LSU Tigers: Alabama football

How to win Alabama-LSU rivalry over time 

July, 19, 2013
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The Alabama-LSU rivalry admittedly is a young one. While the schools have played one another a lot in their history -- 77 times, to be exact -- the real antagonism didn't come until 2007, when former LSU coach Nick Saban left the Miami Dolphins for the University of Alabama. Ever since, it is prime-time viewing when the Tide and the Tigers meet.

Saban and LSU coach Les Miles have won four of the past six SEC titles and four of the last six BCS national championships. They've pushed each program to greater heights and established themselves as two of the top coaches in the game, all the while competing against one another on and off the field.

So far, Alabama holds the slight edge over LSU in terms of head-to-head wins and national championships, but will that last? Who will own the rivalry in the years to come? That's what we asked of TideNation writer Alex Scarborough and GeauxTigerNation writer Gary Laney. Each looked into their crystal ball to come up with three things each school must do to win the rivalry moving into 2014 and beyond.

What LSU must do to own the rivalry

1. Win the home front: Alabama is trying to go toe-to-toe with LSU for most of Louisiana's top recruits. If LSU is to hold its own or win the long-term rivalry with Alabama, it's essential for the Tigers to not only win this war, but in a rout. We all know about the 2014 class in Louisiana, featuring a handful of the nation's best players, most of whom have LSU and Alabama as their top two contenders (see Leonard Fournette, Cameron Robinson and Laurence "Hootie" Jones). This might repeat itself in what's shaping up to be a similar 2016 class in Louisiana. Given Alabama's current status as college football's back-to-back champion, it's hard to imagine LSU being able to match the Tide's recruiting without dominating its own state.

2. A transformed offense: LSU looks like it can be a defensive juggernaut for years to come. Not only does LSU have a great defensive coordinator in John Chavis, Louisiana yields Chavis an ample quantity of athletes capable of thriving in his system. That has not been the case on offense, where the Tigers have played musical coordinators and have struggled to find their stride since they last won a national championship in 2007. That's in contrast to Alabama, which a year ago had a dominant running game and an efficient passing game. LSU can't be a one-dimensional team while Alabama is a complete team.

3. A thriving state: An underrated part of LSU's success, and struggles, is the fate of the state of Louisiana itself. We saw LSU take a hit when Hurricane Katrina displaced much of metro New Orleans, which represents close to a quarter of the state's population. New Orleans has recovered and the state is at a point where, if the right buttons are pushed, it can move past recovery to experiencing real growth. We've seen in neighboring Texas, a huge growth state, that transplants have assimilated into Texas' rabid football culture and football prospect production has been incredibly strong. If Louisiana, annually the nation's leader in per capita NFL player production, experiences significant population growth with LSU remaining its sole BCS football power, matching the Tigers' recruiting base would be enormously difficult for any rival, Alabama included.

What Alabama must do to own the rivalry

1. Find a quarterback to replace McCarron: It doesn't matter how stellar the defense or how spectacular the running game: Without a solid starting quarterback, Alabama won't be going anywhere against LSU or any other team in the SEC when AJ McCarron leaves after this season. If you're not balanced in this league, you're not going to win, and you need a capable quarterback to make that possible. The difficulty of finding that man might be taken for granted, considering the consistent play the Tide has had with McCarron and Greg McElroy before him, but much of this season will be devoted toward that process. Alec Morris has nice potential and so do the trio of freshman quarterbacks Alabama welcomed onto campus this spring. UA commitment David Cornwell is a guy that can come in and compete for the job in 2014 as well. But whoever wins the gig will have his hands full.

2. Continue drawing from the Louisiana pipeline: Saban left LSU nine years ago, but he never left the state behind entirely. The relationships he maintained there have paid dividends since he came to Alabama in 2007. Since then, Saban has signed nine recruits from Louisiana, including 2012's top prospect, safety Landon Collins. Alabama is in the hunt for 2014's No. 1 overall prospect, running back Fournette and No. 1 offensive tackle Robinson, and the Tide will no doubt continue to mine the area for talent in the years to come. With each recruit signed out of Louisiana, Alabama fills its own coffers while simultaneously emptying LSU's -- a win-win scenario in any rivalry.

