A final look inside the LSU-Alabama showdown

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Nick Saban
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

As we close in on the showdown in Tuscaloosa, it is time to examine the facts of the matchup and series between SEC West rivals LSU and Alabama.

Both teams are 8-0 and unbeaten in SEC play with Alabama at 5-0 and LSU at 4-0.

The difference is that LSU has played a far more demanding schedule, beating three teams that were ranked in the Top 10 in the nation when the Tigers faced them (Texas, Florida, Auburn).

Alabama has faced no ranked team.

According to www.realtimerpi.com, LSU has played the 55th toughest schedule in the country while Alabama has played a cream puff schedule, ranked as the 190th toughest in the country.

Alabama has won 31 in a row at home by an average of 32.3 points and the Crimson Tide are 78-4 since 2008 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The Crimson Tide has won eight straight over LSU, including three shutouts.

Alabama won five straight over LSU from 1964-68. The Crimson Tide won 11 straight over the Tigers from 1971-81.

LSU’s longest win streak over Alabama started, ironically, under Nick Saban. The Tigers beat Alabama five straight times from 2003-07.

Saban was 4-1 at LSU against Alabama.

Alabama leads the all-time series in convincing fashion, 53-25-5.

Les Miles defeated Alabama four times while Saban won three times over the Crimson Tide as the coach at LSU. Paul Dietzel and Charlie McClendon each had two wins over Alabama.

Saban is now 10-3 against LSU at Alabama.

The series started in 1895.

Then, there are the superb quarterbacks, both of whom are squarely in the hunt to win the Heisman Trophy and both of whom are squarely in the hunt to win a national championship and both of whom are in the hunt to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in 2020.

Joe Burrow has completed 78.8 percent of his passes.

Tua Tagovailoa is second in completion percentage at 74.7.

Burrow is fourth in Total QBR while Tagovailoa is first. Burrow is second in touchdown passes while Tua is tied for third in the country.

All expectations are that Tagovailoa will play. How effective he will be and how mobile he will be remains to be seen and could ultimately decide the outcome of the contest.

Alabama averages 48.6 points per game while allowing 15.2 points per game. Alabama is averaging 168 yards rushing per game and 339 yards passing per contest.

LSU averages 46.8 points per game while allowing 20 points per game. The Tigers average 158.2 yards rushing per game and 377.6 yards passing per contest.

Alabama excels in the turnover department at plus 13 for the season. The Crimson Tide have committed just five turnovers while forcing 18.

LSU is plus four in turnovers, having committed eight turnovers and the Tigers have forced 12 turnovers.

LSU has the better punt game with Zach Von Rosenberg averaging 43.5 yards per punt and in the kicking game, Alabama kickers are 9-of-14 in field goal attempts while Cade York is 11-of-13.

Alabama has nine players from Louisiana while LSU has six players from Alabama.

Alabama is a 6.5 point favorite.

LSU is second in the College Football Playoff rankings while Alabama is third.

Saban is devastatingly good when he has more than a week to prepare, outside of last year’s national championship game with Clemson. LSU always seems to face Alabama off of an off week.

On the other hand, Steve Ensminger and Joe Brady have had two weeks to prepare for the Alabama defense which has stuffed LSU in recent years. There is no Quinnen Williams to contend with this time around.

The axiom of innocent until proven guilty, the recent history, the Saban factor and the overwhelming record of Alabama at home is why the Crimson Tide are favored by a touchdown.

LSU has to prove that it can overcome the monster. Physically, the Tigers would appear to matchup better this year than a year ago or in recent years, for that matter.

Mentally, are the Tigers going to be able to overcome the stigma of having been dominated by Alabama and Saban, particularly when adversity strikes Saturday?

Ultimately, for LSU to win, the Tigers must win or get a draw in the turnover battle. LSU cannot lose that area and win. The Tigers need to win the kicking game as well. York must overcome any perceived yips and Derek Stingley Jr. cannot fumble any punts.

Also, LSU must at least score in the 20’s to win. If LSU climbs above the 30 point level, the Tigers can win. The last time LSU scored 30 or more points on Alabama was in 2007 when LSU defeated the Crimson Tide 41-34 at Tuscaloosa.

If LSU is to win this game, it will be a lot like that game in 2007 when Saban was in his first year in Tuscaloosa.

Finally, there is the weather to consider. It should be perfect football weather Saturday afternoon, with a high of 59 degrees under sunny skies with no wind to speak of.

If this game were in Baton Rouge, given LSU’s offensive efficiency, it would be a perfect storm. Instead, the Tigers will have to provide the storm Saturday in hostile territory on a calm, crisp, cool day to become the new cool team not named Clemson in college football.

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Ken Trahan

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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