LSU vs. Alabama: 3 keys to an upset win for Tigers vs. Crimson Tide

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 26: LSU Tigers wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. (6) scores a touchdown during a game between the LSU Tigers and the Auburn Tigers in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 26, 2019. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 26: LSU Tigers wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. (6) scores a touchdown during a game between the LSU Tigers and the Auburn Tigers in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 26, 2019. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

If LSU football is going to snap their losing streak against Alabama, it’ll come down to these three things they’ll have to execute to beat the Tide.

We knew this would be a big game. We knew this game would define LSU’s season. We had no idea it would be this big. When No.1 LSU travels to Tuscaloosa to take on No.2 Alabama this weekend it has the potential to change the course of LSU’s program for years to come.

It is never easy to beat Alabama. It is even tougher to get a win in Tuscaloosa The Tigers haven’t beat the Crimson Tide since 2011. They have not come within a score of beating them since 2014. This is a new LSU team, though, and these Tigers have the tools to leave Saturday’s bout with the greatest win of their lives. Here is how they can do it.

Joe Burrow must outplay Tua Tagovailoa

This may seem obvious, but it is critical. Joe Burrow has been the spark that has powered the offensive revolution for LSU this season.

Burrow has 2,805 passing yards through the first eight games of the 2019 season, this leads the SEC and is the second-highest mark in the NCAA. He leads the SEC in pass completions (205) and leads the NCAA in pass completion percentage (78.8 percent). He leads the SEC in passing touchdowns (30) and total touchdowns responsible for (33). His impact on this game cannot be overstated.

The Tigers’ play-caller is more than leaderboards, though. He is a leader on the field. He battled back to defeat the Texas Longhorns in a Week 2 road shootout. He came out victorious in a back and forth battle early on in their Week 7 win against Florida. He outlasted Auburn. He has worked all levels of the field, read defenses perfectly while protecting the ball, but most importantly he has inspired.

Tua Tagovailoa, listed as a game-time decision, likely will come back from injury to lead the Crimson Tide this weekend. He has been incredibly efficient this season. He’s thrown for 2,166 yards on 194 attempts (11.2 yards/attempt) and has completed 74.7 percent of those attempts. Tagovailoa has also thrown just two interceptions to his 27 touchdowns. His legacy rose out of big game wins but has also been tainted by struggles under pressure. His place in Alabama history can be secured with a big win this weekend, but holding off the momentum of Burrow will be no easy task.

The Tigers wide receivers must beat the Alabama secondary

The Crimson Tide have one of the best secondaries in the nation. They are led by a duo of top NFL draft prospects, Trevon Diggs and Xavier McKinney. Diggs has shutdown opposing wideouts this season, with teams often choosing to target anyone but Diggs when passing downfield. Still, he has managed to pull in three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and has scored off a turnover in each of the last two games. McKinney, coupled with Patrick Surtain are menacing alternate options for opposing offenses to choose between.

Alabama is averaging 1.2 interceptions per game this season. Their opponents have thrown picks on 3.8 percent of their passes thrown, the 18th best in the nation. They have allowed just 180 passing yards per game, 15th best in the country.

LSU, though, has two wideouts who have exceeded even the highest expectations put on them this season. Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase have led a talented group of wideouts. They have both pulled in nine touchdown passes this season. Jefferson leads the team in receiving yards with 819. Chase leads the team with 17.4 yards per reception. They are talented players with the ability to stretch the field and dominate in the red zone. This will be the toughest match-up of the season for Alabama’s secondary.

LSU must get to the quarterback

Alabama has one of, if not the most, talented offensive line units in the nation. Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Willis Jr., have held down the bookends of the offensive trenches. The Crimson Tide has allowed an average of 1.1 sacks per game, the 12th best rate in the nation and the fifth-best rate amongst Power 5 teams.

LSU’s defense is averaging 2.7 sacks per game this season, which is 30th in the nation. They have just lost their team leader in sacks, Michael Divinity Jr.; who announced earlier this week he is leaving the program.

Finding and bringing down a less than fully healthy Tagovailoa and pressuring him into poor decisions could be the difference-maker in a game that is likely to come down to less than a score. The Tigers need linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson or defensive end Neil Farrel Jr., both of whom have two sacks this season, to cause chaos in the backfield this week.

It will not be easy but if LSU gets to the quarterback, can outperform Alabama’s secondary, and if Joe Burrow can spark their offense like he has all season long they could do the seemingly impossible. This could be the pinnacle of LSU’s rise to dominating the SEC West. This could be the end of Alabama’s dominance in the SEC West.

This game could be everything for LSU and its dedicated, passionate fanbase.

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