[Ed: Bumped from FanPosts.]
Thus far this season, Alabama and LSU have shown very few weaknesses. There is a reason these teams are ranked 1 and 2. But neither team is entirely without flaws. Especially given the wrong matchup, these teams are fallible and this game could be the wrong matchup for either team.
Alabama's big flaw – No deep threat
The last few seasons, Alabama had Julio Jones to go deep and take the pressure off the running game. Thus far this season, there has been nobody in that role. It was hoped before the season that Marquis Maze would step into that role, but he has been more of a possession receiver and he has the 12.4 YPC average to prove it instead of the 14.5 average that Julio Jones put up last season.
On its own, Maze becoming more of a possession receiver than a deep threat is not a problem. Some of the best teams both in the NFL and college have had a possession guy as a top receiver. I recall the Dallas Cowboy teams of the early 90s having Michael Irvin as a possession guy (though he could go deep when needed) and Alvin Harper as the deep threat on the other side. The problem for Alabama is the lack of the deep threat. Other than Maze (who did finally get a big play against Tennessee), the longest receptions are by running backs.
The problem is that Alabama could get away with no deep threat against everyone they faced. Only the Penn St. defense possessed the tools needed to slow the Alabama running game down and that defense was worn down because its offense lacked the tools needed to move the ball against Alabama (or really anyone else, can anyone explain how that team is 8-1 while we're at it here?). Given a good offense that could at least get a few first downs, Penn St.'s defense might have been even better than the 4.98 YPP they gave up to Alabama and, playing at home, might have had the chance to steal a victory at the end of the game. Had Alabama had a deep threat, Penn St. wouldn't have been able to stack the box the way they did to slow Trent Richardson and Eddy Lacy down as much as they did and the Alabama offense would have rolled.
Against LSU, Alabama will face a similar challenge to the one they faced against Penn St. The LSU defense will at least slow down if not outright stop the Alabama running game. That puts the onus on Alabama to find some plays down the field that haven't really been there this season to open the defense up. In addition, the LSU offense will likely move the ball a little bit (or at least more than Penn St. did), meaning a fresher defense to combat whatever Alabama throws at them.
The big question for Alabama then, is can they hit a true deep ball or two to keep the LSU defense loose.
LSU's big flaw – The secondary, great though it is, is not infallible and can be had deep
Just as it was for Alabama, the biggest test for LSU's biggest weakness was a road non-conference game. In this case it was the road test in Morgantown against West Virginia. Yes, I know LSU won the game by a large margin, but not until the Mountaineers scared LSU with a couple of passing driven touchdown drives in the 3rd quarter to close a blowout game to a 27-21 margin.
So what happened in Morgantown other than a pass happy offense and pass happy quarterback getting hot? For one thing, West Virginia found some holes in the LSU defense after halftime. If West Virginia could make some adjustments to find some holes in the LSU pass defense, rest assured Nick Saban likely can find them too and despite what the passing stats show thus far this season, Saban has better personnel to take advantage of any holes in the LSU pass defense. What resulted was a series of long completions culminating in a 72 pass play to Tavon Austin that helped get the game to 27-21 before the backbreaking kickoff return touchdown. In the first half, West Virginia had two completions for 20 yards or more resulting in 7 points. In the first three series of the 3rd quarter, West Virginia had three such plays on drives that covered 215 yards and resulted in two touchdowns and a punt after generating four first downs.
In addition, Florida actually managed to hit a deep ball on the LSU defense with Jacoby Brisset in the game. Given how bad Brisset and Jeff Driskel and the rest of Florida's offense looked without John Brantley in the 2nd half against Alabama and against the clearly inferior Auburn defense, this is a potential red flag. While it hasn't happened much, LSU's pass defense can clearly be had, especially if the quarterback is given time to throw.
Alabama's offensive line should be able to get AJ McCarron time to throw. If they do, it comes down to the only semi-weakness on the Alabama team against the only semi-weakness on the LSU team. Can Alabama hit the deep ball or will the LSU defense continue to force turnovers? The answer to that question likely decides the game Saturday night.