Brandon Harris’ career night saves LSU from offensive inconsistency in 48-20 win against Hilltoppers _lowres

In the rain, LSU quarterback Brandon Harris (6) throws the ball during the first half an NCAA college football game against Western Kentucky in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

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The way in which the teams are built seem similar – power running offenses with athletic, speedy defenses. I’m not sure either defense is as good as its counterpart from 2011, though. Certainly, that’s the case with LSU.

The Tigers’ defensive line has impressed this year, especially after the struggles in 2014, but the D-line and the secondary aren’t at the level of the 2011 LSU defense.

The game itself doesn’t necessarily have the same implications. Both were undefeated in that game and were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 nationally. Bama’s one loss to Ole Miss ended any shot of this being Game Of The Century II.

For Bama, this is a must win in terms of reaching the SEC or national championship game. That wasn’t the case in 2011. In fact, the loser of that game (Bama) ran the table and squeaked into the national title game – a 21-0 Tide win over the Tigers.

This seems doubtful. Rotating offensive linemen isn’t something normally done, and LSU hasn’t done much of it this year. Toby Weathersby played in three drives (about 15) plays against Western Kentucky. I can’t imagine LSU doing much of that against Alabama. Who the Tigers start on the line is who will likely plays the rest of the game – barring injury.

Will Weathersby start? Well, that’s something that might come up Wednesday night when reporters meet with Miles. It seems doubtful, seeing as Maea Teuhema has been the Tigers starting LG since Game 2, but the coach said Weathersby is good enough to play. Coaches feel like they have six O-linemen who can play. When Weathersby entered, Teuhema exited the game and RG Will Clapp slid from right to LG replacing Teuhema.

Let’s focus on LSU here. Three keys for the Tigers to get victory in Tuscaloosa are …

1) Run the ball successfully: This could mean a variety of things, but if LSU doesn’t run for at least 150 yards, it’s tough to see them winning the game.

2) Stop the run: If Alabama is running at will at home on a chilly night in the rain … well.

3) Harris must make plays: You remember No. 1? Well, Bama’s run defense is pretty good, and I’m not sure LSU can reach that 150-mark. Even if the Tigers do, they need a few big pass plays and a no-mistake night from their QB.

Jalen Mills’ role could be contingent on the status of CB Tre’Davious White. White is, allegedly, ready to play, according to coach Les Miles, but his status (knee injury) remains very uncertain.

If White plays, Mills likely remains at nickel when the Tigers are in the five-DB nickel. I just think that’s where LSU likes him, that’s where they think he’s best. If White doesn’t play, does LSU think about moving Mills to cornerback? That’s a question I can’t answer, but it’s worth broaching the subject with Miles on Wednesday night.

As for Jefferson, yes, he’s struggled. You can read more about that in our Film Room blog. Jefferson did not play another defensive snap after Western Kentucky’s third-quarter 39-yard touchdown pass on a busted assignment that seemed to involve him. But I don’t necessarily think Mills is the guy to replace him at safety. That might fall on Corey Thompson, who saw his most playing time in two years against Western Kentucky.

Mills could replace Jefferson at safety in the 4-3 defense, but the Tigers rarely play that. Will they play that more against run-heavy Bama? Maybe. If that’s the case, yes, Mills might see more time at safety. But LSU has played 80 percent of its snaps out of the nickel this season.

I think a lot of that depends on how the game is going. Is LSU running the ball well? If, yes, then don’t expect a lot of chucking down field. If LSU is struggling, the Tigers might not have much of a choice.

All of that said, I do believe you’ll see LSU attempt a more vertical passing game – something similar to what the Tigers did against Florida. Bama’s defense is so good at stopping the run that LSU must keep them honest. That doesn’t mean Harris must chuck it down the field, but maybe it’s a screen pass or a quick out.

Miles said earlier this week that the three injured starters – Moore, White and DT Christian LaCouture – are all expected to play. Les Miles is a football coach and football coaches don’t always tell the complete truth. After all, they’re paid millions of dollars to win football games, and they try to get every advantage possible – that includes not supplying the opponent with injury news.

Here’s how I’m guessing LSU’s injury situation is:

  • DT Chrisitian LaCouture (foot) – probable
  • DB Tre White (knee) – questionable
  • FB JD Moore (knee) – questionable

Again, this is something we’ll address again with Miles on Wednesday night.

The inclination for many is to think bad weather favors a grinding running game, which both teams have. But some believe a sloppy field and pouring rain is an advantage for a passing offense.

Why? The receivers know where they’re going. The defensive backs, in slippery and unsettling conditions, don’t know. In the game against Western Kentucky, on a slick, sloppy field, we saw a lot of slipping DBs.

But I can’t answer your question specifically. It’s just tough to say.

Here’s the thing: Bama doesn’t need to stack the box. The Crimson Tide is plenty talented enough to match you man-for-man in the run game and stop you. They’ve done that pretty much each season in which Nick Saban has been coach.

So, in many ways, no, I don’t expect them to stack the box. Will they load it up in the second half if the Tigers have 180 yards rushing by half? Well, sure. But Bama doesn’t need to do that.

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