How does LSU upset Alabama? Keys include few explosive plays and an improved offensive line

LSU enters its game Saturday against No. 1 Alabama as 29.5-point underdogs, according to BetOnline.ag. These are staff writer Wilson Alexander’s keys for LSU to pull off a massive upset, or at least cover the spread.

1. Eliminate explosive plays

For so long this season, LSU struggled with allowing explosive plays. Defenders missed assignments. Receivers ran wide open. Opposing teams scored quickly. LSU limited explosive plays the past two weeks, but now it faces one of the most prolific offenses in the country, a team that recorded 168 plays of at least 10 yards this season, which ranks seventh nationally. LSU can’t allow any chunk plays, or this will get out of hand.

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2. Protect the quarterback

LSU’s biggest problem in its recent losses was the offensive line’s inability to create running lanes or protect the quarterback. With freshman quarterbacks TJ Finley and Max Johnson, the Tigers deploy a ball control offense that needs positive runs to create easy throws. But the offensive scheme doesn’t work if the offensive line loses at the point of attack. This week, LSU’s offensive line has to give Finley and Johnson time to make decisions.

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3. Creative play calling

Coach Ed Orgeron said multiple times this week LSU needs to call plays that better utilize its talent, especially after the departure of wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. On his weekly radio show, Orgeron indicated LSU will get more creative offensively by using pre-snap motions and different formations, a strategy that will need to work to pull off an upset. Orgeron wants to push the ball outside instead of predictably running up the middle.

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4. Generate turnovers

Gutted by departures, LSU doesn’t have the personnel to win a shootout with Alabama. To have a chance in the fourth quarter, it must steal multiple possessions from Alabama’s offense by creating turnovers. At the same time, LSU can’t give away the ball. However, Alabama only has eight turnovers this season and a turnover margin of plus-6, while LSU has 11 turnovers. LSU needs some luck to gain extra possessions and keep the score close.

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