Alabama football won’t have to see Ed Orgeron on the sidelines for LSU this fall, but the new man leading the team isn’t a brand new face.
Brian Kelly, who coached Notre Dame from 2010-2021, faced the Crimson Tide twice during that span on the national stage in the playoffs. Saban emerged victorious in both cases.
“I want to beat Nick Saban,” Kelly said on a podcast in May. “Who doesn’t want to beat Nick Saban? You know what I mean? I want to play him in the regular season. That’s the norm, isn’t it? That’s the norm. Now that’s a conference opponent.”
And now Kelly will have his chance.
Throughout the summer, The Tuscaloosa News examines every Alabama opponent who has a chance, however slim, of defeating the Crimson Tide. Sorry, Vanderbilt.
Next up will be the Tigers, who host Alabama on Nov. 5 at Tiger Stadium. Here’s what LSU does and doesn’t have against Alabama.
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Why LSU can win
Defensive front could capitalize on Alabama’s weakness
It’s no secret that the Crimson Tide offensive line could be the biggest obstacle between Alabama and another national championship.
If the front line has problems throughout the year, this game could be one of the most problematic for the attack.
LSU has perhaps the best defensive rush Alabama will see in the regular season. In the USA TODAY Network’s preseason defensive lineman rankings, the Tigers have four of the top 10 at the position. BJ Ojulari and Ali Gaye should lead the way with defensive tackles such as Mason Smith and Jaquelin Roy creating problems inside.
Kelly managing to retain Kayshon Boutte was perhaps one of his most important moves to start his tenure.
Boutte led LSU in receiving yards (509) and touchdowns (nine) despite missing the last seven games with an ankle injury he suffered against Kentucky. He’s back and if he can get back to form, he has a chance to be electric for LSU this season.
He’s not the only talent the Tigers are working with in this position. He has young receivers who could also pose problems for defenses. Included in this group is Malik Nabers, who was a member of the SEC All-Freshman team.
The development of Alabama’s cornerbacks will be important for the Crimson Tide to handle these receivers.
Why LSU can’t win
Untested offensive line
Both teams’ passers could end up increasing their stats in this game.
LSU’s offensive line has potential, but it’s more uncertain right now. A freshman should start at left tackle and small school transfers should fill out a few other starting spots.
Maybe that offensive line is proving to be pretty good, but even if it’s been solid this season, that might not be enough to slow Alabama’s passing rush. Will Anderson Jr., Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell are going to be a problem for even the best offensive lines.
How is the new cornerback group handling Bryce Young?
Kelly turned to the transfer portal to put together a new group of cornerbacks.
They have pedigree and experience. Jarrick Bernard-Converse (Oklahoma State), Sevyn Banks (Ohio State), Greg Brooks Jr. (Arkansas) and Mekhi Garner (Louisiana) are all at the top of the position, and they could fit in well.
They are not yet a proven group. If they don’t mesh well, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner could take advantage.
Not to mention, if any of those corners are injured, Young could expose LSU’s lack of cornerback depth behind them.