LSU likely will play its base defense more against Alabama on Saturday than it played it against teams that ran spread offenses, such as Oregon and West Virginia.
In those games, the Tigers used their nickel package a lot, meaning Tyrann Mathieu moved from cornerback to nickelback and Tharold Simon replaced him at cornerback. Having five defensive backs and just two linebackers made it easier to keep up with the extra speedy players on those offenses.
The nickel package has been effective and allows defensive coordinator John Chavis to utilize Mathieu in a variety of ways.
Though the Crimson Tide’s power running game will lead LSU to keep a third linebacker on the field instead of a fifth defensive back much of the time, coach Les Miles said the Tigers will still find ways to use the nickel package.
“It depends on the situations that we run into, but there’s also a point in time where the fast guys will make it more difficult for the big guys to block at times,” Miles said. “We’ll play that nickel package in some marginal downs and distances.”
‘Clash of the Titans’
Speaking of defense, much has been spoken about both defenses. Alabama and LSU have two of the elite defenses in the country, and Saturday’s game might settle a lot of debates about which is best.
“We know they have a great defense and great coaches, just like we have here,” LSU safety Brandon Taylor said. “They’re calling it the ‘Clash of the Titans,’ so we’re going to see at the end of the day.”
Taylor was asked if he could ever remember a game in which both defenses had been hyped as much as these two have been. “The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens,” he replied. “That’s the only one I can think of.”
Worth keeping an eye on
Tight end Deangelo Peterson is one of the more anonymous receivers in LSU’s offense. He has caught just eight passes since grabbing four in the season opener. But Alabama will know who he is. He caught his first career touchdown pass against the Tide two years ago. Then last season against the Tide, on fourth-and-1, he ran 23 yards to the Alabama 3 to set up the go-ahead touchdown in the Tigers’ 24-21 victory.
“I think they will (know who Peterson is),” Peterson said. “Every year they have. I’m an athletic tight end, so they’ve got to or they’ll leave me open.”
Peterson said he thinks he and the LSU wide receivers can have success against the Tide’s top-ranked defense.
“We think we’ve got a better receiving corps than they do,” he said. “I feel like our receivers can get open against their cornerbacks, and our tight ends can get open against their defensive players.
“I feel like their linebackers are kind of slow and big, so I think I can beat them one-on-one and get open in zone or man-to-man coverage. So I think if they guard me with a linebacker, I’ll get open.”
Ware-ing to go
LSU running back Spencer Ware should be fresh for what’s expected to be a very physical game. Ware runs with a punishing style and has carried the ball 128 times after just 24 carries as a freshman last season.
But Ware was held out of the game against Auburn two weeks ago for violating a team rule, and the Tigers had an open date last week. So he hasn’t been in a game since the victory at Tennessee on Oct. 15.
“(Alabama’s) defense is big, and by him having a week off you can tell at practice that he’s running the ball hard,” Peterson said. “You can tell he has fresh legs, and you can tell he’s focused. He’s ready to go.
“I think he wants to come out and show that he can run the ball. He’s shown in games that he runs the ball hard. I think he’s going to come out this week and show that he can run the ball hard against their defense.”
Night and day answers
Miles has had to answer numerous questions about game times this season. The Tigers have had three home games moved from night to day, and this week’s game was moved from day to night.
“We’ve played (in Tuscaloosa) at night, and I kind of enjoyed the night venue as I recall it,” Miles said. “We’re used to playing at night and probably more used to playing at night than we are playing in the daytime.
“I find myself talking about how we enjoy playing in the daytime when we play in the daytime and how we enjoy playing at night best when we’re playing at night. I don’t know if I’m contradicting myself.”