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Tigers in rare big underdog role at Alabama

The SportsXchange

LSU isn't used to being an underdog, let alone a decided one.

But a decided underdog is exactly what the 10th-ranked Tigers (7-2) are going into their game against No. 1 Alabama on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"I can tell you that this team does not take on an underdog's mentality," LSU Coach Les Miles said. "It's a team that really feels like it can play with any. And so I don't know that we use it as motivation. It's certainly not been any rallying cry that we wanted to make. I can just tell you that we look forward to playing."

The Tigers, like the Crimson Tide, had an open date last weekend. LSU's last game was a 48-16 victory against Furman on Oct. 26.

Oddsmakers have made Alabama about a 12-point favorite, the first time the Tigers have been a double-digit underdog in 10 years.

"It being Alabama, it feels the way it always feels," LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. "It's LSU versus Alabama. It doesn't matter if it's a three-point spread (or) a 40-point spread."

If the Tigers are going to pull the upset they will need a lot of productivity from quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who has thrown five interceptions in the last two games after having a record-setting start to the season.

"I think there was some impatience there that was evident in the last couple of weeks," Miles said. "But I think there's a need to recognize the style of defense we're going to play and some of the throws that you take and some of the throws that you don't.

"I think our quarterback has to play well," Miles said. "I think we have to have balance, both run and pass, so that it becomes something that he can do routinely or without having to make great plays. And I think that it'll always be balance that allows us to really have the best quarterback play."

If Mettenberger is successful, it will be because Beckham and Jarvis Landry are getting open against a Tide secondary that struggled in Alabama's sternest test to date, a 49-42 victory at Texas A&M.

"We like the matchup," Miles said. "We think that we kind of give them some challenges on the perimeter. We got a quarterback, first of all, that can make the throw and several receivers that can get open in space.

"Again, who we're playing, they are a very good team, but we think there is a matchup there that benefits us."

NOTES, QUOTES

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

--QB Zach Mettenberger had a breakout performance against Alabama last season and had LSU poised to upset the Tide. But the Tigers couldn't get a first down that would have allowed them to run out the clock and AJ McCarron took the Tide right down the field for a last-minute touchdown that was the difference in a 21-17 victory. Mettenberger will need to have similar success and if he does it should open up some running room for Jeremy Hill.

--WR/KR Odell Beckham Jr. will have to make plays on offense and in the return game. He has been Mettenberger's big-play target while Jarvis Landry has done most of his damage on underneath throws. Beckham is also a big-play threat on both kickoff and punt returns.

--DT Anthony Johnson has been more of an impact player in the second half of the season than he was early on when he was slowed by an elbow injury. He needs to help the Tigers slow the interior running game of the Tide and be a disruptive force in the backfield. LSU has not had much of a pass rush from its front four, but it must pressure McCarron.

--LB Kwon Alexander has emerged as the biggest playmaker among the back seven. He is tied with Johnson for the team lead in tackles for loss. He plays mostly in the base and will need to make stops on early downs to put the Tide in unfavorable down-and-distance situations.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think this team at LSU kind of historically looks forward to playing Alabama. I think it's the same this week." -- LSU coach Les Miles.
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