No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0) at No. 5 LSU (7-1, 3-1)
When: 7 p.m., today
Where: Baton Rouge, La.
Line: Alabama by 9.5
1. Up-Hill battle: LSU has found a new featured running back in true freshman Jeremy Hill of Baton Rouge. He had only 71 rushing yards before breaking out for 124 against South Carolina and 127 against Texas A&M. Alabama, however, hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. In fact, since the start of the 2005 season, the Crimson Tide has given up only 10 100-yard games, which leads the nation in that span.
2. Saturday night in Death Valley: LSU has had incredible success at home when playing on Saturday night, especially recently. The Bengal Tigers have won 47 of its last 48 home games played on a Saturday night. The only blemish in that streak is a 2009 loss to Tim Tebow-led Florida 13-3 when the Gators were No. 1. The streak started in 2002 after Alabama, coached by Dennis Franchione, beat Nick Saban‘s LSU team 31-0.
3. No path through the air: Neither team makes it easy to gain yards through their air. Alabama ranks first nationally in pass efficiency defense, while LSU is second. Both squads are accustomed to making their way on the ground, although the Crimson Tide allows AJ McCarron to toss the ball around. For the second straight week, he ranks first in the nation in passing efficiency.
4. Facing the old coach: Saban isn’t the only former LSU coach the Bengal Tigers have faced. They also faced Paul Dietzel twice when he was at South Carolina, beating him in 1966 and 1973. Dietzel coached the 1958 LSU team to a national title. LSU is 3-3 against Saban in his five seasons at Alabama.
Alabama tackles D.J. Fluker and Cyrus Kouandjio vs. LSU defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery: Fluker and Kouandjio are future NFL draft choices, but Fluker has struggled at times with pass protection. Kouandjio is only a sophomore and in his first season as a starter. They’ll face two experienced ends who are adept at getting to the passer. Montgomery, a junior, will line up often against Kouandjio. Montgomery leads the team in sacks (four) and tackles for loss (nine). Mingo, who is a senior, will draw Fluker often. Mingo is tops in quarterback hurries (nine).
Player of the week
AJ McCarron, QB, Jr., 6-4, 210: McCarron completed 16 of 23 passes for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Mississippi State. He also ran his streak of passes without an interception to 262 attempts, which dates back to the MSU game of last season. The Southeastern Conference record belongs to Kentucky’s Andre Woodson with 325 passes, and the NCAA record is held by Russell Wilson, who went 379 passes between interceptions at North Carolina State.
By the numbers
7: Number of times the Tide coaches have picked linebacker C.J. Mosley as one of the team’s players of the game. He got shut out only for the 44-13 win over Tennessee.
17: The number of Australian natives playing college football, including three for Alabama (noseguard Jesse Williams) and LSU (punters Brad Wing and Jamie Keehn).
22: LSU’s home win streak, with is the longest in the nation.
45: How many games in a row Alabama has won in which it has rushed for at least 150 yards.
Les Miles has a good team at LSU, and the Bengal Tigers are especially good at night at Tiger Stadium. But this Alabama team seems especially good at drawing motivation from a little adversity. A loud crowd in Baton Rouge, La., won’t sink Alabama’s ship. The defense will defend the run and play tough against the pass, while the offense churns up yardage on the ground and hit for a big play or two in the passing game. LSU’s best chance? Maybe grab an early lead, then create some turnovers or big plays on special teams. Alabama 26, LSU 13.