Why Alabama expects to see a different LSU this year
It’s window dressing. It’s subterfuge. It’s pretense.
Nick Saban refers to it as “eye candy.”
Whatever it’s called, LSU’s offense is dripping with it.
This is Tigers offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s specialty. Using pre-snap motions, a variety of looks and a slew of personnel packages, he’s a master at deception.
“One of the reasons I hired Matt because all the shifts and formations and stuff that I would think would give Alabama problems,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “I think he’s done a tremendous job for us this year. Obviously he spent all week last week on his game plan. Obviously when he watches the film, he sees what he can do and what he can’t do.”
Before Canada arrived in Baton Rouge, LSU’s offense was accused of being boring, conventional and basic.
Figure out how to win at the line of scrimmage and chances are the Tigers would be stuck in neutral.
“LSU is just a team that likes to establish the run, and we’re a team that (likes to) establish stopping the run,” said Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne.
The Crimson Tide understood the terms of this game and recognized what it took to prevail.
In the last seven meetings with the Crimson Tide — six of which resulted in losses — the Tigers have failed to score 20 points.
Last season, they produced zero.
When Orgeron hired Canada away from Pittsburgh last December, he did so with the intent of spicing up the Tigers’ drab offense.
He wanted tempo, exotic packages and a football version of trompe-l’oeil.
He got that. But it has taken LSU a while to adjust, as the Tigers went through growing pains. LSU scored only seven points in a loss to Mississippi State and controlled the ball for 25 minutes in an embarrassing defeat to Troy.
But there are signs the Tigers are on the rebound after accumulating 593 yards and 40 points in a victory over Ole Miss on Oct. 21.
They have also proved to be a more challenging study than in years past, Saban conceded.
“It is a little different, especially from anything that we’ve seen this year,” the Alabama coach explained. “But having a little extra time probably is a good thing when you play an offense like this because there are a lot of multiples in terms of formations and motions and how the defensive players need to understand and adjust.”
For the Crimson Tide, focus, discipline and preparation will be as important as the brute force typically required to win an Alabama-LSU matchup, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said.
After all, Canada’s plan is to create confusion.
“Just trying to get our eyes on the wrong things, make us not line up in the right spot so they can beat us around the edge or just cutting back or something like that,” Fitzpatrick said. “It is pretty hard to cover and to adjust to, but I think we do a really good job with the scout team and the coaches do a good job of preparing us.”
If that’s the case, Orgeron is banking on Canada having another trick up his sleeve.
Rainer Sabin is an Alabama beat writer for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin