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David Paschall | Chattanooga Times Free Press | October 30, 2018

SEC football: Alabama's receivers, LSU's secondary provide marquee clash

Alabama has a dazzling aerial attack headed by quarterback Tua Tagovaolia and receivers Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle.

LSU possesses a stingy secondary led by safety Grant Delpit and cornerback Greedy Williams.

It will be strength versus strength Saturday night when the No. 1 Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 SEC) challenge the No. 4 Tigers (7-1, 4-1) in Baton Rouge. It's also a showdown the two head coaches would love to admire if they weren't so busy with their countless in-game decisions.

"It's college football at its best," LSU's Ed Orgeron said. "In this game, there will be more NFL players playing than most, that's for sure, and it's a marquee matchup, especially at those positions. We feel we have some of the best defensive backs in the country, and they definitely have the best player in the country in Tua and some of the best receivers.

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"It's going to be a tremendous matchup, and it will be fun to watch."

Tagovailoa is on pace to set an NCAA single-season record in efficiency, having established a 238.8 rating by completing 107 of 152 passes (70.4 percent) for 2,066 yards with 25 touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception this year.

LSU has snagged 14 interceptions, which is tied for the national lead, and picked off Georgia's Jake Fromm twice during a 36-16 win over the Bulldogs on Oct. 13. Delpit has five of LSU's interceptions.

"Up to date, this is the best front seven that we've played, and they have a really good secondary as well," Tagovailoa said Monday in a news conference. "This is what college football is all about. This is what the fans want to see."

What's most amazing about the premier clash in Saturday's game is that Tagovailoa and his top receivers are mostly sophomores. The exception is Waddle, who has 21 catches for 457 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman.

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Delpit is a sophomore, while Williams is a redshirt sophomore and is therefore eligible for the 2019 NFL draft. CBS recently rated Williams as the third best draft prospect behind Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa and Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams.

"We have a lot of respect for their players, and I certainly respect what our players have been able to do this year," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "It's going to be a real competitive matchup. When you're in the game, you're focusing on the next play and what you have to do to adjust to certain things, but every now and then you see a player make a fantastic play and you go, 'Wow, that was a good play.'"

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Jeudy is Alabama's leading receiver with 31 catches for 777 yards and 10 touchdowns, with Waddle next in line. Ruggs has 24 catches for 444 yards and seven touchdowns, while Smith has 21 receptions for 409 yards and three scores.

The last time these two teams took the field, which was Oct. 20, Alabama scored 51 points in the first 33 minutes of a 58-21 win at Tennessee, while LSU intercepted Nick Fitzgerald four times in a 19-3 victory over Mississippi State. LSU's win was before its home crowd, which should be beyond pumped Saturday night.

"I thought Tennessee was a very loud atmosphere," Tagovailoa said, "but a lot of guys who've played in previous years say that this stadium is two times louder than what we've heard so far."

Hurts update

Tagovailoa said Monday that his knee is healthy and ready to go, but the status of backup quarterback Jalen Hurts is not as certain. Hurts sprained his ankle during the second half of the win at Tennessee.

"It's going to be day-to-day," Saban said. "He's going to start throwing again, and we'll see how he moves around in the pocket. He's making good progress, but these things typically take a week to 10 days before a player starts feeling really comfortable.

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"We'll just have to see how he responds each day to the workload as we increase it throughout the course of the week."

Tide tidbits

Tagovailoa is among the 20 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, which is presented annually to college football's player of the year. Alabama's game next Saturday against visiting Mississippi State will be televised by CBS at 3:30 p.m. With Alabama favored this week by 14.5 points, LSU is the biggest underdog it has been at home this century.

This article is written by David Paschall from Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.