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AP photo by Vasha Hunt / Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa rolls out during a home game against Southern Miss on Sept. 21.

NO. 2 ALABAMA (8-0, 5-0 SEC) vs. NO. 1 LSU (8-0, 4-0)

3:30 p.m. at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

 

VIDEO & RADIO

CBS & 97.3/99.3 FM

 

THE MATCHUP

LSU coach Ed Orgeron said this game will have the most receiver talent he will have witnessed on one field. There are plenty receiver-defensive back matchups that will factor into the outcome, but neither team wants to become one-dimensional. That's why establishing a ground game is just as important in this year's showdown as the contests in recent seasons. "You've got to come into this game with a championship mentality," Alabama right tackle Jedrick Wills said. "You've got to play aggressive, dominate and do what you do." The Crimson Tide won last November's game 29-0 because of their success in the trenches, amassing 281 rushing yards while holding the Tigers to 12. Top LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had six carries for 14 yards and has to be much more of a factor this time around. "Last year, they hurt us running up the middle," Orgeron said. "I think (nose tackle) Tyler (Shelvin) is playing really, really well. He wasn't in shape last year, and he wasn't as good at his fundamentals. I think Rashard Lawrence is playing well, and so is Glen Logan. We have some backups who are playing very well, so I feel good about our interior. We are going to be tested, and they are going to make some plays, but I feel that we're very well equipped."

 

ONE TO WATCH

Given the unknown surrounding Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's recovery from ankle surgery late last month, this is an easy selection. If Tagovailoa has regained most of his mobility, he could be as effective as always, with the subplot being how Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian plans to open the game. The number of Najee Harris rushes and Tagovailoa quick releases could answer that in a hurry. "Steve reminds me a lot of what we did at USC," Orgeron said. "There are a lot of gap passes, and there are a lot of max protections and crossing routes down the field. He's only been sacked nine times."

 

IN THE END

Well, it's here at long last. We've all waited a month for this one, with LSU punching its ticket to this elite collision with the 23-20 topping of Auburn on Oct. 26. Tagovailoa's health is the biggest factor, but there is also LSU's state of mind after losing the past eight series meetings. Keep in mind, for all the success Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow has accomplished this season in becoming the player to beat for the Heisman Trophy, he is still seeking his first point against the Tide. "It should be fun," Alabama redshirt junior outside linebacker Terrell Lewis said. "They've got a good team, and we've got a good team. It should be a fun game, and it will definitely be competitive."

 

PREDICTION

Alabama 31, LSU 24

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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