Not a lot of people are giving LSU a chance this Saturday night against Alabama in Baton Rouge. And that certainly makes some sense because of the way the Crimson Tide has been dominant this fall and the fact that Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger has not been the most accurate quarterback in the nation, rendering the LSU offense more one-dimensional than Tiger fans would like.
US PRESSWIREZach Mettenberger will need to have his best game as a Tiger if LSU is to knock off Alabama.
However, the Bayou Bengals should not be overlooked in this SEC West showdown, especially because the game will be played under the lights in Death Valley. The fans will be rabid. And the fans will be, well, lit up by something other than excitement and anticipation.
We know that John Chavis is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country, so the Tigers are hopeful that they'll be able to create turnovers and put the Tide in a lot of uncomfortable third-down situations. Alabama has strong rushing and passing attacks, so making Doug Nussmeier's offense unbalanced will certainly be a chore for the LSU defense. If you hear the names of defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo as well as linebacker Kevin Minter a lot on Saturday night, that is good news for the LSU defense.
Offensively, the Tigers don't have the luxury of using the speed option against 'Bama, so perhaps we'll see a little Wildcat with Spencer Ware. The other thing LSU might want to do is throw more on first down to keep the Tide defense off balance. But can Mettenberger deliver his best performance in a Tigers uniform, which is what he will have to do if LSU has any chance at winning this game?
The junior-college transfer ranks ninth in the SEC at 177.4 yards per game and has just seven touchdown passes. And while this will always be a run-first offense, Mettenberger was unable to deliver through the air when he needed to in the team's lone loss to Florida early in the year. And he struggled against Texas A&M in the team's last game as well. While it's true that he has been let down by average offensive line play and subpar play at receiver at times, Mettenberger just hasn't been able to deliver under pressure and offer a necessary vertical attack. Can that really change as we enter the tenth week of the season against one of the nation's best defenses?
LSU was heavily criticized for its conservative game plan in its title-game loss to Alabama last year -- and rightfully so. If Les Miles and his offensive staff don't try to or can't stretch the field in this one, it could be a long night. But if the Tigers are able to move the football and get into the red zone against this stout Tide defense, cashing in more often than not with touchdowns and not field goals is essential.
A special teams score would also be a huge boost for the Tigers, though they don't have the luxury of having a dynamic returner such as Tyrann Mathieu running back kicks and punts. Can Odell Beckham Jr. channel his inner "Honey Badger?"
A lot will be made of the revenge factor for LSU, which went undefeated in 2011 until its awful BCS title game performance against Nick Saban's squad. We'll also hear a lot about Alabama wanting to prove itself against arguably the second-best team in the SEC. And don't forget about the Tigers being 9.5-point underdogs for a night home game. But none of that will matter Saturday night when two of the top programs in the nation square off in a matchup that has significant BCS title game ramifications.
Can the Tigers deliver the Tide their first loss and most likely knock them out of the national championship race?
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