In the biggest clash of the season to date the Crimson Tide and LSU meet in a battle of undefeated teams with the No. 1 spot in the country up for grabs. Here are the three keys.
By Steve Wright
Is Tua Healthy?
The ankle with the most scrutiny on it in the nation this week is attached to the right leg of Alabama starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The Heisman contender is just over two weeks removed from surgery to repair a high ankle sprain suffered when taking a hit against Tennessee and by all accounts the injury is healing even faster than those in Tuscaloosa could have hoped.
Expect Tua to be classed as a “game-time decision” as Nick Saban does everything he can to keep LSU in the dark about the status of his biggest star. While Mac Jones has been impressive in relief, he is simply not at the same level as Tua, a player who has passed for 2,166 yards, 27 touchdowns and just two picks on the season.
Alabama needs their starter to be healthy in order to move the ball against LSU’s outstanding defense.
Stop Joe Burrow
It is fair to say that the season Joe Burrow has put together for the Tigers this year has come as something of a surprise. Burrow has passed for 2,805 yards, 30 touchdowns, and four picks in 2019, with a completion percentage of 78.8. Those numbers are absurd and the result has been an LSU offense that has looked – at times – unstoppable.
Alabama is used to playing against high octane offenses and stopping them. It is what this whole Saban dynasty has been built on. The raw numbers this season look good – Alabama allows just 15.3 points per game – but there are worries about the ability of this unit to generate pressure. Their sack rate of 6.74 percent ranks just 54th nationally, a number not good enough if they are to get to Burrow and stop his magical season.
Keep the takeaways coming
One clear area where Alabama has an advantage of LSU is when it comes to takeaways. Alabama has 18 of them on the year, a number good for eighth nationally and tied for the lead in the SEC. The takeaways have fueled the Crimson Tide as they are second the country in turnover margin at +13. Those turnovers have been especially important given the lack of sack production.
LSU, on the other hand, has just 12 takeaways on the season and a turnover margin of +5. It is a good number, but it one that is far less than Alabama. If the Crimson Tide can take the ball off of LSU then there will be a much clearer path to win the game.