This season, I’m 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 the game of the week between LSU and Alabama.
LSU vs. Alabama, current line:
LSU vs Alabama Best Bet Prediction:
LSU’s defense was bad when healthy and looks even worse now, so let’s play the Alabama money line and play the over on Alabama’s team total.
- LSU vs. Alabama, current line: Alabama money line (-165) and team total 32.5
» Bet it now: Alabama (-165) and team total over 32.5
When LSU is on Offense
LSU runs a balanced offense under coordinator Mike Denbrock with a 49% pass rate in neutral game scripts, per Campus2Canton.
The most significant change in LSU’s offense in its second year under Denbrock and head coach Brian Kelly is an increased downfield passing rate. LSU throws 15 or more yards downfield on 23% of attempts, ranked 61st 一 a massive leap from its 103rd ranking in 2022, per Sports Info Solutions.
Based on quarterback Jayden Daniels‘ performance, perhaps the Tigers should increase that rate further.
Daniels leads the nation with a 69.6% completion rate on throws of at least 15 yards, in part due to his elite weapons Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr.
Unfortunately for Daniels, Alabama ranks fifth in the nation with a 32% completion rate allowed at 15 or more yards downfield, per Sports Info Solutions.
It is worth pointing out, however, that Alabama has not faced anyone like Daniels and his weapons. The best downfield passer the Tide has faced is Texas’ Quinn Ewerswho ranks 43rd in downfield completion rate.
One of the best battles in this game will occur between LSU’s offensive line and Alabama’s pass rush. Take a look at these opponent-adjusted numbers from Sports Info Solutions:
- LSU: ranked 12th in pressure rate allowed
- Alabama: ranked 13th in pressure rate generated
The Tide also ranks 13th in sack conversion rate, turning 25% of pressures into sacks. This could cause problems for Daniels, as he also takes a sack on 25% of his dropbacks, ranked 90th.
In the run game, LSU tends to spread defenses out, and its ball carriers run into a light box on 61% of attempts, per Sports Info Solutions. This may not be an issue for Alabama, however, as the Tide ranks 14th in run defense with a light box (4.1 yards per attempt).
If there’s a concern for Alabama’s defense, it’s with the Tide’s inability to generate early contact in the run game.
Alabama ranks 91st in contact rate generated at or behind the line of scrimmage (37%) while LSU ranks third in early contact rate allowed (29%), according to Sports Info Solutions.
If LSU builds a lead at some point, expect the Tigers to have success leaning on the run game to bleed the clock.
When Alabama is on Offense
Alabama shifted back to a run-heavy offense early this season while breaking in Jalen Milroe at quarterback. As Milroe has gained more experience, however, the Tide has gradually opened up the playbook.
According to Campus2Canton, Alabama threw the ball just 32% of the time in a neutral game script over the season’s first five games, but that rate has jumped 50% over the last three contests.
We can assume Alabama will continue to put more on Milroe’s shoulders in this game against an extremely conservative and vulnerable LSU defense.
According to Sports Info Solutions, LSU uses the combination of zone coverage and no blitz on 59% of opponent dropbacks, the nation’s third-highest rate, and that rate has not dropped below 45% in any game.
This defensive approach bodes well for Milroe. Take a look at his numbers when the defense drops into zone coverage without a blitz:
- 66% completion rate
- 12.6 yards per attempt
That said, Milroe does have a tendency to hold the ball too long, especially in this scenario, which makes it more difficult for him to process the defense from the pocket.
Against the zone-coverage/no-blitz combo, Milroe takes a sack on 14.8% of his dropbacks, the highest rate in the nation per Sports Info Solutions.
That sack rate certainly raises a red flag that could bite Alabama in the future, but probably not against LSU. In this zone-coverage/no-blitz scenario, LSU ranks 116th in pressure rate and 108th in sack rate.
Milroe’s greatest strength is the deep passing attack, which also pairs well with one of LSU’s greatest weaknesses based on this data from Sports Info Solutions:
- Milroe: 56.4% completion rate at 15 or more yards downfield, ranked seventh
- LSU: 42% completion rate allowed at 15 or more yards downfield, ranked 80th
Further complicating things for LSU’s defense are injuries to cornerbacks Zy Alexander, Denver Harris and Duce Chestnut 一 three key offseason transfers the Tigers were relying on this year.
In their absence, true freshman Jeremiah Hugheswho saw his first extended action against Army in LSU’s last game, is expected to play a key role.
LSU’s defense is better suited to give Alabama some trouble in the run game. Take a look at some key opponent-adjusted data from Sports Info Solutions:
- Alabama: ranked 53rd in yards before contact
- LSU: ranked 37th in yards before contact
Alabama’s offensive line struggles to consistently create running lanes, as its running backs gain three or more yards before contact on just 27% of carries, ranked 99th.
Another area where LSU’s defensive struggles may bail out Alabama is the Tigers’ inability to get off the field on third downs. Alabama winds up in third-and-long situations on 25.1% of its set-of-downs (ranked 89th), however, LSU allows a 32% conversion rate on third-and-long (ranked 122nd).
Final Thoughts on Alabama vs LSU Best Bets
Let’s trust in Milroe’s development and take Alabama on the money line as well as play the over on Alabama’s team total at 32.5.
Alabama is more flawed than any Nick Saban team in a long while, but most of its weaknesses pair perfectly with even greater flaws on the LSU defense.
I usually don’t give out money lines, but these two bets pair well together because it’s difficult to envision a scenario where LSU wins a low-scoring game. There’s good reason to believe we win both bets, but even if we lose one, it’s likely to be either LSU winning a shootout or Alabama’s defense winning a surprisingly low-scoring contest.