Game of the Century Part 136 (or whatever number we’re on by now) will look a lot different than the one in 2011 that ended 9-6. While both offenses were averaging over 30 points per game that year, it was a defensive slugfest. This year looks likely to be a shootout.
As Brent covered last week, LSU has a potent receivers. LSU is averaging 46.8 points per game, good for fourth in the country. Their passing offense? Second in the country with 377.8 yards per game. The Tigers can score.
Of course, so can Alabama. While LSU is fourth in scoring offense, Bama is second, averaging 48.6 yards per game. Much of that is driven by the best wide receiver corps in the nation, with arguably the best quarterback throwing to them. The Tide’s passing offense ranks fifth in the country, and that’s with Tua Tagovailoa missing a game.
Of the 32 passing touchdowns scored, Alabama’s receivers have hauled in 24 of them. LSU has that trio Brent highlighted, but Alabama has a...quadro......quartet...quadrumvirate...four really good receivers.
Jerry Jeudy is the reigning Biletnikoff winner. He leads the team in receptions with 52. He’s second on the team in receiving yards (682 yards) and touchdowns (8). Jeudy started off the year with two 100 yard games (18 receptions for 240 yards and 4 touchdowns in those two games). I can’t say he faded or struggled or anything like that; he just didn’t put up as ridiculous numbers as he had been doing. And that’s partially because of this next guy.
DeVonta Smith was sort of the forgotten guy in Alabama’s receiver room, his 2nd and 26 heroics notwithstanding. Now, however, he leads the team in receiving yards 721 yards and 9 touchdowns. His 274 yard, 5 touchdown performance against Ole Miss set school records.
Henry Ruggs III is churning out another productive season. He has 26 receptions for 513 yards and 6 touchdowns, with a team-leading 19.73 yards per reception. Ruggs notched two 100 yard games in all of 2018; he has two through 8 games this year.
Finally, there’s Jaylen Waddle. The sophomore speedster is having a relatively quiet season with 297 yards and notably only 1 touchdown. On most teams, Waddle would be the unquestioned #1 or #2 receiver, especially finishing last year second on the team in receiving yards. At Alabama, he’s fighting for touches. He is on pace for roughly the same number of receptions; they’re just not going for the same crazy yards per catch.
Opposing the four horseman is an LSU secondary that is chock full of talent but that has been taken advantage of at times this season. LSU’s pass defense ranks 60th in the nation, allowing 217.5 yards per game. The Tigers gave up 409 passing yards and 4 touchdowns to Texas. They have improved since then, only allowing over 300 yards once (to Florida) while hauling in at least one interception every game (9 in those 5 games), though they also haven’t exactly faced a murderers’ row of quarterbacks.
Freshman phenom Derek Stingley Jr. has already emerged as probably the best cornerback on LSU’s team. The former 5 star, #3 overall recruit leads the Tigers with 4 interceptions (all in the last 5 games) and 9 pass break-ups, for an SEC-leading 13 passes defended. You can find Stingley’s name in a bunch of midseason All-American teams, and you’ll likely find him in ones at the end of the season. He’s one of 20 semifinalists for the Bednarik Award.
Senior cornerback Kristian Fulton is no slouch either, projected by many as a first round pick. He’s right behind Stingley with 8 pass break-ups and recorded his first interception a few weeks ago against Mississippi State.
Junior safety Kary Vincent Jr. plays nickel for the Tigers. He has 26 tackles on the year, with a solid 8 tackle game coming against Mississippi State, while adding an interception and 4 pass break-ups. Additionally, Vincent runs track for LSU and was part of the Tigers’ 4x100 meter relay team that won an SEC championship earlier this year.
LSU has another projected 2020 first round pick in their secondary in safety Grant Delpit. Delpit was a unanimous All-American in 2018 and was on midseason All-American teams this year. He was also recently named one of the 14 semifinalists for the Thorpe Award. Delpit injured his ankle against Auburn last month and has been a bit gimpy, but Ed Orgeron expects him to be “totally healthy” come Saturday. It’s something to keep an eye on.
Next to Delpit is junior Jacoby Stephens. Stephens has been a versatile player for the Tigers. He started his career as a wide receiver before switching back to defense in 2018. He’s able to play deep or come down and play in a hybrid safety-linebacker role for defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. And Stephens has had some success, earning SEC co-Defensive Player of the Week honors for his 8 tackle, 1 sack, 1 interception performance against Mississippi State.