3. Keep Saban and his "process" in Tuscaloosa: It's an obvious thing to say, but the vast majority of Alabama's success comes from its head coach and the program he has installed in Tuscaloosa. While it's true that Saban has built a machine -- also known as "The Process" -- that seemingly operates on its own, he's nonetheless the man with his hand on the lever making sure it's working at maximum capacity. Without him, who knows how far Alabama would fall? Kirby Smart or some other coaching candidate may be the perfect man for the job when Saban leaves, but following up what Saban has done in establishing a dynasty would border on the impossible. The pressure would be incredible. The best-case scenario for Tide fans is that Saban stays head coach for as long as he wants before handing over the reigns to a successor who he could watch develop from an advisory role within the athletic department, whether that's as the school's athletic director or in some other responsibility.

Early preview: Balance key to UA, LSU

July, 18, 2013
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Editor's note: This week, GeauxTigerNation and TideNation will examine all aspects of the LSU-Alabama rivalry during the Nick Saban-Les Miles era. Today we turn to this season's game and what each team must do to come out victorious.

It's never too early to look forward to a good old-fashioned rivalry game. So with more than 100 days remaining between now and the Alabama-LSU regular-season matchup in Tuscaloosa, Ala., we asked TideNation writer Alex Scarborough and GeauxTigerNation writer Gary Laney to break down three keys for each school to come out on top.

A lot can happen between now and Nov. 9, but its safe to say the plans laid out by each writer will be as true today as they are four months from now when Nick Saban and Les Miles meet at midfield in Bryant-Denny Stadium to renew a rivalry that's been boiling intensely in recent years.

How LSU wins in 2013

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger
Derick E. HingleAlabama's defense has to find a way to put pressure on Zach Mettenberger in its matchup with LSU on Nov. 9.
1. Offensive balance: On a spreadsheet, LSU did not have a team that should have been able to beat Alabama in 2012. The Tigers were too one-dimensional on offense without a consistent passing game and, if the 2011 meetings showed anything, Nick Saban-coached teams will eat one-dimensional offenses for lunch. But for one night in Tiger Stadium, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger was brilliant, throwing for a season's-best 298 yards to bring balance to the usual productive running game, led by Jeremy Hill, and the Tigers nearly pulled off an upset, losing 21-17. This year, Mettenberger will have to be as good -- probably better -- and LSU will need its usual running threat, whether it's Hill or somebody elese. Of course, that is the whole reason why LSU has a new offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron.

2. Pressure points: Alabama has some work to do on its offensive line, and LSU has some holes to fill on its defensive line. This should not be a huge issue for the Tigers' run defense -- defensive coordinator John Chavis is a master of scheming extra men in the box to negate the run -- but if a now well-seasoned A.J. McCarron has time to sit back and go through his progressions in the passing game, even "DBU" won't be able to cover. Don't believe it? Look at the winning drive last season. Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson should be a pass-rushing force this season. But if the Tigers enter the LSU game still waiting for one of the young ends to emerge as a consistent sack threat, they could be in for a world of hurt.

3. Kicking it around: The last time the Tigers beat Alabama, Drew Alleman gave LSU all of its points with three field goals. Under Les Miles, LSU always seems to enjoy a special teams edge. That's especially important against this team because it will take a mighty effort to just be close to the Tide, based on what they have coming back with offensive skill players and defensive talent. That might be a problem for LSU, which is breaking in a new starting punter in Jamie Keehn and is entering August camp still searching for Alleman's replacement at kicker.

How Alabama wins in 2013

1. Pressure Mettenberger: It's odd that the silver lining in Mettenberger's otherwise lackluster 2012 campaign was a defeat, but such was the case for the rising senior quarterback who threw for a season-high 298 yards against Alabama in early November. Give him credit for making all the throws, but a fair share of the blame lies with the Tide defense, which had three sacks and no quarterback hurries in Baton Rouge. Allowing a big, strong-armed quarterback such as Mettenberger to set his feet like that was just asking for trouble. Combined with a season-low two pass breakups, it's a wonder he didn't throw for more than one touchdown. For Alabama to survive LSU in Tuscaloosa this season, the defense can't afford Mettenberger another career-making day where he has the time to sit back and pick the secondary apart.

