A little food for thought. There will be more analysis to come, obviously, but for the time being, here are a few factoids on the Tigers and the Tide. I'm not drawing any conclusions yet, because context should be added, etc... Maybe they mean something, maybe not. (stats courtesy the invaluable cfbstats.com)
LSU is better than Alabama at sacking quarterbacks and protecting them. The Tide allow a sack once in every 10 passing attempts. LSU isn't dramatically better, allowing one every 14 drop-backs, but the Tiger defense is getting to quarterbacks on one out of every nine attempts. But for a point of reference, the 2009 LSU offensive line (which blocked for one of the worst offenses in the last 20 years of Tiger football) allowed a sack once every nine passing attempts.
On third downs, LSU is the better short-yardage rushing offense, but Alabama is the better short-yardage rushing defense. The Tigers average 3.53 yards per carry in third and 3 yards or less, and converts for the first 61 percent of the time. Bama, on the other hand, averages 2.95 yards per carry and converts 44 percent of the time. But the Tide defense has allowed just seven conversions in 19 third and 3 or less attempts (37 percent). LSU has allowed 14 conversions in 23 attempts - 61 percent. Bama allows 2.4 ypc on third and short, LSU 3.7.
LSU has been better at stopping opposing running games early, but Bama has been better at stopping them late. The Tigers allow just 2.9 yards per carry in the first half, but that average increases to 4.5 in the second half (though I would love to know what effect Cam Newton has had on those numbers). Bama allows 4.5 yards per rush in the first half, but that average drops to 3.07 in the second half.
In conference play, both LSU and Alabama have been solid on third downs. The Tigers have converted 46.6 percent of third downs against conference opponents, the Tide, 45.3 percent. Defensively, third down percentage defense favors Bama (35 percent allowed to 43), but in raw numbers the difference really isn't significant (24 conversions in 68 attempts, compared to 29 conversions in 66 attempts for LSU).
In conference play, both teams score at a similar clip in the red zone, but Bama puts it in the endzone more often. LSU's scoring percentage inside the 20-yard-line actually beats out Bama's, 88 percent to 80 percent. But the Tide's touchdown percentage is nine percentage points better, 55 percent to 46.