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Jumbo Package: Veteran Secondary Key to the Stretch Run

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A talented, experienced group of defensive backs will try and lead the Tide to another title.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. After a long 13 days without Alabama football, the Tide will return to the field tomorrow as huge favorites against LSU. As usual, we will start with your previews:

Alabama being ranked No. 2 and not No. 1 -- makes all the difference. It's why I think we see a blowout that surpasses the point spread. Yes, LSU played well against Alabama last season. But that was last season. Jalen Hurts was a true freshman and the game was in Baton Rouge. At home and feeling as if they have something to prove, I think we see the machine that Nick Saban has built snap into action in a big way.

Alabama has looked bored at times this season.

It is steamrolling teams without having to put out much effort. That’s about to change with the arrival of an improving LSU squad that has reeled off three impressive victories since its loss to Troy.

Tigers back Derrius Guice is playing like he did last year and will test the Alabama defense. Don’t get caught up in the Alabama’s ranking in the first College Football Playoff poll. Vegas has over inflated Bama installing them as over a three-touchdown favorite. It’s just too much. Alabama 31 LSU 13.

Also, it's just the third 20-point plus spread for Alabama over the Tigers in the past 25 years.

Alabama was favored by 24 over LSU in 1993 when the Tigers won 17-13 and the Tide scored a 23-17 victory in 1999 when favored by 20.

On both occasions, oddsmakers had justifiable reasons to believe LSU would get splattered all over the field.

On third downs, Alabama is sixth in the SEC in conversions, 46-106 for 43.4 percent and LSU is 11th, 36-99 for 36.4 percent. On defense, Bama is leading the league, allowing 27 in 108 opportunities for 25 percent, and the Tigers are seventh, giving up 38-109 for 34.9 percent.

(On fourth down tries, Alabama is 11-11, LSU 4-8 with Bama giving up 5-13, the Tigers 6-13.)

Marq Burnett: Alabama 31, LSU 6

The worst thing that could have happened to LSU is Alabama being ranked No. 2 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. Whether Nick Saban wants to admit it or not, the rankings didn’t go unnoticed by those in the football complex.

Look for Alabama to take out some frustration on LSU as the Crimson Tide is feeling a little disrespected by the committee.

The gap between the programs on the offensive and defensive lines shows in the stats of their past six meetings, all Bama wins. Look no further than four categories that the Tide has dominated: average offensive yards (359.8 to 229.5), average rushing yards (180.1 to 81.8), yards per carry (4.5 to 2.2) and total sacks (20 to 9).

This trench war is one-sided. This big man’s game, as Orgeron referred to it this week, is unequal.

Alabama's dominance extends from the 21-0 beatdown in the 2012 BCS Championship Game in the Superdome to last year's 10-0 survival contest in Baton Rouge. In those six Crimson Tide victories, one stat jumps out.

Alabama has run for 1,081 yards, an average of 180.2 yards a game.

LSU has run for 491 yards, an average of 81.8 yards a game.

The national coverage of this game is a shell of what it has been in the past few seasons. Few would have predicted in the preseason that the Tide would be favored in this one by 20+ points, but here we are.

LSU still doesn’t have a great QB, so they will try and get by on offense with the run game. Good luck with that against this front seven. Look for Danny Etling to be under duress all night and for Derrius Guice to gut out around three yards a carry.

LSU won’t find the end zone, though. Let’s call the final 34-9.

Of course, that is just my guess. Vote in the poll and give us your prediction in the comments.

This is a cool find from Matt Brown:

No stats? Clearly, fantasy football wasn’t invented until at least 1896.

Dacoacho seems a tad miffed with Isaiah Buggs:

“Isaiah Buggs was committed to us,” Orgeron said. “We took a chance on him. He was 230 pounds, he went to junior college and he (bulked) up to about 280. We wanted him on our football team. He was from Louisiana, but he decided not to come.”

Whether the Tigers like it or not, Buggs will be wearing Crimson when No. 2 Alabama faces No. 19 LSU on Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. It's a game the junior is eagerly awaiting.

Speaking of recruiting, Alabama has been working hard on flipping Ohio State QB commit Emory Jones, and the Buckeyes seem concerned, as Meyer offered another four-star QB this week:

SEC Country was told by a source close to the Alabama program that Jones was actually texting with Tide coaches during his visit to Ohio State, which certainly isn’t a negative for the team’s chances of flipping him.

There also remains the possibility of the Under Armour All-American returning to Tuscaloosa this weekend for Alabama’s best remaining home game.

“Right now, it’s very safe to say that things are up in the air, and if Jones returns to Bama for the LSU game this weekend, it could signal the end of his time as an Ohio State commit,” Birmingham said.

Perhaps Jones has been following Shank on Twitter:

Great stuff. Come on down, Emory.

