It's becoming nearly an annual tradition, the winner of Alabama vs. LSU goes on to win.... err play for.... err both, the national championship. Well, most likely that's exactly what we as fans, bloggers, and media types are looking at happening this Saturday night in Death Valley as No. 1 Alabama visits No. 5 LSU.
This game is so monumentally huge in the SEC and the national championship picture that we're breaking this one down about as in depth as it can get and what better way to start it off then by looking at 3 Key Players for each team.
Now, you could say that's easy - A.J. McCarron, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon for Alabama and Zach Mettenberger, Kenny Hilliard, and Odel Beckham, Jr. for LSU, but here at Crystal Ball Run we don't take the easy way out. Besides, what fun is there in naming the easy players?
Instead, it's time to look at three players on each side of the ball that aren't necessarily household names around America but will have just as big an effect on the game Saturday. So, let's kick this SEC party off right and dive into the deep end of Alabama vs. LSU!
3 Key Players for Alabama:
1) Christon Jones (WR/KR/PR): Jones may be listed as one of three starting wide receivers for Alabama but he's only caught 13 passes from McCarron so far this season. That's just 4th best on the team and while his return game ability had him on the radar of being important enough for this list already, the news of Amari Cooper sitting out of Monday practice could see him be a major weapon in the pass game as well.
Then there's his return ability that we mentioned briefly before. He's already got one kick return for a touchdown of 99 yards this season and he averages 30.3 yards a kick return. We all know how big special teams has been in the series between these two lately and Jones is a major weapon for 'Bama.
2) HaHa Clinton-Dix (Safety): 'Bama's defense is loaded with a ton of talent that sometimes overshadows just how good the offense of this team is, but one of the players that seems to sometimes be overshadowed on his own defensive unit is Sophomore safety HaHa (and no that's not a joke, that's his actual first name). Clinton-Dix is a heck of a hitter in the backfield but is also a major playmaker overall as well. He has 19 tackles and 2 interceptions this season and averages 28 yards a return on those interceptions. That's some major game changing ability right there if you ask me. Mettenberger hasn't been the most accurate passer and HaHa could be a major force in this game if the pressure is turned up on him up front.
3) Adrian Hubbard (SAM): For an outside linebacker Hubbard hasn't recorded a lot of tackles in his 8 games of action this season, but the sophomore has made the most of his 18 tackles. He's recorded a team best 3.5 sacks so far and he's 2nd on the team with 7.5 sacks for loss - that's nearly half of his total. In a game against a team that likes to pound the football and get out to the edge as well like LSU Hubbard's ability to be disruptive in the backfield will come in handy to say the least.
3 Key Players for LSU:
1) J.C. Copeland (Fullback): It's not often that a fullback has much of an effect in the speedy SEC, but Copeland is the rare exception. He's actually tied for 3rd on the team in rushing touchdowns with 3 and he has carried the ball 13 times in a backfield that's already loaded with a ton of talent. Add in the fact that he'll have added responsibilities in helping keep his QB upright and you have a very key player for this football game. Copeland hasn't been used much as receiver out of the backfield but we all know Les Miles loves himself a few tricks up the sleeve, so it wouldn't surprise me if he did use Copeland out of the backfield to slow down the rush of 'Bama in the pass game too.
2) Ronald Martin (Safety): Martin has started one game this season, but for a player that has been a backup for the other 7 games he's been a heck of a force in the defensive backfield. Martin has 20 tackles this year, which ranks him 11th on what is a pretty impressive defense in it's own right. Not only that but he has 2 interceptions and forced fumble. We all know the starters in the backfield aren't on the field all the time so Martin could well see significant snaps on Saturday and if he does look for him to make the most of his opportunities.
3) Brad Wing (Punter): What the hell is a punter doing on this list? Well, when you are facing Alabama's defense you better be prepared to punt a few... o.k., a lot! Luckily for the Bayou Bengals they have a very good one in Wing, who averages 44.1 yards a kick on 41 punts so far this season. That's 4th best in the SEC and of his 41 punts 13 of them have been hit for 50 plus yards. That could be a hugely important weapon in playing the field position game with 'Bama on Saturday night.
For more of Andy's coverage of all things Wisconsin, Big Ten, and college sports in general follow him on Twitter @andycoppens.