2014 Alabama Football Season Preview: The LSU Tigers

Kevin C. Cox

Corndogs, tigers and beignets, oh my!

The LSU Tigers

As SEC rivalries go, few compare to Bama-LSU. Sure, there's the standard dislike each fan base feels towards the other but in a way there's a fair amount of respect, as well. From 2003 - 2013, the two teams have combined for five national championships, five SEC championships, a Heisman winner, a game of the centurymiracle comebacksphantom non-interceptions, missed field goals, a mauling, more NFL draft picks than one can count, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Apologies to the state of Alabama, even though last year's Iron Bowl was one for the ages, in recent history LSU-BAMA has decided the SEC West, SEC and national champion more often than not. So for that reason alone, I deem LSU-Bama as the rivalry in the SEC. (at least for now)

What Happened Last Year?

Well, for starters, this:


Much like it has been since Saban arrived at Alabama, this was a game LSU circled as their must-win- game in 2013. They had a senior at QB, two elite wide receivers, one heck of a tailback and all the motivation a team could ever need to pull the upset. Honestly, in the weeks and months leading up to the game, for all the reasons listed above, I felt LSU would pose the greatest challenge to Alabama's hopes of a three-peat. Their defense was good enough to force stops and the offense had the fire power to score points. Not to mention the visitor had previously won on the road four of the last five years and ‘Bama hadn't been challenged in a meaningful way since Va Tech in week one.

The stage was set up for a classic upset but the fear only lasted a moment.

LSU looked motivated early, Bama a little sluggish. However, a fumble recovery at the LSU one yard line allowed the Tide to cling to a 17-14 half-time lead. From there it was all Alabama, as the defense held LSU to only three 2nd half points, finished the game with four straight sacks, and the Bama offense put 21 points on the board.

No, it wasn't quite a mauling (unless you're name is Zach Mettenburger) but it was the most lopsided regular season victory in the series since 2003.

How Does LSU Look In 2014?

As the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, so shall LSU football once again be one of the top teams in the SEC (if you start counting in the year 2000).

Gone are the aforementioned Zach Mettenburger, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr, and Jeremy Hill. The wide receiver unit is being completely overhauled and replacing both Landry and Beckham will pose quite the challenge. However, talented freshman Malaci Dupre and sophomore Travin Dural look to make an immediate impact.

The strength of the LSU offense will be at offensive line where they return four starters, three of which are seniors.. Kenny Hillard (Sr.) looks to be the game one starter but LSU signed perhaps the best running back prospect since Trent Richardson in Leonard Fournette. (Sorry Henry).

ATVS also seems confident in how the O-line will look in 2014:

This unit should not only be the strength of the Tigers in 2014, it should be the best offensive line of the Les Miles Era. There's size, experience, athleticism -- everything you could want out of an offensive line. Grimes offers an interesting wild card to the mix, but if his reputation is warranted, this offensive line should be more well-rounded and be ready to set the pace for LSU's offense in the coming months

So even though LSU might not have to throw the ball, at all, to win football games, they will have to use the forward pass at some point in the season and that could create a sticky situation for Tiger fans.

QB talent isn't necessarily the problem, both players were four star rated quarterbacks, but just like with Alabama, experience is lacking.

So who is it going to be? The battle seems to be down to sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris, who made a strong push during Spring practice, but only Jennings has seen actual college playing time. (Completed 13 of 29 passes for 181 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT in '13)

But again, with the strength of the offensive line and having Leonard Fournette in the back field, I doubt the offense will ask the quarterback to do more than — Be smart with the football, get the ball into the hand's of your play makers, and don't throw interceptions.

Sound familiar?

Defensively, LSU is in a bit of a rebuilding project. Seven starters return from a defense that many Tiger fans felt underachieved at times but also one who improved as the year progressed. This is a defense that held Auburn and A&M to their lowest offensive totals of the entire season. So, it's hard to say they were that disappointing.

The defensive line loses starters Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson but depending on who you ask, that can be seen as a positive. The linebacking corps was likely the biggest disappointment in 2013 but all three starters are back and should be much improved.

And surprise, surprise the secondary looks to be once again the strength of the LSU defense. Corners Tre'davious White and Rashard Robinson were picked on for much of the year but showed improvements down the stretch.

From where I sit today, LSU is a very talented team (as usual) and should hardly be overlooked as a threat to win the West and defeat Bama come November. However, even though the offensive line will be a strength, they lost far too much at wide receiver and quarterback to expect much of an improvement.

Maybe they get more out of their rookie quarterback than expected and maybe the defense plays with a chip on their shoulder after a disappointing '13. But with back-to-back road games at Auburn and at Florida, and depending on how their defense and quarterback play pans out, I could see two and maybe four losses on their schedule.

Why LSU Might Win

Because it's LSU? This game will be played late in the season, at LSU, under the bright lights (hopefully), and any inexperience the LSU quarterbacks, wide receivers or defensive line may have had early in the season will have long since been eradicated.

I expect LSU to go run heavy on offense and will be looking to control the line of scrimmage. I also expect the LSU defense to load the box, and force the young Alabama quarterback to the throw into tight coverage against their talented secondary. So, pretty much exactly how LSU has played Bama over the last five years.

Why Bama Might Win

Because it's Alabama? See every reason above why LSU might win and add a little gump to the prognosis.

What I Think Will Happen

As mentioned above, the visiting team seems to have an upper hand in this rivalry and I believe that will continue in 2014. This game will come down to who controls the line of scrimmage and which young quarterback out plays the other.

Here's how I see the position by position side by side comparison

LSU

BAMA

Push

O-Line

X

Wide Receivers

X

Running Back

X

Quarterback

X

DL

X

LB

X

Secondary

X

LSU returns more experience at OL but Bama's WR's are far superior. And the combo of Hillard and Fournette could be the equal of the three headed beast in Yeldon/Henry/Drake. A lot of the running back success for Alabama depends on how well our offensive line plays and improves from 2013, which remains to be seen.

Quarterback is the obvious push with neither team having an experienced signal caller to rely on.

Though young, Bama's defensive line and linebacker depth is almost unmatched in all of college football but you have to give LSU the nod in the secondary.

Does this slight edge equate to a win for Alabama? No, but it at least allows me to comfortably pick the Tide to win three months in advance.

Final score: 28-17

8/30/2014 vs. West Virginia Atlanta, Georgia
9/6/2014 vs. Florida Atlantic Tuscaloosa, Ala. W
9/13/2014 vs. Southern Miss Tuscaloosa, Ala.
9/20/2014 vs. Florida Tuscaloosa, Ala.
10/4/2014 at Ole Miss Oxford, Mississippi
10/11/2014 at Arkansas Fayetteville, Arkansas
10/18/2014 vs. Texas A&M Tuscaloosa, Ala.
10/25/2014 at Tennessee Knoxville, Tenn.
11/8/2014 at LSU Baton Rouge, Louisiana W
11/15/2014 vs. Mississippi State Tuscaloosa, Ala. W
11/22/2014 vs. Western Carolina Tuscaloosa, Ala. W
11/29/2014 vs. Auburn * Tuscaloosa, Ala. W

In This Article

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