Tide to be tested in stretch run

October 28, 2014

With a relatively easy win over Tennessee behind them, the toughest three SEC games on the Crimson Tide schedule await over the next month: LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. A bye week comes at a good time for UA to get some extra rest and preparation for an LSU team playing its best football of the season.

It will likely head to Baton Rouge, La., without the services of left tackle Cam Robinson, who injured his ankle against the Volunteers. As a true freshman, Robinson has been UA's most dominant performer up front, and he can't be replaced without somewhat of a drop-off. Nevertheless, Alabama's offensive line has looked better overall the last two weeks, and the return of center Ryan Kelly from injury has been most welcome.

Crimson Cover sources indicate that Reggie Ragland's emergence this season as a force at inside linebacker has created a higher level of confidence throughout the defensive front as a whole. Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson have played above expectations as well, and the coaching staff has more interchangeable parts in this front, and the confidence to use them, than at any point in the Nick Saban era.

Against LSU, however, much as it did against Arkansas, Kirby Smart is likely to stick with its base 3-4 personnel. That means more action for the bigger, stronger players who can hold up against a power running game.

Look for LSU to do all it can to take away Amari Cooper with double coverage, and challenge UA to run the ball against a seven-man front. That was the formula Ole Miss and Arkansas used to hold UA to its worst two offensive performances of the season. LSU has the athletes to do just that, and it will be up to Alabama's offensive line to play its best game of the season on the road.

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