Following the release of the College Football Playoff Rankings, LSU hosting Alabama has now become a top-10 matchup.
It’ll be a night game under the lights in Death Valley and should be one of the better environments LSU has produced since Joe Burrow was on campus. However, the Crimson Tide are no strangers to crowd noise and have survived hostile environments in Baton Rouge before.
It’s a contest that features some dynamic quarterbacks playing their best ball in Bryce Young and Jayden Daniels. Brian Kelly has discussed how he embraces the opportunity of having to go through Alabama to win the SEC. He’ll have to do just that on Saturday if he wants to give the Tigers a shot in Atlanta.
Here’s what you need to know about this Crimson Tide team.
How the Tide got here
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Like LSU, Alabama is coming off its bye week. Prior to the open date, Alabama beat Mississippi State 30-6, bouncing back from the loss to Tennessee.
Nick Saban and crew got a scare against Arkansas when Bryce Young left with an injury and did not return, but the Tide pulled away to win that one 49-26. Young sat out the next week, and backup QB Jalen Milroe led Alabama to a 24-20 win over Texas A&M.
Alabama had another close one in Week 2, just beating Texas 20-19.
Bryce Young is still Bryce Young
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The 2021 Heisman winner has some work to do if he wants to win the award again, but Bryce Young is still one of the elite players in the sport. Heading into week 10, Bryce Young has graded out as PFF’s top quarterback in the SEC.
It’s hard to find a weakness in his game. He’s good from a clean pocket and under pressure. In the air, he can work all areas of the field, which includes taking some deep shots, but he’s been his best this year when working the middle of the field.
He’s got wheels too, so he can do it on the ground with his legs. Alabama ranks 16th in the country in passing success rate and 26th in EPA/pass.
🏈ADVANCED STATS PREVIEWS: WEEK 10🏈
SATURDAY NIGHT 🧵
ALABAMA @ LSU pic.twitter.com/UjS5qcvEoT
— parker (@statsowar) November 1, 2022
You could look at those numbers a couple of different ways. On the bright side, the passing game isn’t top-notch. Alabama hasn’t been as dangerous as Tennessee or Ohio State through the air.
On the other hand, a glass-half-empty look suggests that Alabama is good enough to take advantage of LSU’s big-play vulnerability on a consistent basis.
LSU has faced some dynamic offenses in recent weeks and has given us some wildly different results. [autotag]Matt House[/autotag] will need a sharp game plan to contain Young on Saturday.
The defense is elite
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So far, the Alabama game that has garnered the most attention this year was the loss to Tennessee. Alabama gave up 52 points in that one. If that’s the only Crimson Tide game you’ve seen, the takeaway could be that this defense isn’t your typical Saban defense. In many cases, it still is.
Bama has had four games this year where it’s given up seven points or less, including a shutout in the opener against Utah State. It’s a unit that ranks fifth in the country in yards/play allowed and fourth in third-down defense. The Tide are allowing just 2.7 yards/rush and 5.8 yards/pass.
Alabama allows just 16.6 points/game, good for sixth in the nation. Those are elite numbers across the board, even with the Tennessee game there to inflate them. Defenses much worse than this one have found success stopping LSU this year. LSU can’t revert back to the offense it was prior to the Florida win.
Will Anderson headlines a top-tier pass rush
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One of the reasons the defense is so good is because of what Alabama can bring off the edge. Will Anderson is one of the best players in the sport and leads all SEC edge rushers with 37 pressures and nine sacks.
Then there’s Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell, who have combined to add 43 more pressures.
Despite the constant pressure, Alabama’s defense ranks just 119th in takeaways. That’s good news for an LSU offense that’s already done a fine job at protecting the football.
Players to know
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With Alabama, there’s never a shortage of stars. Here’s some you should know about outside of Young or Anderson prior to kickoff.
RB Jahmyr Gibbs
Few players are as enjoyable to watch as Jahmyr Gibbs. His 6.9 yards per carry lead all SEC running backs with at least 45 attempts. He leads the conference in breakaway rate and has 17 runs of 10+ yards.
It’s worth noting there have been some struggles as of late. Gibbs missed a period of the Mississippi State game and averaged just 3.7 yards per carry when he was out there. In Knoxville, he posted 4.3 yards per carry. A solid number, but well below the bar he has set for himself.
DL Byron Young
Joining those dynamic pass rushers is Byron Young, a veteran defensive lineman who has been a contributor since 2019. He’s not the same NFL prospect that previous guys for Bama have been on the inside, but he’s someone capable of wrecking what LSU wants to do in the run game.
The entire secondary
According to PFF grades, the Crimson Tide have four of the top 11 DB’s in the SEC. Brian Branch, Eli Ricks, Jordan Battle, and Kool-Aid McKinstry.
LSU fans should be familiar with Ricks, who began his career as a Tiger. He struggled to find the field at Alabama, but has been getting more time lately and excelling.
Branch and Battle could both be first-rounders in the spring. McKinstry, just in his second year, has begun to settle in and emerge as one of the better corners in the SEC.