Marq Burnett, who covers Alabama for the Anniston Star, won this week’s jackpot – he gets to do our Pick 6! Marq was exponentially pleased upon learning of this news.
You can find Marq’s work here. Below are six questions we hurled his way – OK, softballs – ahead of this week’s LSU-Alabama clash.
1. What’s the feeling like in Tuscaloosa this week ahead of the “big game”?
The feeling is a bit mixed. On one hand, you have the fans who are supremely confident and feel Alabama is invincible. On the other, there are some fans who respect the fact that LSU always gives Alabama a great test. But overall, this game doesn’t have the same buzz as the past two years. I’m not sure any game will reach the 2011 “Game of the Century” level and last year in Baton Rouge was pretty big as well. This game doesn’t have the national championship implications with LSU having two losses.
2. What’s the key matchup in this game and why?
I think it will be LSU’s two receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, versus Alabama’s secondary. For my money, Beckham and Landry are one of the best receiving tandems in the country. Both are explosive and also physical. Alabama’s secondary has been solid, but they will occasionally give up a big play or two.
Deion Belue has played great at the No. 1 corner spot, but the second corner spot has been a revolving door. Bradley Sylve is the best option, but he’ll likely be sidelined because of a high ankle sprain. That leaves Cyrus Jones, a converted wide receiver, to step in. Jones is an amazing athlete, but he’s still learning the position. Alabama has two great safeties in HaHa Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins so it will be interesting to see how much safety help is given against LSU’s wideouts.
3. How does Alabama plan to defend LSU’s explosive and balanced offense?
The best way to stop an explosive offense is to keep them on the sidelines. Alabama’s offense will need to sustain long drives and finish them with touchdowns to put pressure on LSU’s offense. Also, Alabama’s defense needs to make LSU one dimensional. It’s easier said than done, but if Alabama is able to slow LSU’s running game, they’ll be able to confuse Zach Mettenberger with some coverage and send some blitzes at him.
4. What must LSU do to slow AJ McCarron?
AJ McCarron seems to be on another level confidence wise and he’s doing a great job of taking what the defense gives him. With Alabama having so much speed on the perimeter, teams have schemed to take away the Tide’s deep ball and McCarron had no problem dinking and dunking down the field. LSU will need to blitz him to make him uncomfortable and hope he makes a mistake or two.
5. How do you think this game will play out?
It will be another classic matchup from the beginning, but I believe Alabama will pull away late. Not in a blowout, maybe 10 points or two touchdowns. LSU doesn’t appear to have the same defensive talent they’ve had in the past and Alabama’s offense is more balanced than it’s ever been. Also, I believe Nick Saban and Kirby Smart will look to put Mettenberger in some bad spots because he carved up their defense last season.
6. With a loss to LSU, could Alabama do what it did in 2011 and still get into the BCS title game?
Not this year. I believe there will be two undefeated teams and unless Alabama is one of them, they’ll be left out this season. With multiple top SEC teams having a couple of losses already, the league won’t get the benefit of the doubt this season so Alabama needs to win out if it wants to go to Pasadena.