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When the Alabama Crimson Tide rolls into Baton Rouge this weekend to face the LSU Tigers, the Saturday primetime matchup marks the 30th meeting between the two schools where both are ranked in the AP Top 25. Alabama enjoys the lead in such ranked-versus-ranked matchups, owning a 19-9-1 record in the series.
Entering the game this year, both teams are currently ranked in unexpected positions. The surprise behind the Tigers No. 16 ranking is how quickly head coach Brian Kelly has turned LSU around. In Kelly’s first year, the Tigers have only tasted defeat against Florida State in a sloppy season-opening loss and against No. 2 ranked Tennessee in October.
Meanwhile, the astonishment behind the Crimson Tide No. 6 ranking is that the SEC school enters its annual First Saturday in November rivalry game outside of the Top 5 for only the second time in the last 16 years, a feat last witnessed in 2010.
A berth in the SEC Championship game is possible for either team as the winner of this contest takes a decisive lead in the standings moving forward. Will Alabama continue its dominance over LSU, or will the Tigers tame the Tide under its new head coach?
A future NFL starting QB in Bryce Young to lead Alabama’s elite offense. The Crimson Tide feature the fourth-best scoring offense (43.1 points per game) this season, largely due to Young and his 21 total TDs through eight games.
Young - who won last year’s Heisman Trophy - has passed for 1,906 yards, 18 TDs, and three interceptions in 2022. The signal caller’s primary options are Kobe Prentice (28 catches, 279 yards, 1 TD) and Ja’Corey Brooks (21 receptions, 376 yards, 4 TDs).
In addition to Young, defenses will have to account for RB Jahmyr Gibbs. The junior runner has 98 carries for 672 yards and three TDs this year. He also has a team-best 31 receptions for 301 yards and three TDs through eight games.
LSU’s defense has improved drastically from 2021, shaving nearly a touchdown off their scoring defense while reducing their yards allowed by more than 10 percent in a year’s time. The Tigers have slashed their passing yards allowed by more than 40 yards each game, accounting for much of LSU’s increased productivity.
The Tigers’ improved play on defense starts with their secondary. CB Mekhi Garner leads the team with five passes broken up and safety Micah Baskerville is the team’s leader in tackles with 50 total.
Up front, a pair of DE in BJ Ojulari (4 sacks, 5 TFL total) and Ali Gaye (2 forced fumbles, 3 TFLs total) create pressure on opposing backfields.
When the Tigers secured QB Jayden Daniels’ services this year through the transfer portal, LSU fans were not expecting this dual-threat option to be as explosive in his first season. As a passer, Daniels has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,812 yards and 12 TDs with only one interception.
On the ground, however, is where Daniels has thrived. The elusive signal-caller has rushed for 524 yards and nine TDs, both totals tops for the Tigers this year.
WR Malik Nabers leads the team with 36 receptions for 455 yards and a TD. Fellow WR Jaray Jenkins has five TDs and 288 yards receiving off 20 receptions in 2022. RB Josh Williams is second on the team with 305 yards rushing off 66 carries and 97 yards receiving off 14 catches.
Alabama’s defense is among the nation’s best in several categories. The Crimson Tide ranks seventh in scoring defense (16.6 points per game) and among the Top 15 in total defense and rushing defense.
Despite those lofty rankings, Alabama is among the worst in the nation at creating turnovers. Only 11 schools in the nation have forced fewer turnovers than the Crimson Tide’s eight total takeaways. No Alabama team in the last 10 years has forced opponents into fewer turnovers than this year’s squad.
This defense is led by its mid-tier players. LB Will Anderson Jr. is the team’s leading sack artist, netting six sacks. Even without tackling opposing quarterbacks, Anderson Jr. creates pressure on opponents with 10 QB hurries and 12 TFLs total, two other team-best totals. Senior LB Henry To’oto’o leads the Crimson Tide with 60 tackles.
While Alabama has steamrolled every team they’ve faced in Tuscaloosa, road games have not been as kind for the Crimson Tide. In three away games this season, Alabama is 1-2 ATS, losing to Tennessee as the favorite while failing to cover against Texas earlier this season.
Meanwhile, LSU at home is 4-2 ATS, only failing to cover spreads against Tennessee and Florida State in the season opener. Expect the Tigers to keep this game closer than predicted, having a chance to win the game late in Death Valley.