2. Stay with the running game: There were times last season when the Alabama offense got too far ahead of its skis and lost balance -- twice to be exact. The LSU game was the first such instance when offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier called more passes than runs, and the lack of continuity showed in the second half, when McCarron and Co. went three-and-out on four of six drives. Alabama, of course, survived that bit of unbalance, but the next week it did not as the Tide threw the ball more than it ran and lost in heartbreaking fashion to Texas A&M. While the temptation to pass will be even greater with McCarron a year wiser and with more weapons at wide receiver, the fact remains that the Alabama offense is based on running the football and controlling the line of scrimmage. Handing the ball off to T.J. Yeldon and the rest of the stable of running backs might not be sexy, but it gets the job done.

3. Stay special: A bad kicking game doomed Alabama the last time LSU came to Tuscaloosa as the Tide missed four-of-six field goal attempts in its only loss of the 2011 season. And while Cade Foster appears to have gotten over the hiccup of that game, he comes into the 2013 season with even greater expectations now that short-range specialist Jeremy Shelley is gone. Making the most of every opportunity will be important for whoever handles field goals for the Tide this go-around, whether it's Foster or redshirt freshman Adam Griffith, who could take over for Shelley as the short- to intermediate-range kicker. Getting the ball through the uprights won't be the only thing that's important, though. The Tide must do well in coverage and take care of the ball in the return game, as five of the past seven meetings between the schools have been decided by a touchdown or less.

The stars of the Alabama-LSU rivalry 

July, 17, 2013
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There have been dozens of All-Americans and first-round picks to come out Alabama and LSU in recent years, talented guys like Courtney Upshaw, Barkevious Mingo, Trent Richardson and Tyrann Mathieu. All told, there have been more than 30 NFL draft picks from both programs since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007.

But with so many players to choose from, how do you determine the best athletes to compete in the rivalry, the ones who have shown up and played their best when the two schools met on the football field each year?

TideNation writer Alex Scarborough and GeauxTigerNation writer Gary Laney did their best to answer that difficult question.

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Ranking best games in Bama-LSU rivalry 

July, 17, 2013
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The Alabama-LSU rivalry began heating up the minute Nick Saban left the Miami Dolphins in an attempt to resurrect a sleeping giant in Tuscaloosa, and it hasn't slowed down since. Alabama has flourished into a dynasty with three rings and counting, while LSU continues to battle for national championships year in and year out under the sometimes-eccentric leadership of Les Miles.

Head to head, the Crimson Tide and Tigers have had some of the most thrilling games in recent memory, often propelling one team or another on to the SEC championship and beyond. Each matchup has had its defining play or its defining performance, whether it was T.J. Yeldon's last-second touchdown in 2012 or Eric Reid's acrobatic interception the year before.

Breaking down each game was no easy matter. In fact, when TideNation writer Alex Scarborough and GeauxTigerNation writer Gary Laney sat down to make up a top 10 list of the best games since 2007, determining No. 1 was so difficult they had to split the difference and stop just short of calling it a tie.

Looking at numbers three through seven wasn't much simpler. But they persevered and ranked the games from best to worst, and here's the order they came up with:


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DBs from SEC blanket combine

February, 22, 2013
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Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites took a look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins today in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Click here to read the entire predraft series. Today: Defensive backs and special teams.

LSU Tigers


The obvious acronym for Louisiana State University is "LSU." But to many, the Baton Rouge school gets the title "DBU" for its mass production of NFL defensive backs, from cornerbacks like Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne to safeties like LaRon Landry. This draft will do nothing to harm that reputation. Three LSU defensive backs -- including the booted-from-the-team Tyrann Mathieu -- were invited to the NFL combine this week, a year after three (Claiborne, Ron Brooks and Brandon Taylor) were taken in the draft.

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SEC's DLs, LBs strong at combine

February, 21, 2013
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Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites will look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins Friday in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Today: Defensive linemen and linebackers.

