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Insider

Countdown to kickoff: Hello, Alabama

GeauxTigerNation writers Gary Laney and David Helman get you ready for the season with a daily breakdown throughout August of what LSU is facing in the fall, from its opponents, to its road trips to who it's recruiting. Today, Gary Laney asked the questions in a Q&A with Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com's TideNation, which covers all things Alabama:

Q: What's going to be harder to replace, Trent Richardson's running or all of quarterback AJ McCarron's favorite targets?

A: If you're talking in terms of production, I think there are other, more troubling areas than the running or passing game, namely the secondary. Eddie Lacy is a load at running back and there are legitimately two or three capable backups behind him. The rotation could remind LSU fans of when Nick Saban used Joseph Addai and others to win the title in 2003.

At receiver, Alabama lost its top four pass-catchers, but the guys coming in behind them might be more talented and deep. DeAndrew White, Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones look to be taking a step forward with Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks and Brandon Gibson gone.

In terms of replacing leadership, Richardson's loss could prove to be the most impactful. The Heisman Trophy finalist was the heart and soul of the offense, and helped forge the team's identity. Now it falls on quarterback AJ McCarron to become the vocal leader.

Q: Will we see any significant change to the offense under new OC Doug Nussmeier?

A: The philosophy won't change, but the play-calling might. I think that's more of a response to the roster breakdown than the change in coordinator. McCarron is ready to take the next step and the receivers in camp now are much more of a vertical threat. Nussmeier will throw in his own wrinkles, but don't expect any major shifts in style. Saban wants Nussmeier to be innovative without getting too crazy.

Q: LSU is happy to see those linebackers gone to the NFL. How good are the young linebackers replacing them?

A: In short: talented, but inexperienced. The good news is veterans C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson return, and should play a big role in providing leadership to the group. The depth at linebacker is appealing, though. Adrian Hubbard is a coach's dream at pass-rusher -- a 6-foot-6, 248-pound athlete. Trey DePriest, Xzavier Dickson and others will find their way into the rotation. And when you look at Alabama's past recruiting classes, you know help is on the way.

Q: And the big question: Who wins on Nov. 3 and why?

A. Is that a trick question? I want to see just how good Zach Mettenberger is before I make my final verdict on LSU. That said, a steak sandwich will play better than Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson did against Alabama. Right now, I give LSU the edge on Nov. 3 mainly because it's in the Tigers' house. Alabama should be far enough along by then to make a game of it, but if Mettenberger and those receivers can create a vertical passing game, that could be the difference.

Alabama will be ready. McCarron and this offense should be able to move the ball more affectively this season, and the kicking game cannot possibly be any worse. The defense will do its part, and could force a couple turnovers and change the complexion of the game.

It's still way too early to call but in early August, I like the way LSU's roster looks and I've got to believe revenge will play a major factor in the outcome of the game.