03 November 2011
The Alabama football team practiced Wednesday, continuing their preparation for the LSU Tigers. This is the final practice of the week that will have a media viewing period.
Here's what you need to know:
Not much has changed since yesterday, which should come as no surprise to anyone.
Coach Saban declared Anthony Steen "ready to go", but he and Alfred McCullough split time with the first unit on Wednesday. McCullough was named one of the Tide's offensive players of the week for the game he had against Tennessee, and could get the nod in a pure "Coach's decision." I think we'll see Steen get the start, but I am guessing that we'll see McCullough play when Bama goes to its unbalanced line. We've seen a little more of that as the season has gone on, and I expect we'll see it more this week to help neutralize LSU's speed rush. The means we could see six offensive linemen, along with Michael Williams.
Eddie Lacy still isn't practicing much, though I expect we'll see him play. Jalston Fowler will get the extra carries if Lacy is limited. Though, having said that, the reality is that Trent Richardson would likely get the extra carries.
Alex Watkins is still practicing with a big cast on his arm, and he's still not in black. That means that he's cleared to play. And i am guessing that means we'll see him play.
Otherwise, Bama will work on Thursday what they have likely been working on during the other practices during this week after the media was ushered out. What is that? Your guess is as good as mine. There is a reason that the media has limited access and practices are closed. This week's game is a prime reason.
Despite rumors of wild and crazy things, and despite the fact that we will probably see something crazy from Les Miles, I am guessing that we will see Bama go with what has gotten them to this point. Bama will use the run to set up the pass. The Tide won't put A.J. McCarron in situations to fail. He'll have a lot of short options: guys out of the backfield, tight ends, and Maze & Hanks on crossing routes. We'll see the Tide take a shot downfield at least once a quarter. And we will see a whole lot of Trent Richardson.
Defensively, we likely will see some new things. Bama will have to stay in its base defense more than normal, due to LSU's offensive style. That means we'll see more of Nico Johnson. Since Nico is probably coming off of his best game as a collegiate football player, that's a good thing. We still haven't seen a lot of the really complex blitz packages that are a benchmark of Nick Saban's defense. This is a veteran defense, which means that Coach Saban should be comfortable using some of these packages. If there is a week to unleash that type of thing, this is it.
Bama will practice again on Thursday and Friday, but those practices, as per usual, are completely closed. We'll let you know if we hear anything. Otherwise, it's time to start getting ready for Saturday. A 7:00 p.m. local kick means that Saturday will likely feel like the single longest day in the history of the world. Hopefully the fan base will pace itself so that it can be at its best.
In the end, I think Bama will win this game. I know that's not much of a shock, but I am not a blind homer that always picks a Bama win. We've talked a lot about Bama's focus and determination, especially following the off-season tragedies that the group had to deal with. You can head into Saturday feeling confident that this group has had this game circled since the Tide headed home from Baton Rouge last season. The focus we've seen will throughout most of the season will be full on this weekend. Bama has played with a purpose all season, and I think that will be most evident this weekend.
These two teams are pretty evenly matched when it comes to overall talent, but Bama has a lot more on its side heading into this game than just talent. I think Bama takes an early lead and the crowd helps the defense keep LSU's offense from ever really answering. Add that Bama has been much better in the second half of games this season, and you have a game that should go in Bama's favor. My guess is 23-10 - Bama.
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