The secondary is one of the main drivers for optimism that Alabama can accomplish all of its goals this season. The 2010, 2013, and 2014 seasons all featured youth and/or relatively limited talent at a cornerback position that proved to be something of an Achilles’ heel. Not so this season.

Scouts are nearly unanimous that Fitzpatrick—barring any unforeseen issues at the combine—will almost certainly be picked somewhere near the top of the first round of the NFL draft next spring. NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah recently compared him to a bigger iteration of Arizona Cardinals cornerback Tyrann Mathieu—the difference being that, unlike Mathieu, who entered the league after being dismissed from the team at LSU, Fitzpatrick, a devout Christian, has an almost comically sterling reputation among his coaches and teammates. (The closest thing to a vice may be his desire to occasionally play the video game Grand Theft Auto.)

"I don't see any flaws in the guy," an NFL scout tells B/R. "He's probably a top-10 guy. He can play all the positions, he's aggressive, he's a student of the game and he's already acting like a professional athlete."

As we’ve been saying all season, Minkah Fitzpatrick is likely to go down as the best DB to play under Saban, which is no small feat considering the first round talent that has come through. He is special, and his leadership on the defensive side will be key if Alabama is to finish this season.

Walter understood why Levi wanted to give up on football. During a visit home for the holidays, Levi saw just how much his father’s battle with ALS had progressed. Walter had lost significant weight and would need a feeding tube soon. Wendy gathered Walter and the boys around for a photo, fearing that they might not get the opportunity again.

When Levi said he wasn’t going to go back to Alabama, that he would stay and take care of them, Walter and Wendy put their foot down. No, he would return to school and Walter would encourage him to give football one last chance.

Must read here about the best story in college football this season. That a walk-on was able to start for this team is amazing to begin with, but then he does this?

There are no words. Walter would be so proud, Levi. May you go on to find NFL success and all of the spoils that come along with it.

After this here national title, of course.

In the Crimson Tide safety’s senior season, he has shown more maturity and confidence than ever before while emerging as a starter on the nation’s top defense. And in doing that, those that know Jones best are bursting with pride for the Monroe, La., product.

“I’m really proud of him for sticking with the program there,” Neville (La.) High School head coach Mickey McCarty told BamaOnLine.com. “Obviously he’s grown a lot in the program there at Alabama and set himself up in a position to have some opportunities for success this year, and he’s obviously getting more playing time and those things.

“He’s persevered through some things and earned his time, and I’m proud of him for having some sticking power there and working his way through that program.”

Hootie is yet another product of The Process and a key senior contributor in the secondary. Of course, to hear opposing fans hear it (particularly those in purple and gold), he is a thug who should have been kicked off the team and jailed because he picked Alabama over LSU was arrested for what was a minor charge that likely would not have been prosecuted in most places. Great to see Saban stick with him, and Hootie continue to put in the work.

It's possible Alabama could get its two injured outside linebackers back at some point later this season.

Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis suffered injuries that were classified as season-ending during the Crimson Tide's season-opening win over Florida State. However, both are doing "extremely well" with their rehab and could be cleared to return to practice as early as later this month, coach Nick Saban said during his weekly radio show Thursday night.

Saban didn't say, though, how likely it is that either or both could play again this year.

No promises here, obviously, but what a boon this would be. If I had to guess, it’s more likely that the redshirt senior Miller comes back as soon as he can. He may surprise and apply for a sixth year, but you have to imagine that he would rather have a couple of games to show scouts that he is healthy and then go out with a bang. Hall seems to be just as motivated to get back on the field, though.

Our first exhibition basketball game is tonight:

And one was posed Thursday following the news of a pair of Auburn players -- Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy -- are out indefinitely amid suspected connection with the FBI complaint.

Crimson Tide head coach Avery Johnson was asked if all of his players will be eligible to play in the team’s exhibition game against UAH on Monday, Nov. 6, inside Coleman Coliseum.

“We’re moving forward with the roster that we have,” Johnson said, “and that’s all I’ll say about that. I’m not going to comment on another school. But as far as our team, we’ve moving forward with the roster that we have.”

In case you missed it, Auburn lost to a Division II school in their opener. Tonight’s tip is at 7pm CT, online only at SEC Network+.

Coach Johnson also wants to make sure you aren’t sleeping on the least heralded member of this class:

If Herb Jones becomes a diamond in the rough, this team is going to be incredible. They are super talented and get to sneak up on everyone after being left out of the preseason rankings.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.

Poll

What will be Saturday’s result?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    You can see a tear in the eye of the Tiger, Tide roll by 21+
    (321 votes)
  • 36%
    Tigers hold it down some, Tide by 11-20
    (206 votes)
  • 6%
    Another classic in this series, Tide by 1-10
    (36 votes)
  • 0%
    LSU pulls the upset (FLAGGED!)
    (5 votes)
568 votes total Vote Now