The battle is won in the trenches

Barrett Jones

The key to Saturday's matchup between No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 LSU will be the vicious fight at the line of scrimmage.

Saturday's game between No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 LSU in Death Valley will be decided at the line of scrimmage.

When it comes to the Tide and Tigers, it's a battle of strength vs. strength. Down in the trenches where big, strong bodies clash is where the game will be won. And that's how these teams like it.

The Crimson Tide has dominated the line pretty handily this season. But LSU is a different animal. They're more like Alabama.

"It's a very physical game," said running back Eddie Lacy. "We're the same style team. We're powerful, we're fast, we're quick and we're going to hit. Every time this game comes around, you know there's going to be a lot of big hits being made."

The SEC is known as the nation's toughest and most competitive conference all the way around, but the physicality and athleticism that steams out of the Tide and Tigers has seemingly rose above the rest of their competitors in recent years.

"It's whoever bends and folds first," said linebacker C.J. Mosley, who leads the team with 65 tackles. "We've got to make sure we're on our stuff and be ready for our power football, and they've got to be ready for ours."

Alabama has been almost perfectly balanced offensively, rushing for 214.3 yards per game and passing for 222. And that success starts with the five big boys up front--Cyrus Kouandjio, Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones, Anthony Steen and D.J. Fluker. That's a total of 1,571 pounds of muscle and power protecting quarterback A.J. McCarron, whose touchdown-to-interception ratio this year is 18-0.

The Tide's offensive line has played together for so long and has become such a tight-knit group. They know each other's strengths, weaknesses and tendencies, and keep each other informed, which will be key against LSU's defensive front, a unit that is no question the best Bama will have seen all year.

"The most physical games I've played in my life have been against them," Jones said. "We really respect the way they play football. They're not really going to try to trick us. They're going to line up and play their defense and we're going to line up and play our offense. That's why we like playing them and that's why they like playing us."

On the other side of the ball is Alabama's top-ranked defense. Despite leading the nation in almost every major statistical category, the players don't have a lot of glorifying stats like sacks. Sophomore linebacker Adrian Hubbard leads the team with 3 ½. But that doesn't matter, as defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's 3-4 scheme is certainly effective.

Alabama's defense can stop the pass (holding opponents to 145.9 yards per game) and the run (57.25 ypg).

LSU's offensive line has taken several significant hits to its starting lineup. Back in September, the Tigers lost left tackle Chris Faulk to a season-ending knee injury. Then right guard Josh Williford suffered a concussion against Florida and hasn't played since (although he could play this weekend), right tackle Alex Hurst (personal issues) has been out since the South Carolina game and LSU head coach Les Miles hasn't given any indication if he'll return, and guard Josh Dworaczyk injured his calf, but is probable.

The ones who are definitely out—Faulk and Hurst—have youngsters redshirt Trai Turner and true freshman Vadal Alexander coming in as their respective replacements.

Offensive line is one of the harder positions for a younger guy to grasp quickly, but defensive end Damion Square doesn't think that'll be an issue for LSU.

"Of course when younger guys play, it's mistakes they make early," he said. "I feel that the experience those guys have been getting from week to week, as I watch film from those guys progressing, they have been getting better and better. They're going to be solid when they play against us."

Regardless, this game will be vicious all around, especially down in the gritty the trenches.

"You want to leave Baton Rouge and be able to say, ‘We were the best D on the field that night,'" Square said. "In this game, whoever the best D is, is the team that's going to win the game."

MORE ALABAMA-LSU COVERAGE:

Just another Saturday

A dream will die in Death Valley

Practice Report 10/30

Mosley has focus for LSU Saturday

LSU injury report

Practice Report 10/29

Monday (of LSU week) with Saban


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