Alabama and LSU on defense: Speed vs. size

Posted: November 02, 2011

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The defensive units of Louisiana State and Alabama seem to have it all: talent, cool nicknames, star power, and loads of speed.

Many say they are mirror images of each other - twins but not identical. The two dominate with different styles; LSU starts with speed, Alabama with size.

The defenses - Alabama led by Dont'a "Zeus" Hightower, LSU by Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu - have propelled the top-ranked Tigers and the No. 2 Crimson Tide into Saturday's night clash of unbeatens.

"It's definitely going to come down to who's going to break whose will, whether we're going to break LSU's offense's will or whether they're going to break our offense's will," Hightower said. "It's definitely going to be a game of defenses."

Who has the edge? That's an open question.

CBS analyst Gary Danielson, who will be calling the game, said that over the last couple of years, the Tigers "stop the run against everybody." And those hefty linebackers Alabama coach Nick Saban has brought in can move, too.

"When Nick puts his recruiting group together for defense, he's not just choosing big, thick guys," Danielson said Tuesday. "He's choosing the big, thick guys who are the fastest. The more you watch them, the more you see that Hightower, [C.J.] Moseley, and [Courtney] Upshaw cover a lot of space.

"I wish I could break down a big difference . . . but every time I think one side has the advantage, I look at the other side and they've got a guy just like it."

Statistically, Alabama has the edge - but has faced only one top-25 offense in Arkansas. The Tide lead the nation in rush, pass efficiency, total and scoring defense. Alabama has given up only six offensive touchdowns all season while allowing 359 rushing yards through eight games.

LSU's defense also ranks in the top five in the major statistical categories. Though its statistics are not as impressive as Alabama's, its opponents have been.

LSU's defense has definitely faced bigger tests, mainly because of nonconference games against No. 6 Oregon and No. 24 West Virginia. The Tide's opponents have average rankings of 87th in scoring offense and 95th in total offense; LSU's stand at 66th and 75th, respectively.

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