Improvement in the process of winning has been felt really over the last three weeks as LSU prepares for a third straight home outing against a top-10 team. The purple and gold looked like a different group the second go around against Ole Miss. Still, Alabama is a heavyweight firmly planted in the Tennessee tier of opponents LSU has faced to this point.
Led by Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young, this Alabama offense has only gotten better as the season progressed, with running back Jahmyr Gibbs bursting onto the scene as a dynamic player for who LSU must have a gameplan for. The Crimson Tide defense allows less than 17 points per game, including the 52 points it surrendered to Tennessee just two weeks ago, which accounted for nearly 40% of the team’s total allowed points the whole season.
The return of cornerback Elias Ricks is also a storyline to follow in this one as the former LSU cornerback hasn’t played a ton since transferring to Alabama but is coming off significant playing time against Mississippi State where he recorded four pass breakups. Expect to see his playing time increase against the Tigers on Saturday.
Then there’s Nick Saban, a coach who all that follow LSU closely, have a complicated relationship with the former Tigers’ coach who has now gone on to “greatest of all time” levels of success with the Alabama program. On top of that, it hasn’t helped that Saban has had LSU’s number for much of the decade-plus on the field.
Any Alabama team that’s essentially playing for its season, like this one, is an extremely tough out. This is a team that has battled inconsistency and at times, really poor discipline, most notably showing in the Texas game earlier this year, when the Crimson Tide were penalized 15 times for 100 yards.
When watching Alabama-Tennessee a few weeks back and LSU-Tennessee a week earlier, you could tell these programs were in very different places. The Volunteers and Crimson Tide looked like two heavyweights while LSU knocked itself out almost immediately in its first top 10 battle of the season.
But two weeks is a long time in college football and the Tigers have very quickly made the kind of adjustments in mindset, confidence and execution that many believe is sustainable for success over these last four weeks of the season.
It feels like LSU’s best chance to have some success will need to come by making this game a little bit messy on Alabama’s end. The purple and gold can’t allow for many mistakes on their end. Still, if the defense can create a few timely takeaways like it did against Ole Miss and if the offense can continue its upward trajectory, this LSU team can compete with Alabama.
This is another one of those tests that ultimately will dictate just how far LSU has to go in building a sustainable winning program. Stringing together another encouraging, competitive performance will go a long way in making that assessment.