The Tide are in a position that is not that familiar to them — they are facing what is essentially a must-win game. The last two years they have been able to lose a game in November and still bounce back to play in — and win — the National Championship Game. This year, though, the SEC isn’t as dominant as it has been, and one loss would be tough for Alabama to overcome unless Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor all falter. Win and they are all but certain to get another title shot, though, so what they need to do is obvious.
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Alabama comes into this one with another possible distraction. For reasons that are tough to completely comprehend, Nick Saban’s agent floated the trial balloon this week that the only school Saban would leave Alabama for is Texas — which just hired a new AD and is all but certain to have a coaching vacancy this winter. Saban has since denied that he is interested in going anywhere, but the story is out there, and if fans or players feel there is even a little sliver of possibility to the rumors, it could turn into a distraction. The Tide have proven better than any other team out there at blocking out distractions, but Saban is a god in Tuscaloosa, so this isn’t your normal distraction.
LSU at Alabama Betting Storylines
A big factor in this game will be which Zach Mettenberger, the LSU quarterback, shows up for the game. Through his first six games he was stellar. He had thrown 15 touchdowns with just two picks and had completed more than 62 percent of his passes in five straight games. He was a difference-maker. In his last three games, though, he has not been nearly as effective. He has thrown only four touchdowns while being picked off five times — including twice by Furman last time out. His accuracy has declined noticeably, and he’s not the confident QB that he was. Now he is up against the No. 1 scoring defense in the country, so he needs to be at his absolute sharpest for the Tigers to have a chance. No matter how he does, though, he will almost certainly make some history here — with eight more passing yards he will become the first LSU QB ever to throw for 2,500 yards in consecutive seasons.
If history tells us anything about this game it’s that there is a good chance that this will be a close, hard-fought contest. The last three regular season meetings have been decided by four or fewer points. Two of the last five regular season games have gone into overtime. The spread in each of those last three regular season games has been a touchdown or less. Alabama has been favored each time but has yet to cover a spread. All we can hope is that we don’t have a repeat of the 2011 game — the 9-6 snoozefest that even fans of defensive football were hard-pressed to find thrilling.
Alabama QB A.J. McCarron has enjoyed almost unbelievable protection this year. The last time he was sacked was in the third quarter of the Ole Miss game on Sept. 28. That means that he has gone 17 quarters without a sack. Being able to apply pressure to McCarron would be very important for the Tigers. McCarron has been frighteningly accurate this year — completing nearly 70 percent of his passes — and the ridiculous amount of time he has had to work is a big part of the reason. Unfortunately, LSU’s pass rush is fine but far from outstanding — their 20 sacks ranks just 34th in the country — so it is far from certain that McCarron will have to fear for his life very often in this one. If LSU can’t break through, it is a tremendous lost opportunity for the Tigers.
LSU at Alabama College Football Odds and Betting Trends
Nearly two-thirds of bets on this game have come in on the backs of the Tide. That has had a predictable effect on the line. It opened at 10 points, and it has widened to 12.5 in most spots, with 13 or even higher looking like it could be possible. The total sits at 55 points.
LSU did not cover last time out against Furman. They have not bounced back strong after ATS losses lately — they are just 0-4-1 ATS in their last five games following an ATS loss. The Tide have covered the spread in their last four conference games, and they have gone “over” the total in their last seven conference games. The last four meetings between these teams have gone “under” the total. The road team is 9-4-1 ATS in the last 14 meetings between these teams.
Free College Football Picks: LSU at Alabama Predictions
My first instinct is to take the Tigers because they are getting so many points — more than they have needed in most cases recently in this rivalry. The more I consider the game from different angles, though, the harder I find it to go with LSU. They have lost twice, and both foes — Ole Miss and Georgia -- are not nearly in the same league as Alabama. I don’t trust that Mettenberger will have a good day, and that will make it very tough for the whole team. Alabama has too much going for them on both sides of the ball right now, so it is tough to do anything other than trust that they will be able to exploit their clear advantage. If this game was in Baton Rouge, the conclusion might be different, but as it sits Alabama is the clear choice. The line isn’t likely to go anywhere but up, so if you like the Tide then the sooner you can bet the better.
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