The No. 1 Crimson Tide has been stifling on defense since the Texas A&M game. But you can’t ignore the 279-yard record-breaking performance by Aggies WR Mike Evans on that September afternoon. And you can’t help but wonder if No. 13 LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry could have the same success against the Bama defensive backs.
The Tigers’ tremendous tandem has combined for 96 catches, 1,991 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. They’re easily the most dangerous receiving duo in the SEC and possibly the best in college football.
In last year’s 21-17 loss to the Tide, LSU’s passing attack, which had previously been sleepwalking through the season, woke up and made some noise. Beckham and Landry combined for 12 catches, 149 yards and a TD. And it was easily QB Zach Mettenberger’s best game of the season to that point. He completed 24 of 35 passes to seven different receivers for 298 yards, one TD and no interceptions.
Statistically, Alabama appears more than capable of defending the pass, though it must be mentioned that no team on the schedule since A&M has presented much of an aerial threat. Among SEC teams, the Crimson Tide ranks first in pass defense (179 YPG) and second in pass defense efficiency (104).
But coverage is just one piece of the pass defense puzzle. To really slow down LSU’s passing attack, Alabama also needs to pressure Mettenberger and get his feet moving around. He is absolutely deadly when allowed to sit comfortably the pocket and dazzle NFL scouts with the cannon attached to his right shoulder.
But the Crimson Tide hasn’t been particularly daunting rushing the passer, though. Alabama is tied for 12th in the league with just 11 sacks all season. To have their best shot at slowing down LSU’s aerial attack, the Tide’s coverage must hold up long enough for pressure to reach its destination and the pass rush has to affect Mettenberger quickly enough that the secondary isn’t chasing Beckham and Landry for too long.
Alabama could really tip the scale in its favor by capitalizing on LSU’s recent tendency to give the ball away. Mettenberger has thrown five picks in his past two games, while Landry and Beckham have lost three fumbles.
Simply put, the Crimson Tide will need to make life difficult for the Tigers’ three-headed aerial monster. And they’ll have to do it without the captain of the secondary – safety Vinnie Sunseri, who is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
How the battle between LSU’s pass offense and Bama’s pass defense shakes out will go a long way in determining which team wins this game.