LSU Tigers


If there's any doubt where LSU will need to replenish its stockpile after the 2012 season, watch the NFL combine. LSU has four defensive linemen scheduled to attend, including at least two who are likely to go in the first round. Add linebacker Kevin Minter and the Tigers will have five players from their front seven at the combine. LSU might have the "DBU" reputation, but perhaps it should be more noted for its defensive line production.

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OLs from SEC can thrive at combine

February, 20, 2013
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Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites will look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins Friday in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Today: Offensive linemen.


LSU Tigers



The biggest question mark among the 13 players LSU has headed to the combine is left tackle Chris Faulk who, despite missing all but the season opener with a torn ACL, opted to forgo his senior season at LSU and try for the NFL. He's one of two offensive linemen the Tigers have attending the NFL combine, along with center P.J. Lonergan.

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SEC sends several RBs to NFL combine

February, 19, 2013
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Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites will look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins Friday in Indianapolis. Today: Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.

LSU Tigers


Perhaps it says something about LSU's offense in 2012 that among a record 13 players invited to the NFL combine from the Tigers, only two are offensive skill players who are generally considered, at this point, marginal talents. Running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford are the only skill players invited to Indianapolis, which is understandable when one considers LSU was 10th in the SEC in total offense. It's also a sign of youth. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, fullback J.C. Copeland, running back Jeremy Hill and all of LSU's primary threats at wide receiver will return in 2013.

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SEC shows more interest in Todd Kelly Jr. 

January, 25, 2013
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Despite being one of the top programs in the nation, LSU still has some work to do to land one of the top junior prospects in the south.

Coaches from LSU visited Todd Kelly Jr. this week. However, the Watch List prospect from Knoxville (Tenn.) Webb said he's primarily focusing on his top ten finalists.


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Bama leads for No. 5 DE after visit 

January, 14, 2013
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama was the first school to start showing interest in ESPN 150 defensive end Tim Williams (Baton Rouge, La./University Lab) back when he was a freshman. Now, three years later, the Crimson Tide hosted Williams on his first official visit over the weekend.


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ATH Beckwith commits to LSU

January, 4, 2013
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- ESPN 150 athlete Kendell Beckwith (Jackson, La./East Feliciana) promised there would be no drama with his announcement, and he stayed true to his word when he put on an LSU hat and committed to the Tigers during the first quarter of tonight's Under Armour All-America Game.

Beckwith is the second prospect to commit to LSU during Under Armour All-America Game week, as defensive tackle Maquedius Bain (Davie, Fla./University School), who committed Wednesday after practice. Beckwith is the 25th verbal commitment and the sixth member of the ESPN 150 to join to LSU’s Class of 2013.

The top-rated player in Louisiana, Beckwith said that the battle between SEC West powers LSU and Alabama was tough, but in the end the idea of playing for his home-state school was too much to go against.

While Beckwith’s commitment to the Tigers is solid, there is plenty of speculation about where he will play. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, he was closer to 240 pounds this week and looks like he could have a future at linebacker or defensive end.

“I’m probably the most comfortable at linebacker in college, especially because they use big linebackers in the SEC,” Beckwith said earlier this week. “In some situations I might need to put my hand in the ground and that could work too.”

Ole Miss leads for Robert Nkemdiche 

January, 2, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. –- On Day 3 of practice for the Under Armour All-America Game at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) finally confirmed what has been speculated around the recruiting world for months.


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DL Williams leans on officials for decision 

December, 30, 2012
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As ESPN 150 defensive end Tim Williams (Baton Rouge, La./ University Lab) nears national signing day, all that remains between him and choosing a school is a few official visits.


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TE McNeil ready to let Tide roll away 

December, 30, 2012
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -– ESPN 150 prospect Josh McNeil (Durham, N.C./Milford Academy) admits it was a difficult situation when the tight end parted ways with Alabama. However it looks like another SEC program will be there to pick up the pieces.


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Four-star Conner plans decision, visits 

December, 30, 2012
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- ESPN 150 safety Antonio Conner (Batesville, Miss./South Panola) is set to make his decision at the Under Armour All-America Game on Friday. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound athlete will choose between Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU and Georgia.

Despite making a decision, Conner plans to take all five official visits.


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