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LSU junior tailback Leonard Fournette shredded the Ole Miss defense for 284 yards on 16 carries on Oct. 22, when the Tigers rolled to a 38-21 win in Baton Rouge. The Tigers host Alabama this week.
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Senior inside linebacker Reuben Foster leads top-ranked Alabama with 53 tackles through eight games.

Several hours after Alabama's 33-14 victory over Texas A&M on Oct. 22, Crimson Tide senior inside linebacker Reuben Foster became an interested television viewer for LSU's 38-21 win over Ole Miss.

Foster could not take his eyes off Tigers junior tailback Leonard Fournette, who shredded the Rebels for 284 yards on just 16 carries.

"He brings the pain," a smiling Foster said last week in a news conference.

Alabama and LSU were each off this past weekend, but the Crimson Tide and Tigers had already begun to focus on one another and Saturday night's showdown in Baton Rouge.

For Fournette, it's a third opportunity to collect that elusive 100-yard rushing game against Alabama's vaunted defense. For Foster, it's a chance to prove he can lead the same successful charge against Fournette as predecessors Reggie Ragland and Trey DePriest.

"I look forward to Alabama-LSU matchups," Foster said. "These are tough, downhill, physical football games, and I look forward to these kinds of games. These are the kinds of games that tell you who's who."

The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Foster leads the top-ranked Tide with 53 tackles and also has collected 4.5 tackles for loss, including 1.5 sacks. The nation's top inside linebacker out of high school and the defensive MVP of the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game, Foster competed in 10 of 13 contests as a freshman and collected 12 tackles.

As a sophomore in 2014, he tallied 22 tackles and his first sack, with his most memorable hit coming at the expense of Fournette on a kickoff return as regulation expired. The Tide had pulled even the play before on an Adam Griffith field goal and went on to triumph 20-13 in overtime, but Foster arrived at the midway mark of his college career having not achieved as much as he wanted.

"It's a process here, and you go through your ups and downs," Foster said. "You go from starting in high school to coming up here and playing on special teams, and it takes a toll on you. It makes you hungry, and when you get on the field, you want to eat.

"Everybody has those moments when they want to leave, but it's a family here and the best decision I've ever made. When I was a freshman, I didn't know any better."

Foster started eight games last season and finished second to Ragland with 73 tackles. One of Alabama's most impressive defensive games a year ago came against LSU, when the Tide held the Tigers to 182 total yards and Fournette to 31 yards on 19 carries in a 30-16 win.

Fournette, who is averaging 8.1 yards per carry this season, has two-year totals against the Crimson Tide consisting of 40 carries for 110 yards, or 2.75 yards per carry.

"The guy is a fantastic player, and he's been a fantastic player for the third year in a row," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I know he was nicked up earlier on and missed a couple of games, but I haven't really seen a guy dominate a game like he did in his last game.

"We have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He looks as good as ever, and maybe even better."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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