by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Nobody is giving LSU's 2020 squad a chance tomorrow....least of all their own fans...
Many didn't want this game to happen...most cheered the original postponement in hushed ecstasy, but now the Alabama game is coming home to roost...right in Death Valley, the scene of the 2018 crime.
It's no secret....last time Alabama strolled into Death Valley, the Tigers were on the other end of a slaughtering, losing 29-0 WITH Joe Burrow....
Tomorrow night, ALL LSU fans would gladly take a repeat of 29-0....except for this crazy guy aka ME:
I believe the conditions signify a closer game than Vegas's historic 29 point odds are projecting.
Alabama is on a completely different level to Texas A&M, I fully understand that....however, after watching a lot of film from Alabama's Auburn, A&M and Ole Miss contests, I've come away with some weaknesses:
THEIR DEFENSE, WHILE IMPROVING, IS STILL SUSPECT:
This group still allow more yards per game (569) than Mac Jones' offense racks up (532), a statistic which points out the deeper flaws amidst Alabama's undefeated record.
While Alabama's raging offense averages 8.0 yards per play, they're also surrendering 5.0 themselves.
This defensive front has soft depth at LB (despite Christian Harris and Dylan Moses' strong seasons), an average D-Line with weaker edge rushers (only 7 total sacks as a D-line, their leader only posting 3.0) and slow interior guys. They're also giving up 357.6 yards per game....nowhere near LSU's scandalous numbers, however anyone trying to claim this is a vintage Saban defense (or even a well-coached defense) I say you're blind.
The Tide's sloppy defense let Ole Miss rush for 268 yards (from 57 attempts) and pass for 379, running a total of 86 plays as well as scoring 48 points!
While LSU's defense held A&M to 2/16 on 3rd down conversions, Alabama's porous defense gave up 10/17 on 3rd down to Fisher's squad.
And yes, Alabama forced typical Mond turnovers which changed the game (after a feisty first 1 1/2 quarters of football) but without those Kellen Mond interceptions, the game is different. Now, compare Bama's rough performance to LSU's destruction of Mond, holding him to 105 total passing yards and surrendering only 1 TD; our 124th ranked pass defense (tied with Tulsa) also batted 9 passes in the secondary and 2 at the line of scrimmage.
Alabama Defensive Coordinator Pete Golding's group has allowed 5 teams to call 70+ plays, 4 teams to gain over 400+ yards on offense, 6 games allowing in excess of 4.4 yards per play (including 4.42 yards per play to Auburn last week).
I get it...cue all the "let's look at LSU's defensive stats" jokes, although there's a chance here for confirmed starting quarterback T.J Finley to sustain drives against this Bama defense if the O-line plays like they give a damn.
What this data tells me in totality?
A patient, dual-threat offense can run it down Bama's throat, carve em up on 3rd down in the short passing game, as well as really control the pace of the clock.
Alabama's "Diet 2019 LSU" offense scores quickly, with short aggressive drives and fast tempo, yet that could be a an achilles heel if the Tigers can control the clock.
Example: if Bama's first drive is a typically quick 2 minute passing touchdown giving them a 7-0 lead, then LSU must counter by running the football effectively, moving the chains repeatedly and scoring however, whenever we can...although I'm making a big call for longer, sustained drives to wear down this overrated Golding defense....if we can do it.
LSU'S WRs / ARIK GILBERT
This could be a massive appearance for LSU's pass catching freshmen Arik Gilbert, Kayshon Boutte and Koy Moore, all three with a big time opportunity to deliver against a top SEC secondary....but could the day be won by sophomores Jaray Jenkins or Trey Palmer???
Could senior Jontre Kirklin finally get the full targets he's deserved?
Saban may have Patrick Surtain at CB (1 INT on the season, and an absolute thoroughbred who's commitment was highly pursued by LSU), but beyond Surtain, Alabama's safeties are actually suspect to the deep ball or the crossing route, one of LSU's lost divine secrets of 2019.
With 6 games allowing more than 6 yards per pass (including 13.7 to Ole Miss and 7.13 vs A&M's Kellen Mond while LSU's 124th rated secondary only gave up 3.1 per pass), LSU's passing attack may be more dangerous than ever....
That sounds insane, considering LSU just lost Terrace Marshall, however it's the truth...stick with me now:
With Terrace, EVERYONE knew where the ball was going. And while he'd rack up the stats, LSU often found themselves caught out on 3rd or 4th down due to the obvious: we were throwing to Marshall.
Now we're unpredictable out wide....and extremely raw with a lot of talent:
For a group of superb receivers (who will be the next wave of great Tigers' wideouts) tomorrow is a big night.
There'll be tough catches in coverage, underthrown passes, massive hits over the middle....every pass will be a 50\50 ball...however, both safeties Daniel Wright and Josh Battle are both susceptible to the big play over the top.
They've also shown a propensity for missed tackles after the catch, false steps in coverage and mis-timing their jump for the falling football.
If Scott Linehan cannot find ways to get Arik Gilbert the football, with such a plethora of speedy, towering, versatile wide outs surrounding him, there shouldn't be a 4 catch 33 yard stat line for #2 after 60 minutes.
