Both Alabama and LSU are 8-0 this season, including 5-0 in Southeastern Conference games. The Crimson Tide has fallen behind to start four of those games, including the last three. Tennessee Coach Derek Dooley had pointed out that scoring first on Bama seemed to irritate the Crimson Tide.
He has a point. In those three most recent games in which Alabama’s opponent scored first, the Tide defeated Florida, 38-10; Ole Miss, 52-7; and Tennessee, 37-6.
LSU, on the other hand, has been the first team to score in all eight of its games this year. The Tigers have trailed for a grand total of only 6:33 in all games this year, and haven’t been behind in a game since the second quarter of the first game of the season.
LSU, ranked first in the nation, and Alabama, ranked second, will kick off at 7 p.m. CDT with CBS televising the game.
Alabama senior H-back/tight end Brad Smelley was asked about the Crimson Tide’s slow starts and what concerns he might have about falling behind a team with a defense as strong as that of LSU.
“I don’t really make much of it,” said Smelley. “We’ve had games where we came out rolling and a couple games that it took a quarter to get rolling. I think we’re interested in being efficient, getting all 11 guys on the same page and we’ve usually gotten that done. A slow start: you just have to push through it.
“Obviously we don’t want to get behind in a game, but if that’s how it goes we have to bounce back and keep playing. Just because you get behind doesn’t mean you stop fighting.”
Smelley, 6-3, 239, from Tuscaloosa, said that the Alabama-LSU series is a good one.
“It’s always a smash-mouth game,” he said. “We love playing in it. It has become a big rivalry and everyone hypes it up, so we’re excited to play in it and ready to get after it.”
One concern for the Bama offense should be LSU’s extraordinary skill at causing turnovers. The Tigers have intercepted 11 passes and caused 18 fumbles (recovering seven of them). That has not been lost on Smelley and his teammates.
“They move around a lot and that secondary is pretty good and they punch the ball out pretty effectively,” Smelley said. “They’ve made plays and we’ve seen that on film. We have to protect the ball.”
It was no surprise that Smelley identified Tyrann Mathieu (“Seven makes a lot of plays from nickel back”) as the LSU defender who causes the most mayhem.
Smelley is aware of LSU’s big, strong defensive front, but feels Alabama can move the ball through the air.
“We have a lot of weapons and feel good about our passing game,” he said. “When they load the box, we’ve got to be able to throw the ball.”
Alabama has completed passes to 14 men this year -- seven wide receivers, three running backs, and four tight ends. Of the tight ends, Smelley has been the top receiver. His 16 catches for 165 yards ranks fourth for the Tide overall. He has one touchdown reception.
“I feel good [about my role],” he said. “When I get open, A.J. has been getting me the ball. It has been good so far.”
A.J. is quarterback A.J. McCarron, and many feel that how the third-year sophomore performs could be the key to the game. This is his first year as a starter after two years as a back-up to Greg McElroy.
Smelley said, “He has been through a lot of obstacles such as going to Penn State and Florida and making the mistake [interception against Tennessee in Bama’s last outing] and coming back, so we’re real confident in A.J. and how he has progressed during the season.
“I think A.J. has handled himself appropriately in every game and has been effective in every game. So we don’t worry about him. He’s a leader and he has shown poise this whole year and has really played well.”
So he doesn’t act like a sophomore?
“Not on the field,” Smelley said. “Maybe in the locker room a little bit. He’s really a mature player as far as being a sophomore and handles himself really well and has really led the troops in a good way.”
And in the locker room?
“No comment. What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.”