L-S-U at Alabama 11-7-09

November 7, 2009

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(9) L-S-U (7-1) at (3) Alabama (8-0)

Saturday, November 7th, 3:35 p.m. (et)

GAME NOTES: Top-10 foes meet up in Tuscaloosa in a key SEC Western Division battle, as the ninth-ranked LSU Tigers come calling on the third-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.

Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide are in the driver’s seat atop the SEC West with a perfect 5-0 league ledger. At 8-0 overall, Alabama is one of just seven undefeated teams remaining in the FBS. Remaining unbeaten on the year hasn’t come easy, including a 12-10 slugfest with Tennessee two weeks ago, the last time Alabama was on the field.

LSU is off to its third 7-1 start in the five years since Les Miles has taken over the program. The Tigers took a break from conference action last week and posted their most lopsided win of the season, a 42-0 shutout of Tulane. It was the 18th straight win for LSU over its instate rival.

Nick Saban led LSU to a 13-1 record and the national title in 2003 and is impressed with Les Miles and what he has accomplished in Baton Rouge.

“Les Miles has done a fantastic job in the five years he has been as LSU. They always play with toughness. They play with great effort. They are well- coached on both sides of the ball as well as special teams.”

These two teams are meeting for the 73rd time overall and the 18th time in Tuscaloosa. LSU had a five-game win streak against the Crimson Tide snapped last year, with a 27-21 overtime win for Alabama in Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers had their best offensive output last week against the Green Wave, amassing 455 total yards, including a season-high 267 yards rushing. The numbers on the season haven’t been quite as prolific, with the team averaging 26.4 ppg, on just 325.1 yards of offense.

The play of quarterback Jordan Jefferson has been a pleasant surprise for LSU, as the sophomore has completed 63.7 percent of his attempts, for 1,421 yards and 11 TDs, with just four interceptions. The passing game is generating a modest 183.6 yards per game, but remains a viable threat with a pair of talented wideouts on the outside in Terrance Toliver (38 catches, for 501 yards and three TDs) and Brandon LaFell (37 catches, for 478 yards and eight TDs).

The ground game is netting 4.0 yards per carry on the year, but LSU lacks a true workhorse in the backfield. Charles Scott leads the way with his 459 yards and four TDs, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

The LSU defense is why the Tigers are still within reach of a divisional title. The unit is one of the nation’s best, ranking seventh in scoring defense (12.1 ppg) and 15th in total defense (293.0 ypg). The Tigers have recorded 16 takeaways this year, but a lack of a pass rush is apparent, with just 11 sacks.

Miles knows the key is for LSU’s defense to stand up to the playmakers on the Alabama offense.

“Offensively, they are averaging 31 points and 410 yards per game. They can run the football very well. Mark Ingram is a great back. He’s from Flint, Mich. I wish he would have stayed in the Midwest, but he’s certainly a great player for them. They have a quarterback (Greg McElroy) who makes smart decisions. He’s thrown nine touchdowns and three interceptions. He manages the game very well for them. I think they have a great receiver in Julio Jones, who is really one of the best receivers in the country.”

Junior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard has been a tackling machine in 2009, posting a team-high 70 stops, with 7.5 TFLs. Fellow LB Perry Riley is a distant second with 55 total tackles. Senior end Rahim Alem has provided the most push up front with 6.0 TFLs and 3.0 sacks.

The Crimson Tide are at their best when they are pounding the ball on the ground. This season, the team has excelled in that regard, netting 217.6 yards per game on a healthy 5.3 yards per carry.

The team has a true Heisman candidate in Ingram. The sophomore sensation has taken over at times this year, averaging 125.5 yards per game, on 6.6 yards per clip. He has already gone over 1,000 yards on the year (1,004), with eight TDs. He has added another three TDs on 19 receptions.

Saban knows what he has in the backfield.

“I think Mark’s very confident. He got to play a lot last year as a freshman and gained a lot of knowledge and experience by doing that and had a reasonable amount of success. This year he has just grown more confident. I think Mark’s sort of a unique style of running back. He’s a guy that has speed, has a make you miss ability to avoid tacklers, but has the strength and power and is difficult to tackle as well. He has a tremendous competitive spirit about him, and is a true warrior in terms of the way he competes and the way he plays.”

McElroy has managed the offense well for the most part, completing nearly 60 percent of his passes, for 1,445 yards and nine TDs. After a slow start, star wideout Julio Jones has taken over the lead in receptions albeit with just 20.

As good as LSU has been on the defensive side of the football, Alabama has been even better, ranking fifth in scoring defense (11.4 ppg), second in rush defense (64.9 ypg) and fourth in total defense (240.9 ypg).

There is All-American talent throughout the unit, starting in the linebacking corps with Rolando McClain, who has a team-high 57 tackles, with 7.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks, two INTs and one forced fumble. The play in the secondary is highlighted by safety Mark Barron (48 tackles, four INTs) and cornerback Javier Arenas (45 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 4.0 sacks). Eryk Anders (40 tackles, 8.0 TFLs, 4.0 sacks) is another playmaker in the back seven. Up front, Alabama is led by sophomore rush end Marcell Dareus (21 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks) and mammoth tackle Terrence Cody.

The Crimson Tide will be tested in this one, and we love LSU getting the points in this contest.


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