to zero interceptions so far this season and when voters get ready to fill out their Heisman ballots, they’ll have to keep stats like that in mind.
Many times, the Heisman Trophy goes to the best player on the best team. McCarron isn’t a glitzy player. He’s not a running quarterback. He doesn’t put up 300-plus yards every game because that’s not how Alabama’s offense works. But all that aside, he could have a breakout game against LSU and if he does, there is no question he could propel himself into the thick of the race (especially with the way Matt Barkley and USC and Geno Smith and West Virginia have sort of imploded).
GD: Who wins, what’s the score and why?
LL: I’ve overheard some reporters who have covered the Tide for centuries say that this is the best defense they’ve ever seen, and that that surprised them considering how dominant last year’s unit was. The defense leads the nation in just about every statistical category and has forced 23 turnovers. The offensive line dominates – and wins – the line of scrimmage every game. McCarron is on fire and his connection with Amari Cooper has been electric. Plus, Alabama is outscoring its opponents 325-65 (104-3 in first quarters).
As I stated above, LSU is still having trouble finding an identity, poor quarterback play has doomed them and they’ve suffered several key injuries along the offensive line that they haven’t really been able to overcome. For lack of a better term, the Tide is on a roll and it’s hard to see them slowing down.
Alabama wins, 20-9.