Friday, November 2, 2012
Take two: Saturday's under-the-radar stars
By Edward Aschoff
Every once in a little while, we here at the SEC blog take a topic and break it down by delivering our opinions on both sides. We like to call it a "Take two."
Today, we're checking out two players who could be surprise heroes in Saturday's Alabama-LSU game. We're looking at two players coming in relatively under the radar who could lead their respective teams to victory with big games. That means no AJ McCarron, Zach Mettenberger or Sam Montgomery. We already know they all have to have big games.
Edward Aschoff's take: Alabama enters Saturday's game with arguably the nation's best offensive line. That line will have the responsibility of blocking maybe the country's best defensive line. LSU has a lot of power in the middle and a ton of speed and strength outside. But Alabama has a ton of experience up front (135 combined starts), and a load of NFL talent (just like LSU's defensive line). However, the right side of Alabama's offensive line, made up of right tackle D.J. Fluker and right guard Anthony Steen has had some communication issues here and there that have resulted in negative plays for the Tide. Fluker is a future first-round pick, and he'll have his hands full with LSU's ends (Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo), but keep an eye on Steen. He'll have to help All-America center Barrett Jones clog the middle against Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson. They've combined for 13 tackles for loss and four sacks and have been extremely disruptive this season. He'll also have to keep an eye on linebacker Kevin Minter, who has made a handful of plays coming through the middle of the line. Steen has played well all year, but this will be his biggest test of the season. Alabama loves running up the middle, so opening up those running lanes there will be very important, and Steen will have a ton of pressure thrown his way.
Chris Low's take: LSU coach Les Miles vowed before the season that the Tigers would open up their passing game with Zach Mettenberger taking over at quarterback. And while it’s true that they’ve thrown more passes, they haven’t connected on a lot of those passes. LSU is 12th in the SEC in passing offense. Mettenberger has gotten most of the blame for the Tigers’ woes in the passing game, but his receivers haven’t made much happen down the field. That has to change Saturday night in Tiger Stadium if LSU is going to spring the upset over Alabama. Sophomore receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. is due for a breakout game. He sparkled at times last season as the No. 2 option to Rueben Randle, but hasn't played with much consistency this season. He’s averaging 16.2 yards per catch, but only has two touchdown receptions. The Tigers were counting on Beckham for big plays, and he’s certainly capable. He hauled in a deep ball against Florida earlier this season that would have completely changed the complexion of that game, but coughed it up when he was tackled by the Gators’ Matt Elam. Look for the Tigers to take a few more deep shots to Beckham against Alabama and try to keep the Crimson Tide from loading the box.