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Saban: Healthy Tide will face aggressive LSU defense

By Hunter Ford

In a brief Wednesday press conference, Nick Saban said there has been a lot of “positive energy” in practice as the Crimson Tide prepares to take on LSU Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.

On the injury front, Saban said all key players have been able to practice this week and all are expected to play in Saturday night’s game.

One of the biggest challenges for the Tide, according to Saban, will be an aggressive, blitzing LSU defense. Saban said the Tigers like to put pressure on the quarterback, and play tight man-to-man defense on receivers, forcing the quarterback to make accurate passes to be successful.

Saban said the Alabama offensive line has “improved as the season has gone on.” The unit has suffered injuries in previous games that forced reserve players into action, and others to shift positions on the line.

Saban said Bradley Bozeman and Grant Hill performed well when needed, and the unit as a whole has “done a good job.”

“Everybody has kind of embraced their role of what they need to do,” he said. “You’re never really satisfied with where you are, but they have shown positive improvement as the season has gone on.”

Alabama moves up in CFP poll

The Crimson Tide is on the outside of the top four in the College Football Playoff poll, but just barely .  Alabama moved from sixth to fifth in the CFP poll during a bye week.  Alabama will have a chance to play two of the teams ranked ahead of it, Mississippi State and Auburn, and should make the playoffs if it can win out.

With Auburn’s win at Ole Miss last Saturday, the Tide also controls its own destiny to make an appearance in the SEC Championship game.


5 thoughts on “Saban: Healthy Tide will face aggressive LSU defense”

  1. Expect tricks. A fake punt, an onside kick, a trick formation, I wouldn’t put anything past Les Miles to end the streak of losing games against Alabama after both teams have taken so many bye-weeks before each other.

    LSU and Alabama are fundamentally designed to play against each other. People have discounted LSU this year due to youth, a side effect of preparing so much talent every year for the NFL much like Alabama.

    This is going to be a battle. Ole Miss couldn’t score in spite of getting 5 turnovers from LSU. When good football defenses collide, the scores are low. America hates that, or rather they don’t understand how that makes them a good football team. Make no mistake though, these are two great football teams with fantastic defenses facing off in a hostile environment after both teams return from an extra week of rest.

    There will be blood.

    Great stuff Hunter.

  2. Losing this game would hurt, and I agree with you, losing is a strong possibility. But LSU still has to play Arkansas, and Arky is going to win an SEC game sometime. What if Alabama loses to LSU, but wins out after that, LSU gets upset by Arky… just dreaming up scenarios… I guess Ole Miss would then have head-to-head on Alabama, although Ole Miss may lose to Miss State

    If Alabama does lose to LSU that definitely puts a stick in the bicycle spokes things could get weird

    The more I think about this playoff committee, the less I trust it. There needs to be a uniform standard to make the playoffs.

    Conference champs from power five should all get in, but all should have to have a conference championship, then there should be spots for deserving wild-cards… I know the basketball tourney is decided in part by committee but only in part, there are automatic bids… I’ll have to think this through some more…just thinking out loud here, but the CFP is really a “mythical” playoff isn’t it????

    The upside for Alabama is all it has to do to get in the playoff is beat LSU on the road and then beat two of the top four teams to finish the season, then play an SEC championship, then beat two of the remaining top teams in the country…. easy Japaneasy

    1. I think it’s much weirder than that.

      You can’t ever have a perfect playoff. 5 conference champs getting in sounds nice and all, and I’m actually all for an 8-team playoff (16 is too much), but I still don’t think that’s the best way to determine the best teams. For example, what would you give for Alabama to be in the ACC this year? When you talk about the 8 “best” teams in any given season, it’s hard to dispute at least one of the SEC West teams alone could be a better football team (and possibly even the best) than a conference champ from another conference, just as example. It hasn’t always been the SEC West, but I use it as an example now because so many teams in the West seem to be good at maintaining a high level of competition in recent years and for years to come, such as LSU and Alabama, certainly moreso than other conference divisions like the ACC Coastal.

