Preview the big Game #3 Lsu against #1 Alabama
BATON ROUGE - After navigating eight games of one of the toughest schedules in the nation, LSU hosts its toughest test yet against undefeated Alabama.
Kickoff between the Tigers and Tide – ranked third and first respectively in the first College Football Playoff rankings – is set for 7 p.m in a sold out Tiger Stadium. The game will be televised on CBS and streamed at CBSSports.com, and fans can listen on the LSU Sports Radio Network or online at www.LSUSports.net/live.
Through eight games, the Tigers are 7-1, including a 4-1 record against top 25 opponents and a 3-0 record against top 10 foes. With the Tide entering at 8-0, it makes for the fifth matchup of top-five opponents in Tiger Stadium history.
“I know the energy in the state of Louisiana and the energy in the stadium is going to be something that we haven't seen for a long time,” said head coach Ed Orgeron, who is now 22-7 as LSU’s head coach.
One of the premiere matchups of the game will be LSU’s elite secondary against Alabama’s top-ranked passing game. The Tigers lead the nation in interceptions (14) – led by five from sophomore safety Grant Delpit, the top figure by any individual player – and rank fourth in the country in defensive passing efficiency. Alabama, meanwhile, leads the nation in scoring with 54.1 points per game, and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is a Heisman frontrunner, throwing for 25 touchdowns and no interceptions this season.
“They're very well-coached,” Orgeron said. “But, you know, we have some good DBs. We know we lead the country in interceptions. I think we match up well with them. It's going to be a battle, but I think we match up very well.”
Offensively, LSU has been effective through the air and on the ground. Senior running back Nick Brossette, who eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark for his career in a win over Mississippi State two weeks ago, leads the SEC in rushing touchdowns (10) and is third in yards after contact (457). He and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (521 yards, 5 touchdowns) have formed a dynamic rushing duo, with quarterback Joe Burrow (331 rushing yards, 5.8 yards per carry without sack yardage) offering a third threat out of the backfield.
Burrow, the two-time SEC Offensive Player of the Week, has led an offense that has turned the ball over just seven times all season and ranks fifth nationally in turnover margin.
“It all starts with protection,” Orgeron said. “You have to protect them, a lot of sacks. They're very creative in their pass-rush. We have to get the ball out of Joe's hands quick, but we have to be able to run the football.”
Special teams has been LSU’s greatest area of improvement in 2018, led by senior field goal kicker Cole Tracy. Tracy’s 21 field goals lead the nation, and he’s perfect inside of 50 yards this year. For his career, the transfer from Assumption College has 89 field goals, tops among all active college kickers.
The Tigers’ punting game has also been much improved, with Zach Von Rosenberg (46.03 yards per punt) ranking seventh in the nation and punting. Specialist punter Josh Growden has pinned teams inside their 20 six times in nine punts. Kickoff specialist Avery Atkins has 46 touchbacks in 52 kickoffs this season.
Big as the stakes are, with conference and playoff hopes on the line for both teams, Orgeron’s approach has been to treat the two weeks of preparation like normal. The Tigers recognize the stakes, but they won’t change their approach. d
“Everybody knows how big this game is for the state of Louisiana, for our football team. But I am not going to make it bigger than life that our guys can't handle it,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to approach every day like we've done. We're not going to change our process.
“Now, when it comes down to game time, there's going to be an excitement in the air that's going to be different for this game. This just happens this way. That's how it is LSU versus Alabama. There's nothing I need to say or do this week to get these guys fired up.”