by Dave Miller
November 09, 02013
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That Alabama-Oregon showdown that many had expected to take place for the final BCS national championship? Yeah, that doesn't appear to be on the horizon after the Ducks were pounded by Stanford on Thursday night in Palo Alto.
Is it Alabama's turn to trip up Saturday night against LSU in Tuscaloosa?
Let's take a more in-depth look at the contest between the Tigers and the Crimson Tide.
LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC) at Alabama (8-0, 5-0), 8 p.m. ET on CBS
Line: Alabama by 12
Series: The Crimson Tide lead 47-25-5
US PRESSWIREZach Mettenberger has thrown six interceptions in his last four games.
The Mettenberger Effect: Will Kirby Smart's defense face the Zach Mettenberger who was so productive in the early part of the season, or will it face the signal-caller who has leveled off as of late? Alabama's defense is playing as well as any unit in the country, but the Tide really haven't faced a dominant offense since their showdown against Texas A&M in Week 3. The Tigers certainly are a different offensive outfit than the Aggies, but it's one that has the ability to move the football if Mettenberger is at his best. And Tigers head coach Les Miles knows that a strong game from the former Georgia Bulldog is needed. “I think our quarterback has to play well,” Miles said in the lead-up to the game. Mettenberger began his strong finish to the season with a breakout game against the Tide last year, and he continued that good play in the early part of this season when he was the envy of plenty of NFL scouts. But in his last four games, Mettenberger has thrown six touchdowns and six interceptions. He had thrown one pick prior to this stretch. We know about the Tigers' strong ground attack, but the offensive balance it had when Mettenberger was consistently hooking up with receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry made this offense deadly. It will be difficult to beat the Tide on the road, no question about it. But LSU won't be intimidated. And this is Miles' best offense he's had in Baton Rouge. Even though LSU still wants to consistently run the ball, especially on standard downs, Mettenberger is the key to the team's quest to knock 'Bama off its path to Pasadena.
The weak link of the Tide defense: Everyone is aware that if there is a soft spot on this Alabama defense it is in the secondary, which doesn't have the star power outside of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix that it has had in the past. The Tigers need to expose this area if they are to have a chance for a victory. Beckham Jr. and Landry have combined for 1,891 yards and 16 touchdowns, and Beckham Jr. is second nationally in all-purpose yards with 207.3 per game. Opposite Deion Belue, 'Bama has struggled to find another solid cornerback. And we saw against A&M that this 'Bama secondary is susceptible to big plays. Smart and Nick Saban have tried a variety of options at that other corner spot, and the latest was converted wide receiver Cyrus Jones. If Mettenberger can remain upright and the Tigers' ground game is decent, big plays can be made through the air against the Tide.
The Tigers' talented but young defense: Even if Mettenberger and the LSU offense play well, its defense is a shell of its former self. It still has the talent, but it's young and mistake-prone. Alabama's offense is just getting better and better, so I don't think Chavis' unit can make enough stops to pull out a win. Tide running backs T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake are averaging a combined 200 yards per game and have recorded 14 touchdowns against SEC foes, while LSU is No. 8 in the league in run defense. This LSU rush defense should get overwhelmed by the Tide's ground attack. And that will set up quarterback AJ McCarron's deadly play-action game.
We'll see if Alabama is able to avoid the same fate that thwarted Oregon's BCS title game quest this past Thursday night. It's only fitting that LSU is the team that has a chance to put an end to Alabama's quest for a third consecutive BCS title.
Dave Miller, the college football editor and writer for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.