      I digress, Ole Miss has lost too much talent, not the least of which being Treadwell. I don’t think they win the Egg Bowl this year. But following the a-bomb scenario, LSU could perhaps win the West, Florida is still in it for the East, and an Auburn/MSU rematch isn’t just possible, it may even be probable. I can only imagine the envious cries of bias that kind of situation would stir out of fans from such illustiously decorated programs as TCU and Baylor when the bottom line should be scheduling those matchups in the first place. I can’t imagine what it would take to get Oregon to schedule Alabama, but apparently it isn’t the thousands of “beat Bama” shirts and signs we’ve seen in recent years.

      Once again, I digress. LSU is hungry. They’re full of intangibles and hungry for Crimson blood like noone else could be. Their talent has been getting an education in pigskin 101 every weekend and frankly they sure have been learning from it.

      Alabama’s road to the playoff is in its biggest jeopardy this Saturday in Death Valley. No offense, but this is Alabama’s biggest test of the season and no team will be harder to beat. There will be blood. There will likely be injuries. While LSU will commit to keeping the ball on the ground for perhaps 90% of the game, I expect them to take a few big strikes to the air where Alabama’s corners are still a weakness, not to mention breaking off from a run can happen at any time with the talent on LSU’s roster. Fournette, for example, can both run and catch the ball.

      Amari Cooper is an obvious target for Alabama, and an obvious target for LSU’s stringent and quick secondary. AJ McCarron wasn’t exactly getting throws to wide open WR’s and TE’s against LSU the past few years; he was forcing his receivers to make big plays on the football in extremely tight coverage. While Cooper may be capable of doing that, Sims hasn’t been as effective in getting the ball into those locations without adding excessive risk to turnovers, not to mention the risk it puts a WR like Cooper in.

      While LSU hasn’t been great at stopping mobile QB’s, they’ve gotten better. And although Blake Sims might be a fantastic QB on the run, Kiffin certainly hasn’t designed a lot of runs for Sims this season, particularly beyond more than a yard or two.

      Even if that was the case and Kiffin dials in a few runs for Sims, it might be little more than a dice gamble to run from the pocket against LSU. Simply put, the middle of LSU’s d-line is stellar, and they’re excellent at getting pressure on the QB and often very quickly.

      We saw Florida run against Georgia seemingly at will this past weekend, but Florida often ran the ball to the outside, something Alabama doesn’t often do at all by design. LSU can stop most runs in the trenches, particularly if they’re designed to go straight up the middle like Alabama often likes to do. A four quarter up-the-middle slug-fest often works for Alabama against most opponents, but not LSU and especially not after an LSU bye-week.

      Remember the first play by Alabama’s offense against Tennessee where Cooper ran behind the o-line and caught a pass running towards the sideline? Alabama may have to rely on plays like this for good yardage. The problem there is it requires precision in execution, which has been a glaring issue for Alabama in away games.

      Make absolutely no mistake; this is without question the best team Alabama has faced this year. If you ask me, the tests so far haven’t even come close to what they’re about to face in Baton Rouge. A bye-week is nice, and it’s certainly not a disadvantage to get players like TJ Yeldon back as a side effect of the bye, but I’m not sure there’s anything that can really prepare the Tide for this game.

      What I can say is nobody in the country can prepare them better for this test than the staff Alabama has on hand. I can’t truly get a grip on what Alabama’s offensive attack is going to look like and it’s adjusted a good bit every single weekend, but I think we can all agree it’s still going to come down to some incredibly preceise execution, and every execution error could spell doom. A turnover against LSU is going to feel like a touchdown. I’m terrified of this game, but if Alabama can pull out a win, it will be one for the ages and we’ll truly know what this team may be capable of.

      A final caveat, if Alabama does win against LSU, they likely still stay at the 5th spot in the playoff rankings. TCU probably belongs in front of Alabama at this point, but whoever wins between Kansas State and TCU will almost certainly leap Alabama due to existing ranking alone, and while an Oregon loss isn’t entirely out of the question, it’s hard to imagine them dropping two spots in a victory over Utah. Alabama will still control their own destiny if they win, but the best possible jump I think would be to #4, and that would only really be a result of a total blowout against LSU. I don’t see that happening, but what the hell, Roll Tide.

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