Saban's defense will lead the way

Nick Saban will attack Alabama's offense, and Marcus Randall will make enough plays to lead LSU to victory.

Originally Published: November 11, 2004
By Todd McShay | Scouts, Inc.
This game could decide who finishes in second place in the SEC West. Considering the injuries and poor quarterback play that each head coach has dealt with up to this point, Alabama's Mike Shula and LSU's Nick Saban deserve notice just for having their respective teams in this position at this point of the season.

Who: Alabama vs. (15) LSU
When: Sat., 7:45 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, LA

The Tigers, who are coming off a bye, had an extra week to prepare. It gave them some time to sort out the seemingly never-ending quarterback scenario and prepare Rudy Niswanger to take over for star OC Ben Wilkerson. Wilkerson was lost for the season in a freak accident that occurred during the final play of the Tigers' last game.

QB Marcus Randall has clearly out-played redshirt freshman JaMarcus Russell in the second half of the season but Saban continues to play both, as he seems to feel that Randall is more effective coming off the bench.

Despite the questions at quarterback, a strong running game powered by RBs Alley Brousard, Joseph Addai and Justin Vincent, an improving defense, and the emergence of a healthy Skyler Green as a threat in the return game has led the Tigers to three-consecutive wins following a 3-2 start.

The story for Alabama has been its defense, which ranks first in the country in total defense (223.8 yards), pass defense (107.4 yards) and pass efficiency defense (85), as well as sixth nationally in scoring defense (13.6 points). If the Crimson Tide offense was even close to functional, Alabama would have one or two more wins.

Ever since the loss of QB Brodie Croyle, Alabama has gone to a one-dimensional running attack. The unit has done a good job of overcoming losses of RB Ray Hudson and FB Tim Castille but Spencer Pennington is in way over his head as the team's fill-in starter at quarterback.

If the Crimson Tide is to pull off the road upset, sophomore RB Kenneth Darby will need to carry a significant load and remain effective working against the eight-and-nine man fronts that Saban's attacking defense will regularly throw at him.

Todd McShay

ESPN Senior Writer