No. 8 Alabama, No. 14 LSU battle in SEC West showdown

Field Level Media

November 01, 2023 at 8:10 am.

The winner of the Alabama-LSU game has gone on to play in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in 10 of the past 12 seasons.

The No. 8 Crimson Tide (7-1, 5-0 SEC) and the No. 14 Tigers (6-2, 4-1) meet again Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The winner won’t clinch the SEC West title, but it will greatly strengthen its chances.

“This has developed into a rivalry game because they’re always ranked, we’re always ranked, and it’s always a big game relative to what happens in our division,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It’s an important game for both teams.”

The Crimson Tide are the only team in the West that is undefeated in league play, having handed Ole Miss its only loss of the season.

Alabama has won six games in a row since losing a nonconference contest against Texas. The Crimson Tide are coming off a bye week, as are the Tigers.

“I think, in a lot of ways, to our team, (the bye) was very beneficial,” Saban said. “We got lots of guys that were banged up a little bit some rest and limited reps so that they could heal up.”

The Crimson Tide ranks just eighth in the SEC in scoring offense (30.6 points per game) and ninth in total offense (366.6 yards per game).

The defense has mostly played up to Saban’s high standard, ranking second in scoring (16.5) and third in yards (306.4).

The Tigers lead the country in scoring offense (47.4) and total offense (552.9), and they have gained more than 500 yards in each of their past seven games.

“They’ve probably made more explosive plays running and passing than any team we’ve played in recent times,” Saban said.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, whom Saban called “a phenomenal player,” has played his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation and could all but assure himself of a trip to New York with a strong performance in a victory against Alabama.

Daniels has passed for 2,573 yards, 25 touchdowns and three interceptions while tacking on five rushing scores.

Daniels was a key factor in the Tigers’ 32-31 overtime victory against the Crimson Tide last season in Baton Rouge, La. After Alabama scored a touchdown on the first possession of overtime, Daniels ran 25 yards for a touchdown and passed for a winning two-point conversion.

“He killed us last year,” Saban said.

LSU’s defense played poorly early in the season, especially in shootout losses to Florida State (45-24) and Ole Miss (55-49). The unit has played better of late but will be missing several players Saturday.

Starting defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo presumably will miss the rest of the regular season after undergoing lower-body surgery.

“Clearly, we would love to have Wingo in the lineup,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said, “but we are built for injuries.”

Three of the Tigers’ top defensive backs will miss this game because of injury, and LSU could find itself playing three true freshmen in the secondary against the Tide.

“These kids are elite players,” Kelly said. “Now you’re putting them in a position where they just have to be confident and trust their technique and trust what we’ve taught them. I think we’ve been at it long enough to where these guys are ready to go. They’ve got no choice.”

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