This season I’ll be breaking down a few of college football’s biggest games each week and giving out at least one bet I like from each matchup.
Let’s take a look at this week’s primetime SEC showdown between Alabama and LSU.
Alabama vs LSU Spread, current line:
Alabama vs LSU Best Bet Prediction:
If I had to bet against the spread, I’d lean towards taking the points with LSU, but my preferred play in this matchup is the over on LSU’s team total at 20.5 points.
When Alabama is on Offense
Alabama is the nation’s seventh most explosive offense, gaining 20 or more yards on 9.6% of its plays.
That trend should continue against an LSU secondary that ranks 115th in explosive pass rate allowed (12.8%).
The LSU defense particularly struggles to defend downfield, allowing a 48.1% completion rate on throws 10 or more yards downfield, ranked 85th per Sports Info Solutions.
If LSU is able to slow down Alabama’s explosive offense, it will be due to Alabama’s inability to protect Bryce Young.
Take a look at these opponent-adjusted pass-rush stats from Sports Info Solutions:
- Alabama ranks 106th in pressure rate allowed
- LSU ranks 18th in pressure rate generated
Protection problems have been an issue for Alabama at times, most notably against Texas when Young was pressured on 33% of his dropbacks and was 4-12 for 35 yards and two sacks versus pressure.
Alabama’s offensive line is more reliable in the run game, and ranks ninth in opponent-adjusted rushing yards before contact.
Expect Jahmyr Gibbs to have a big day based on these numbers from Sports Info Solutions:
- LSU contacts running backs at or behind the line of scrimmage on 37% of carries (ranked 70th)
- Gibbs leads all Power Five running backs with 11.5 yards per attempt when not contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage
When LSU is on Offense
LSU is an extremely run-heavy offense, only throwing the ball at a 42% rate in neutral game situations, per Campus2Canton.
The run game matchup looks like a mismatch based on these opponent-adjusted numbers from Sports Info Solutions:
- LSU ranks 120th in yards before contact
- Alabama leads the nation in yards before contact allowed
Former walk-off Josh Williams has played well in his four starts, but he’s benefited from a favorable schedule. Here’s a look at where LSU’s opponents rank in opponent-adjusted yards before contact allowed in Williams’s starts:
- Tennessee: 3rd
- Ole Miss: 70th
- Florida: 99th
- Auburn: 129th
Williams averaged 5.2 yards per attempt against Ole Miss, Florida, and Auburn, but picked up just 10 yards on seven carries against Tennessee.
Although LSU is not a pass-centric offense, the Tigers may be able to move the ball if Alabama takes away the run game.
Take a look at Jayden Daniels’s numbers in third-and-long situations:
- 67.6% completion rate (ranked 11th out of 101 quarterbacks)
- 88.2% catchable pass rate (ranked 10th)
- 8.8 yards per attempt (21st)
That success is obvious passing situations should give LSU increased confidence in Daniels and we may see the Tigers continue to open up the offense.
Daniels may also have success throwing downfield in this matchup. Although Daniels’s season started off slow, he’s become more comfortable in recent weeks.
Over his last three games (Tennessee, Florida, Ole Miss), Daniels is completing an impressive 53% of throws at 15 or more yards downfield with an 82% catchable pass rate.
Those numbers are notable because opposing offenses are not shy about attacking Alabama’s secondary. Alabama opponents are throwing 15 or more yards downfield 17% more often against the Tide than against others 一 the 18th highest rate in the country.
You may assume that’s because Alabama is often playing with a lead, but compare that number to other top teams:
- Tennessee: +4%, ranked 47th
- Georgia: -15%, ranked 104th
- Clemson: -18%, ranked 111th
- Ohio State: -40% ranked 127th
Alabama’s top opponents have successfully exploited this weakness. Here are some notable quarterbacks’ stats throwing 15 or more yards downfield against the Tide, via Sports Info Solutions:
- Hendon Hooker, TENN: 6-12, 250 yards
- Hudson Card, TEX: 4-8, 116 yards
- Quinn Ewers TEX: 3-4, 84 yards
- Haynes King, TA&M: 4-8, 127 yards
Although LSU typically does not lean on Daniels, based on this trend we should expect them to attack downfield at an increased rate.
It’s also worth noting, LSU offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock is well-suited to orchestrate a more aggressive downfield passing attack.
Last season as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator, Denbrock had Desmond Ridder average throw at 9.9 yards downfield. And the last time Denbrock and Brian Kelly worked together (Notre Dame, 2017) Brandon Wimbush had the fourth-highest average depth of throw in the nation (11.9 yards), per Sports Info Solutions.
Final Thoughts on Alabama vs LSU Best Bets
Alabama is 2-5 against the spread on the road over the last two seasons, so you could make a strong case for taking the points in this matchup. However, my preferred play is taking the over on LSU’s team total at 20.5 points.
Although Alabama should be able to stop LSU’s running backs, forcing LSU to become more pass-heavy doesn’t necessarily help the Tide.
Expect Jayden Daniels to continue his hot streak and put up some decent numbers against the Alabama defense.