Well it’s Bama week.
The buildup to this year’s edition doesn’t quite have the same zeal as previous years. Maybe it’s because LSU is ass and a 30-point underdog; maybe LSU finally snapping the tortuous 8-year losing streak to Alabama finally eased the minds of some LSU fans; or maybe it’s *gestures at everything* and football just seems secondary.
Either way, the No. 1 team in America is coming to town and frankly they’ve got an axe to grind. Here with us to preview Alabama is our pal Brent Taylor from Roll Bama Roll.
1) So how badly does Alabama want to beat LSU this year?
Pretty badly, to be honest. There was a LOT of smack talk after a tooth-and-nails game last year, and I have no doubt the Alabama team took notice of many of the antics. Plus the game is just a particularly important one for Saban— even if he’d never admit it— due to the animosity and effigy-burnings towards him. Alabama definitely took it personally that they dropped all the way to #13 in the nation after losing on the final drive to the #1 team in the nation and losing by 2 points in a stupid game against a top 10 team, and more than a few seniors made it clear they came back this year to right those wrongs and show the nation that the final ranking at the end of the season was a mistake and a fluke.
2) Is there an aspect of LSU that gives the Tide some concerns?
While Alabama’s three cornerbacks have been absolutely phenomenal and rival any cornerback grouping in Saban’s tenure, DC Pete Golding is absolutely allergic to calling plays that actually cover a tight end in the middle of the field. The middle linebackers, while athletic and speedy in coverage, are particularly susceptible to play action, so the whole “pretend-to-block-for-0.2-seconds-then-catch-the-ball” is quite effective. Safety Daniel Wright also has a bad tendency to try to jump routes (badly, most of the time) and leaves some major open holes in the middle of the field. Also, the group as a whole still hasn’t grasped that a running back can legally run downfield as a receiver. Fortunately LSU hasn’t seemed to feature the running backs in the receiving game too much.
Gilbert, though, scares me. The uber-athlete is already a mismatch against most any college defender, but he’s infinity-times better than air, and that’s the kind of coverage he’ll likely get about 2-3 times this game.
3) Who wins the Derek Stingley-Devonta Smith rematch?
Smith has been really, really good for 3 years, but he’s really gone to another level this season. The sheer competitiveness and desire to dominate has become part of his game, and he’s no longer looking like a guy that’s good for burning someone a couple of times per game, but someone who demands 10-15 targets and wants the ball even when he’s covered. It’s been really fun to watch.
We made fun of Stingley a bit last year after Alabama fans heard all the hype for weeks and then Smith racked up a couple of huge plays on him... But, honestly, he was a true freshman, one of them was on a pre-snap trickery play, and those things happen to even the best of corners.
So, I don’t imagine 7 catches for 200+ yards happens again. I’d expect more along the lines of 11 catches for 130 or so. Alabama moves Smith all over the formation, so I expect he’ll get some catches on other DBs as well as grab three or four screen passes.
4) Bo Nix took an unintentional dig at Mac Jones and Jones proceeded to throw for five touchdowns in the Iron Bowl. Do you think if LSU says nothing but good things about Mac Jones it’ll lull him into a false sense of security?
Seems likely. Jones might be psychopathic though. He’s got the laugh for it.
Seriously, though, the thing to remember with Mac is that the dude loves being blitzed. He’s got this weird thing where he likes being hit as he’s throwing, particularly if he’s flinging it deep. For some reason, it makes him more accurate. So cover-0 at your own risk. But back off a bit and give him time to think, and he seems to get more likely to randomly get antsy and make a weird throw.
5) Which one of the Louisiana kids that Saban stole from LSU has turned into your favorite player?
I mean it has to be DeVonta Smith. But since we’ve already talked about him, here’s a different name you may not remember: Chris Allen. The 4th year linebacker had a rough go of it with ACL injuries, and finally got a chance to start this year. He looked predictably rusty and a bit lackluster for the first bit of the season, but he’s been on fire the last 4 weeks or so. His 3 sacks and 7 tackles for loss both lead the team, and he’s been routinely abusing left tackles on 3rd down pass rushes a couple of times per game.
6) It’s been six years since LSU’s scored at home against Alabama, what were you doing six years ago?
Hmmm.... That would have been the 2014 overtime game. I was a junior at Alabama studying chemical engineering, and, according to Google Photos, had only just gotten back from a camping trip to the mountains in Tennessee with my roommates from the bye weekend before. I believe we watched that one in our apartment living room with some buffalo chicken dip while one roommate would jump around screaming about it being the 4th quarter all game... But that’s a bit of a cop out since that was EVERY week for two years. I also would have likely been putting off studying for either differential equations, fluid flow, or heat transfer and generally being angsty about life.
7) Finally is there any truth to the rumor I just made up that Nick Saban intentionally got sick so he could spend all that time studying up on how to beat Bo Pelini’s legendary defense?
If that were the case, he would have gotten bored and got un-sick a few hours later