Had LSU's offensive staff called more routes over the middle vs A&M (slants or crossing routes), Finley would've been able to dodge through pressure and hit a target. Instead, the routes were far too expansive, the timing took too long....there were windows in which 3rd down completions could've been had, instead by the time T.J escaped or brushed off the pressure, there were no options.
Keep the routes shorter, then after a few completions, throw those bombs, toss those back shoulder throws to Arik, Jaray or Boutte...use our WRs speed to its ultimate capabilities and we can at least frustrate and score at will on Bama.
Now we leave you with a final thought:
After Arkansas and especially A&M, LSU's much-maligned defensive unit now knows how to fight, how to stay alive, how to battle for 60 straight minutes without giving in.
That was the Pelini defense we were expecting to see all year and we've now watched their upward trend over the past two games....
Truth be told, LSU has only three lifelines in this game to keep the contest close:
#1 ARIK GILBERT
If we can get 7+ catches from Arik, LSU will make it a game. 7+ catches from Arik usually provides 2+ TDs. #2 OUR CORNERBACKS, DEREK & ELI
With our defensive unit barely having Eli Ricks to help them over the last two games, they've still defended the entire field better than they had over the course of the total season combined.
Pelini needs both corners to show up and show out: young Ricks will look for revenge after being ejected and partially benched the last two games, while Derek Stingley will be as fired up to cover DeVonta Smith than anyone he's faced yet.
After allowing 2 long bomb TDs to Bama last year (4 total on the season), one after a sideline adjustment distracted Stingley pre-snap, the other he slipped and lost his footing...
Because of two inconsequential mistakes, Stingley endured enough shit talk to fill up a Drew Carey comedy routine throughout the off-season. In fact, a few of the SEC Freshmen of the Year voters claimed Stingley's Bama performance prevented them from voting for Derek over Bo Nix during last year's awards season.
Watch Derek on every play, mano e mano with Smith and ready to bury the supposed top receiver.
Allowing 1 completion for 8 yards from 7 total, Stingley broke up 3 passes and forced 3 more incompletions due to his unbelievable coverage.
Watch for Derek and Eli to play their best game of the season and shut down the two primary Bama options out wide (Smith on 1,049 yards and 12 scores, John Metchie III at 590 and 6 TDs) forcing Miller Forristall and Slade Bolden to contend against Cordale Flott or Jay Ward respectively (both Forristall or Bolden are under 200 yards receiving with 1 TD between them.
Could the loss of Jaylen Waddle come back to haunt Alabama tomorrow?
Not only stopping the passing attack, our secondary's success would also aid the pass rush against Mac Jones, displacing his face into scrambled eggs.
If LSU's offensive line can block, if our offensive coaches finally understand that we need Kole Taylor to line up as an auxiliary 6th OL (inside tight on Cam Wire's left hip) then we can unleash Ty Davis-Price, a running back who's mix of hammering medieval power and wily finesse caught the eyes of Nick Saban during TDP's recruitment.
Saban was obsessive, like Ahab after Moby Dick, he called Ty repeatedly, keeping him up until 2am regularly ....still, Ty refused to join The Dark Side.
Ty will have a lot of emotions going through him...this was the school who did everything to get him...the coach he could've played for....now it's time to show them why you stayed home, Ty.
IF LSU can force (& score from) turnovers, run the ball effectively and continuously provide 3rd and 4, 2nd and 6 type situations, T.J Finley could grow comfortable and build with confidence as the game geauxs on, one throw at a time.
At the end of the day, LSU are given no chance in this game....I don't think we've ever heard of an underdog as disrespected as this 2020 LSU squad heading into a home game at Death Valley vs Bama...
So...if the whole world already believes we've lost 100-0, then LET'S GEAUX HARD FOR 60 AND SEE WHAT UNFOLDS....
LSU have NOTHING to lose....
Tigers, play with absolute fire, intensity, knock the living hell out of everything in red, remember what they said about how we'd be a one year wonder and remind them of their insolence....
We beat them down last year...we have no choice but to feel and play with confidence....if LSU go out there scared, we will be eviscerated in one of the program's worst ever defeats.
That's what we're trying to stop here...we cannot allow a loss like that after a year such as this...
Win or lose, Tigers MUST be Tigers....
Give everything, no matter what the score...
Lay it all on the line...
Because at this point, ruining Bama's season is as good as beating them.
LSU WIN 31-29
LAST SECOND FIELD GOAL
-FINLEY: 367 YARDS, 3 TDs
-TDP: 155 YARDS, 1 RECEIVING TD
-GILBERT: 181 YARDS, 2 TDs
-BOUTTE: 89 YARDS, 1 TD
-JENKINS: 91 YARDS
-OJULARI: 1 SACK
-ANTHONY: INJURES MAC JONES IN THE 3RD QUARTER, 1 SACK, 3.5 TFL
-FLOTT 9 TACKLES, 2 PD, 2.0 TFL
-RICKS 1 PD, 6 TACKLES, 1 FR
-WARD: 4 TACKLES, 1 PD
-FONUA: 1 FF
BLACK LIVES MATTER
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2020 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
SHOUTOUTS: RAESJON DAVIS, #1 LB IN AMERICA! STACIE DAVIS-PRICE FOR BEING AN INCREDIBLE MOTHER FIGURE &
ALL TIGER FANS WHO BELIEVE!