It was never going to be easy to stop Alabama’s machine like offense and Heisman Trophy favorite Tua Tagovailoa, and that’s without factoring in the loss of Devin White for the first half to a targeting suspension.
Tiger Stadium figures to be electric when White takes the field to begin the second half. The challenge facing LSU will be making sure the game remains in reach at that point against an offense that’s averaging 38.8 first-half points per game this season.
LSU has a plan, Ed Orgeron says, and he feels pretty good about it.
The coach didn’t specify if sophomore Patrick Queen or freshman Micah Baskerville would start in White’s place, though he hinted earlier this week that both would see time as LSU looks to piece 30 minutes together without its defensive leader.
Queen and Baskerville have had two full weeks of practice to state their case for the spot start in LSU’s biggest game of the season.
“We’re going to see,” Orgeron said. “They’ve done well in practice. They’ve made some mistakes. I know we’re going to get tested. We’re going to have to make adjustments. We have to see how they’re going to attack us.”
One way LSU knows that Alabama is going to attack them is with RPOs, which Tagovailoa has executed with surgical efficiency this season.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, RPO stands for a run-pass option. The offensive line run blocks while the quarterback reads the defense — typically the linebackers. If they drop back, the quarterback hands the ball off. If not, he pulls the ball and throws it over the linebackers into the vacated area.
Alabama has been dangerous down the middle of the field off RPOs thanks to a stable of explosive receivers and tight end Irv Smith, who Orgeron called the best pass-catching tight end the Tigers have faced to this point.
“There’s some times when it’s going to be really tough on them,” Orgeron said. “But I think it’s tough on everybody. We have to live through it. We have a good plan, though. I feel good about our plan.”
Right tackle Austin Deculus got pulled in favor of Adrian Magee during LSU’s 19-3 victory over Mississippi State before the bye week.
Deculus will get the start against Alabama on Saturday night, Orgeron said, but his staying in the game will be contingent on him playing better than he did against the Bulldogs.
“Just the way he played,” Orgeron said of what prompted the benching. “Obviously, if he doesn’t play well, we’ll put somebody in his spot. But we feel like he’s best suited to start.”
On the other side of the offensive line, Orgeron affirmed that senior left guard Garrett Brumfield will be back in the starting lineup. Brumfield has been out with a knee injury suffered against Louisiana Tech, but he’s been a full practice participant all week.
The offensive line, now as close to full strength as it has been all season, always comes under the microscope when taking on the Crimson Tide.
Alabama leads the Southeastern Conference with 26 sacks to this point, which averages out to 3.25 per game. Since taking the full-time job at LSU, Orgeron has often harped on the importance of pass protection in these match-ups with Alabama.
“It all starts with protection,” Orgeron said earlier this week. “You have to protect them, a lot of sacks. They’re very creative in their pass-rush. We have to get the ball out of Joe (Burrow’s) hands quick, but we have to be able to run the football.”