The annual clash between Alabama and LSU almost always has an impact on the SEC West race, but this year’s installment might amount to a national quarterfinal. Both teams cracked the top four in the initial College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday, meaning the winner of Saturday’s showdown at Alabama will maintain an inside track to the national semifinals.
It’s no surprise the fourth-ranked Tigers checked in at No. 2 in the playoff committee’s rankings – at 7-0 they are one of 11 remaining unbeaten teams, including eight in power conferences. The seventh-ranked Crimson Tide’s presence at No. 4 on the committee’s list is a bit more controversial given Alabama’s early loss to Ole Miss, but the Tide have rolled to five straight wins since. Keeping that streak going will require slowing down LSU star Leonard Fournette, who leads the nation in rushing yards (1,352) and rushing yards per game (193.1) and ranks second in rushing touchdowns (15). Alabama has success stopping the run, though, ranking third in the nation in rushing defense (78.5 yards per game).
TV: 8 p.m. ET, CBS.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened the Tide as 7-point home faves. The total is down to 45.5 from the opening 51.
LSU – TE John David Moore (Probable, knee), CB Tre’Davious White (Probable, undisclosed), DT Christian LaCouture (Probable, foot), TE Dillon Gordon (Out for season, Achilles), DT Mickey Johnson (Out for season, undisclosed).
Alabama – OL Dominick Jackson (Probable, ankle), DB Ronnie Harrison (Probable, ankle), QB Blake Barnett (Questionable, undisclosed), K Gunnar Raborn (Out indefinitely, suspension), WR Robert Foster (Out for season, shoulder).
WEATHER: There is a 100% chance of rain at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Temperatures will be in the high-50s with wind blowing toward the south end zone at around 6 miles per hour.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “This game has the handicappers a little torn, but it seems that the action is going to reside with LSU plus the 7 points by a slight margin. The line was a solid 6.5 for most of the week, but just jumped to 7 this morning. I don’t see the line moving more than a half point in either direction at this point, but it’s too early to say which way that will be, if at all.” Mick Sloan, GTbets Lines Manager.
ABOUT LSU (7-0 SU, 4-3 ATS, 6-1 O/U): Fournette certainly is the centerpiece of the Tigers’ offense, averaging 25 carries, but quarterback Brandon Harris has been effective when necessary. Harris ranks second in the SEC in passing efficiency thanks to nine touchdowns without an interception and has two dangerous targets in Travin Dural (24 catches, 426 yards, 2 TDs) and Malachi Dupre (21 catches, 397 yards, 5 TDs). The Tigers have been tough against the run but have shown weakness in the secondary, allowing more than 300 yards passing twice and an average of 222.1, ninth in the SEC.
ABOUT ALABAMA (7-1 SU, 3-5 ATS, 3-5 O/U): The Crimson Tide perhaps were prematurely written off after a 43-37 home loss to Ole Miss in which they gave up 433 total yards and committed five turnovers. The defense has clamped down in five games since, forcing 12 turnovers – including 10 interceptions – and holding opponents to 246 yards per game during the winning streak. The offense still needs to do a better job of taking care of the ball, having committed at least one turnover in seven straight games, but has stabilized with a commitment to the ground game led by bruiser Derrick Henry (1,044 yards, 14 TDs).
* Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings.
* Tigers are 6-2-1 ATS in their last nine meetings in Alabama.
* Road team is 14-5-1 ATS in their last 20 meetings.
* Crimson Tide are 0-5 ATS in their last five home games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Sixty percent of Covers users are backing LSU.