This Saturday, Alabama and LSU face-off in the most highly anticipated regular season matchup in recent memory. Even though this game happens every year, there hasn’t been a game with as many draft implications. Both teams have heaps of talent on both sides of the ball that will be lining up against each other this weekend. From quarterback, to offensive line, to safety, each team has at least one top prospect at just about each position on the field.
The headliner of the Game of the Year this weekend is the battle for QB1. Tua Tagovailoa has been a star from the moment he stepped onto the field in that National Championship against Georgia. The moment Alabama won that game, the whole world deemed Tua the future #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Tua has been a dominant quarterback since that day, blowing out just about every opponent he goes up against. Tua has been the clear QB1 for the 2020 NFL Draft until this year; the reason isn’t that Tua has been laying poorly, it’s because another quarterback has risen to the top.
The other quarterback in this game is Joe Burrow, someone not expected to be at the top of the QB class before this year. His path to stardom was far from easy. Starting his career at Ohio State, Burrow was in a QB competition with Dwayne Haskins, the current starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins. After getting beat out, he decided to transfer, and LSU was the destination he chose. Burrow wasn’t an instant star once he got to LSU. Last year wasn’t a fantastic year for him, he was good at times but there were plenty of concerns with his game. 2019 is a different story, however. Burrow has been fantastic this year, seemingly being the Heisman favorite to this point. Burrow has been the competition for Tua at the top of the QB class, and this weekend could determine who QB1 is.
This game is much deeper than the quarterback battle. The draft eligible offensive weapons are spread all over both teams. We can’t talk about offensive weapons without talking about the three-headed monster that is the Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver core. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and DeVonta Smith are players who all have the ability to take a football to the endzone on any given play. On the LSU Tigers offense, they have Justin Jefferson. Jefferson isn’t as big of a name as the ‘Bama receivers, but he has proven to be a consistent receiver and is a favorite of Joe Burrow.
The thing preventing them from dominating this game are the cornerbacks, who have proven to be lockdown. On the Crimson Tide, Trevon Diggs has risen up draft boards in recent weeks. Diggs has elite size for a corner, and he matches that with fantastic play, the matchup between him, Justin Jefferson and underclassman receiver Ja’marr Chase is going to be big.
On the other team stands Kristian Fulton, a corner who has been in the CB1 conversation ever since last year. In order to win this game, the Alabama receivers will have to beat this talented man cover corner. He isn’t draft eligible, but LSU freshman corner, Derek Stingley, has been fantastic and this game will be a huge test for him and the receivers he will be covering. One of the top safeties in the country sits deep in the Alabama secondary. Xavier McKinney is a versatile player who can be lined up all over the defense.
McKinney has great athletic ability that allows him to be used as a deep safety or in the box as a sub-package linebacker. While McKinney is one of the top safeties in the country, LSU has the top safety in their Secondary. Grant Delpit is a top prospect in this draft regardless of position. Delpit is all over the field as a safety. More so, he has proven why he’s known as the best time and time again. Between the cornerbacks and safeties each team has in this game, the offensive play makers might have trouble finding success.
Now that we’ve talked about some playmakers, why don’t we look at the guys that make this all possible. The offensive line talent in this game is great and each team has talented players on their o-line. Alabama has some offensive tackles that could end up being selected in the 1st round in April. Jedrick Wills and Alex Leatherwood are just two of these prospects. Wills is a strong player who doesn’t like to be pushed around a whole lot. A sturdy player, Wills can stand his ground against just about any player. The other offensive tackle on that Alabama o-line is Alex Leatherwood. If you want to watch an athletic offensive lineman, watch Leatherwood.
He has excellent mobility and can move with the best of them. Having that type of athleticism will help them against LSU edge rusher, K’lavon Chaisson. Chaisson is a highly athletic speed rusher who has the flexibility to bend around any corner. Dealing with him will be a difficult ask but if there’s anyone who’s able to do it, Alabama’s offensive tackle duo should be able to. On LSU’s offensive line is Lloyd Cushenberry. He is the definition of mean. Cushenberry is always looking for someone to block and will demolish any opponent. This will be key in this game because the guy lining up across him won’t be demolished easily. Raekwon Davis is 6 foot 7, 310 pounds and will push any lineman back. The battle in the trenches could very well decide this game and both teams have the necessary talent to win in the trenches.
The big draw to this game is the battle for QB1. However, there is so much more to this game than just the quarterbacks. When NFL scouts want to watch an LSU or Alabama prospect’s biggest game, this will be the one they turn on. The draft implications in this game are heavy. More so, it’ll be incredibly fun to see all these big names go head-to-head.