Once again, LSU Alabama is the SEC West’s defining matchup. A certain feeling of order is restored as LSU-Alabama will once again decide the division. The building should be buzzing and the chance of rain is zero.
When Alabama Has the Ball
The only way to beat this Alabama team is by taking away every opportunity Bryce Young has to make plays. If there is a play to be made, he’ll make it. LSU has to find a way to make it so that he has nowhere to go with the ball and no time to get it there. Limiting his out of structure ability, especially on passing downs, is critical to surviving number 9. I expect LSU to play a fair bit of “Odd-Mirror 5” to both play tight to routes and keep an elite athlete accounting for Young.
The amount of quick and intermediate passing that Alabama likes to use in Bill O’Brien’s classic West Coast system combined with Alabama being below their usual standard at WR these past couple years has seen them struggle against well-played man coverage. Most notably in their games against Auburn and Cincy last year, playing tight to routes has proven fruitful against the post-Sark, post Waddle/Smith Crimson tide. LSU may want to play a bit more man than they’re used to.
Bringing the House
Another thing the post-Sark Alabama teams have struggled with is dealing with and picking up pressure. Their OL has had trouble with assignments and getting into the right protections far more often than they’d like, which has meant that teams can generate free runners against them. Young often bails them out, but Daronte Jones, Pete Kwiatkowski, and Derrick Mason showed a blueprint for overwhelming Alabama’s protections and getting them off the field.
When LSU Has The Ball
LSU has to make sure it stays efficient on early downs with both explosive plays and an efficient floor. Whether it be through the run game or the pass, LSU cannot find itself in 3rd and long. If they do, Alabama will employ their “Cheetah” package with elite edge rushers Will Anderson, Dallas Turner, and Chris Braswell. It’ll be incredibly difficult for an inexperienced and inconsistent OL to deal with Will Anderson and Dallas Turner on every down, but when they all get on the field, align in different places, pick and twist and send pressure from everywhere, it’s scary hours.
Preseason, my expectation for Will Campbell was that he’d have a solid, yet normally inconsistent freshman year, with one week where he gets cruelly welcomed to the SEC by the best edge rusher in the sport. That week is here, let’s see how it goes.