August 22, 2007

Countdown to Kickoff: LSU

Countdown To Kickoff: A Preview of Alabama's 2007 Opponents
Game Nine: LSU at Alabama
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
When: November 3, 2007
Time/TV: TBA.
Series record: Alabama leads, 43-22-5.
Last meeting: 1999: LSU 28, Alabama 14


About LSU
2006 Record: 11-2 (6-2 in SEC)
Head Coach: Les Miles has compiled a 22-4 mark since leaving Oklahoma State for the Bayou two years ago, a pair of 11-2 seasons that have kept the Tigers among the nation's elite following the departure of Nick Saban. Miles is also 9-1 against the SEC West over two years, with the only loss coming at the hands of Auburn last season.

Returning Starters: 15 (Offense: 6, Defense: 8, Specialists: 1)
2006 by the numbers: Scoring offense: 33.7 ppg; Pass offense: 251.7 ypg; Rush offense: 165.8 ypg; Total offense: 417.5 ypg; Scoring defense: 12.6 ppg; Pass defense: 145.7 ypg; Rush defense: 97.1 ypg; Total defense: 242.8 ypg.

When LSU has the ball: The good news for new QB Matt Flynn is that there is plenty of skill around him as well as a solid line to play behind. The bad news is that if he falters, the blame isn't likely to fall elsewhere. RB Keiland Williams and FB Jacob Hester should be more than enough to keep Flynn in good down-and-distance situations. Hester is a proven rusher, receiver and blocker. Williams shared carries with a lot of faces last year as no Tigers back reached 100 carries. This year, look for Williams to get the ball more consistently and respond with a big season. He is an elite athlete. A healthy season from OL Will Arnold would be a major boost to the offensive front. At receiver, Early Doucet moves into the No.1 receiver role and is a proven talent. The talent moving into the Nos.2 and 3 roles, however, is unproven. Watch for Flynn to rely more on his backs and tight ends as a second option until he's more comfortable with receivers Brandon LaFell and Jared Mitchell. True freshman Terrance Toliver may get quick playing time as well.

What will LSU do offensively?: Like most of Alabama's toughest opponents, the plan will be to pound the ball with the running game first. With LSU, that philosophy makes even more sense given its new faces at quarterback and receiver. If the Tigers can get a big game from Williams and another 50-75 total yards from Hester, they may not need much else to leave Tuscaloosa with a victory.

Match-up to watch: LSU FB Jacob Hester vs. Alabama MLB Prince Hall.

The big question: Will Alabama's run defense be good enough to put the game on Flynn's shoulders?

When Alabama has the ball: The Tigers' stout defense starts with tackle Glenn Dorsey, but he's far from a one-man show. The nation's No.3 defense from 2006 returns eight starters, including all three linebackers and a standout pass rusher in Tyson Jackson. With apologies to stout defensive lines at Auburn and Arkansas, LSU is the class of the league in this area. In the secondary, both starting corners return. Chevis Jackson is among the SEC's best at this spot. However, LSU will have some retooling to do at safety. Curtis Taylor replaces former All-American LeRon Landry, and was named the team's most improved defender in the spring. LBs Ali Highsmith and Darry Beckwith are proven performers who should both rank in the team's top thee in total tackles.

What will LSU do defensively?: Don't be surprised if LSU is quick to go to nickel packages and personnel groups that excel in pass defense. Unless the season to date proves otherwise, there is no reason to think LSU will need more than a standard seven-man front to handle Alabama's running game. It's in the air where the Crimson Tide can do damage, and the Tigers will try to limit the exposure of their first-year starting safety.

Match-up to watch: LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson vs. Alabama tackle Andre Smith.

The big question: Can Chevis Jackson neutralize Alabama receiver DJ Hall and force the Crimson Tide to secondary passing options?

LSU special teams: Punter Patrick Fisher steps in as a first-year starter, while K Colt David returns as a 67% career field-goal converter. With the talent LSU has on both sides of the ball, the special teams would do well to just stay out of the way and avoid big mistakes. Kickoff returner Trindon Holliday is an explosive athlete who will be especially dangerous with the new rule marking kickoffs at the 30 yard line.

2006 Results
9/2 La.Lafayette (W, 45-3)
9/9 Arizona (W, 45-3)
9/16 @ Auburn (L, 7-3)
9/23 Tulane (W, 49-7)
9/30 Mississippi State (W, 48-17)
10/7 @ Florida (L, 23-10)
10/14 Kentucky (W, 49-0)
10/21 Fresno State (W, 38-6)
11/4 @ Tennessee (W, 28-14)
11/11 Alabama (W, 28-14)
11/18 Ole Miss (W, 23-20)
11/24 @ Arkansas (W, 31-26)
1/3 Sugar Bowl vs. Notre Dame (W, 41-14)

2007 Schedule
8/30 @ Mississippi State
9/8 Virginia Tech
9/15 Middle Tennessee State
9/22 South Carolina
9/29 @ Tulane
10/6 Florida
10/13 @ Kentucky
10/20 Auburn
11/3 @ Alabama
11/10 La. Tech
11/17 @ Ole Miss
11/23 @ Arkansas

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