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Alabama’s secondary is loaded. The Tide line up a two-time All-America safety in Mark Barron and bookend shutdown cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie.

“This is probably the best DBs we’ve been going against since I’ve been in college,” LSU wide receiver Russell Shepherd said. “They probably have one of the best DB coaches in college of all-time in Nick Saban.”

Alabama also boasts 260-plus pound linebackers in Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, the run-stopper and the edge rusher. Plus, a big three-man front led by noseguard Josh Chapman.

LSU is not only deep, but overall might be the quicker of the two squads.

The Tigers have speedy pass rushers on the ends with linemen like Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo in a front four that goes two deep across the board. On the back end, the Tigers have a secondary that might even one-up Alabama’s, with playmaking stars Mathieu and Morris Claiborne flanking leading tacklers safeties Brandon Taylor and Eric Reid.

The depth on the front will make it harder for Alabama to go into its standard modus operandi of wearing down opposing defenses. The Tide has outscored opponents 176-22 in the second half.

“They have really four starters at defensive end,” Alabama guard Barrett Jones said. “You can see at the end of the games they’re just as fresh as they were at the beginning.”

The game will boast three of the 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation’s top defensive back _ Claiborne, Kirkpatrick and Barron. Mathieu, coming off a one-game suspension for a positive drug test, is a notable omission.

And both units are experienced. Alabama starts 10 upperclassmen. LSU has five atop the depth chart, plus sophomore stars like Mathieu, Reid and Montgomery.

Even on paper it’s difficult to pick one unit over the other.

Statistically, Alabama has the edge _ but has only faced one Top 25 offense in Arkansas. The Tide is leading the nation in rush, pass efficiency, total and scoring defense. Alabama has given up only six offensive touchdowns all season while allowing 359 rushing yards through eight games.

LSU’s defense also ranks in the top 5 in the major statistical categories. Though their stats are not as impressive as Alabama’s, their opponents have been.

LSU’s defense has definitely faced bigger tests, mainly because of nonconference games against No. 6 Oregon and No. 24 West Virginia. The Tide’s opponents have average rankings of 87th in scoring offense and 95th in total offense; LSU’s stand at 66th and 75th, respectively.

It’s a rare college game when the offenses are both overshadowed.

“I haven’t seen this much hype around two defenses,” LSU safetyTaylor said. “The only one may be when the (Pittsburgh) Steelers and the (Baltimore) Ravens play. We want our defense to outplay their defense. That’s our motivation.”

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