No. 1 Alabama, Saban take 8-0 mark to LSU

NCAA Football

No. 1 Alabama expects to have coach Nick Saban back on the sideline when it plays LSU in a Southeastern Conference game Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU won’t have star wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., who Sunday became the latest prominent member of the defending CFP champions to choose the NFL over remaining a Tiger.

The Crimson Tide (8-0) is a four-touchdown favorite as Saban expects to return from a one-game absence after testing positive for COVID-19 to face the program he coached from 2000-2004.

He began this week coaching from home as he awaited an evaluation from the university medical staff.

“I don’t anticipate any problems in being able to coach the game this week,” Saban said.

Alabama didn’t miss a beat with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian filling in for Saban as it routed Auburn 42-13 in the Iron Bowl last week.

Tide quarterback Mac Jones remains one of the leading candidates to win the Heisman Trophy, having a season comparable to the historic one last year’s Heisman winner — LSU quarterback Joe Burrow — had for the undefeated national champion Tigers.

Burrow led the visiting Tigers to a 46-41 victory that ended an eight-game losing streak against the Tide last season.

Several Tigers ran to the end zone stands and encouraged high-school recruits in attendance to spurn the Tide for their program, and LSU coach Ed Orgeron was caught chanting a disrespectful version of “Roll Tide” in the post-game locker room.

“That is something we definitely remember,” Tide wide receiver John Metchie said. “But I feel like our coaches say all the time — to play with emotion and not be emotional. I think that’s how we’re looking at this game.”

The Tigers (3-4) are looking at this game as an opportunity to show improvement in what has been a disappointing season.

Marshall has been the Tigers’ most productive player this season and he decided to opt out and focus on the NFL Draft less than 24 hours after a 20-7 loss at No. 5 Texas A&M last Saturday.

“He did a lot of things for us,” Orgeron said. “He just thought this was the time to opt out. We’re going to respect his decision. He’ll always be a great Tiger.”

Marshall’s departure follows that of reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Ja’Marr Chase during preseason camp.

The depleted wide-receiver corps makes things even more difficult for freshman quarterbacks TJ Finley and Max Johnson as they fill in for injured starter Myles Brennan.

The offense didn’t score against Texas A&M until the final minute of the game, spoiling what Orgeron called the defense’s best performance of the season.

Despite the improvement against the Aggies, the Tigers still rank No. 13 in the SEC in pass defense. Alabama has the No. 2 passing offense.

This game was scheduled to be played Nov. 14, but was postponed because LSU had a shortage of players due to COVID issues.

“Playing Alabama is a great rivalry for us, a great game over the years for us, a tremendous challenge,” Orgeron said. “They’re the No. 1 team in the country coming to Tiger Stadium.

“This is about us getting our team ready to play a great game, doing the best that we possibly can.”

A victory for Alabama could set the Tide up to secure a spot in the SEC title game if coupled with an A&M loss.

–Field Level Media

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