LSU-Alabama: It’s (almost) all about the defenses

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TUSCALOOSA, ALA. (AP) - LSU and Alabama’s defenses seem to have it all: Talent, cool nicknames, star power and loads of speed.

Many say they’re mirror images of each other _ twins but not identical. The two dominate with different styles; LSU starts with speed, Alabama with size.

The defenses _ Alabama led by Dont’a “Zeus” Hightower; LSU by Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu _ have propelled the top-ranked Tigers and the No. 2 Crimson Tide into Saturday’s night clash of unbeatens.

“It’s definitely going to come down to who’s going to break whose will, whether we’re going to break LSU’s offense’s will or whether they’re going to break our offense’s will,” Hightower said. “It’s definitely going to be a game of defenses.”

Who has the edge is an open question.

CBS analyst Gary Danielson, who will be calling the game, said that over the last couple of years, the Tigers “stop the run against everybody.” And those hefty linebackers Alabama coach Nick Saban has brought in can move, too.

“When Nick puts his recruiting group together for defense, he’s not just choosing big, thick guys,” Danielson said Tuesday. “He’s choosing the big, thick guys who are the fastest. The more you watch them, the more you see that Hightower, (C.J.) Moseley and Upshaw cover a lot of space.

“I wish I could break down a big difference … but every time I think one side has the advantage I look at the other side and they’ve got a guy just like it.”

The players seem to agree; in fact, they have almost formed a mutual admiration society.

LSU offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert said he can only think of one defense to compare Alabama’s to _ the one he faces in practice.

“I don’t think we’ve played a defense this talented across the board,” Hebert said. “They’ve got a lot of great players. The only defense that really matches up with them talent-wise is probably our defense, so it’s going to be a battle.”

Said Alabama tailback Trent Richardson: “It reminds me a lot of our defense. They love to hit people in the mouth, they don’t back down from anybody. They don’t do a lot of missed coverages, and they love to come at you. Their defensive line is tremendous up front.”

Richardson said LSU’s defensive linemen are strong enough to pull backs down with arm tackles, and as quick as any he’s seen.

“I’ve seen a couple of times they just grab people and almost clothesline them, for real,” he said.

One thing that is clear, both defenses have plenty of star power.

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