Kneauxing the Enemy
Record 8-0, 5-0 SEC
One gets the feeling this game with Alabama on Saturday is only the beginning. November promises to be a season in itself.
The Tide rolls into the game undefeated, and untested. This, however, is what was being said about them last year.
Of course, the big intrigue is if Tua Tagovailoa will play Saturday. Like Joe Burrow, the Alabama junior has gaudy offensive statistics. Tagovailoa is second in the land in passing efficiency with 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. His 27 passing TDs have him tied for third in the nation in touchdowns thrown this season. Tagovailoa averages 309 yards passing per contest, seventh nationally, and he averages 14.9 yards per completion, eighth in country.
If Tagovailoa does not play, it will probably be Mac Jones, a redshirt sophomore. There is not much of a playbook on Jones. He played in the Arkansas game, which Alabama won. Jones was 18-22 in the contest with 235 yards passing. He threw three touchdowns. Tagovailoa's brother, Taulia, a freshman, also played in the Arkansas game. He completed six of eight passes for 45 yards.
The Alabama quarterback will play behind a good offensive line anchored by junior tackles Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Willis, Jr. The line has allowed nine sacks through eight games.
The Tide showcases familiar faces at the receiver position. Junior DeVonta Smith has caught nine touchdowns this season, averaging 16.8 yards per catch. Junior Henry Ruggs, III has six scoring grabs, averaging 19.7 yards per reception. Junior Jerry Jeudy averages 13.1 yards per catch with eight touchdowns.
Junior runningback Najee Harris leads the team in rushing with 642 yards this season. Harris averages 5.9 yards per carry with five touchdowns. Harris also averages 10.7 yards per catch receiving the football. Junior Brian Johnson has 356 yards running the ball, averaging 4.7 yards per carry with four touchdowns.
The Alabama offense has fumbled the ball only four times this season, losing two.
Two years ago, the Tide could be found in the top ten nationally of at least four team defensive categories. This has not been the case the last couple of years. Alabama is ninth nationally in scoring defense, allowing 15.8 points per game.
Individually, junior linebacker Terrell Lewis has six sacks, tied for first in the conference. Nobody else is near the top in any defensive stat. But, for Bama, nobody usually is, even when their defenses have been dominant. They play a lot of people, so individual stats are going to be well distributed.
Alabama has allowed 3.7 yards per rush per contest for the year. They have allowed 180 yards per game through the air.
The Tide starts four freshmen in their defensive unit, two linemen, Justin Egoibe, D.J. Dale and two linebackers, Shane Lee and Christian Harris. They have been playing all year. At times Alabama has played five freshmen in their front seven.
Raekwon Davis and Anfernee Jennings are no freshmen. Davis, a senior is a defensive end, and Jennings, a senior is a linebacker. Jennings, in particular, spent a lot of time in the LSU offensive backfield last season. He did not make a lot of tackles, but he disrupted a lot of things LSU attempted to do, and likewise for Davis. Jennings is second on the team in sacks with four.
Sophomore cornerback Patrick Surtain and junior free safety Xavier Mckinney are two returning starters in the defensive backfield. Alabama usually plays a lot of man-to-man defense in the secondary. The Alabama defensive backfield is not good, or has not been good over the last six years, when tested by a strong passing game.
The important key is for the LSU offensive line to give Joe Burrow adequate time to throw the football. The more time the better. Neither the winner or the loser of this game will be knocked out of the national title race. The winner will be more in control of their own destiny. It will be fun to watch.