Alabama vs. LSU 2013 preview: NFL Draft notes for Zach Mettenberger, A.J. McCarron, others
LSU has long been one of Alabama's most challenging opponents, and in 2013, the Tigers have a chance to knock the Crimson Tide off course in their pursuit of a National Championship.
Already saddled with two losses, LSU's postseason aspirations aren't as promising as Alabama's. But disrupting Alabama's perfect season would be enough to get LSU back on track for a spot in a BCS Bowl game.
As has come to be expected, both LSU and Alabama will have plenty of NFL talent on both sides of the ball. Both quarterbacks playing in Saturday night's game have legitimate NFL aspirations. This Southeastern Conference showdown should be a measuring stick game for both A.J. McCarron of Alabama and Zach Mettenberger of LSU.
When Alabama has the football
A.J. McCarron is the trigger man for an Alabama offense that has been efficient in 2013. While McCarron excels at taking what the defense gives him and using the weapons at his disposal, his NFL potential is limited by his average arm strength and inability to consistently attack the field vertically. He's an unspectacular prospect in that regard. Protecting McCarron will be left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio among others. Kouandjio has settled in nicely this season and is among the best offensive tackles in the 2014 NFL Draft. He has a powerful punch and has gotten better at extending his arms to keep pass rushers out of his body.
Alabama's two best NFL Draft prospects on offense aren't eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft. Sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon and sophomore wide receiver Amari Cooper are both talented players that will be highly regarded in the 2015 NFL Draft. The Crimson Tide is likely to lean heavily on both of them to spark the offense on Saturday.
LSU's defense is no slouch, though. Starting up front with defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, the Tigers are a physical group on that side of the ball. Safeties Craig Loston and Micah Eugene are aggressive, hard-hitting safeties on the back end that could make life tough on Alabama's passing game.
When LSU has the football
Few quarterbacks in college football have shown more development this season than Zach Mettenberger. The tall, strong-armed passer has shown more consistency in reading defenses and hanging in the pocket to make big throws down the field. It helps that he's working with Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., who combine to make up one of the top wide receiver duos in the SEC. LSU tackle La'el Collins is also worth keeping an eye on.
Alabama's defense isn't quite the same unit that dominated in 2012, but it remains one of the best in college football. Led by linebacker C.J. Mosley, who is as smooth in pass coverage as he is physical against the run, the Crimson Tide have NFL prospects at all three levels of the defense. Defensive end Ed Stinson and linebacker Adrian Hubbard will be responsible for generating pressure on Mettenberger. Plenty of eyes will be on safety Ha'sean Clinton-Dix as well. He's established himself as the top safety in this class due to his length, range and ability to come up and make stops in the running game.
Question of the night: Can Alabama slow down LSU's passing attack?
Even in two losses this season, Mettenberger and LSU's offense have operated at a high level. Saturday is another challenge, though. Mettenberger is averaging more than 10 yards per attempt on the season and has thrown 19 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. Alabama, meanwhile, is allowing opponents to throw for an average of just 179 yards per game. Something has to give.
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