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Before LSU gets a heavyweight brawl with Bama, it has to get past WKU, and that's not easy

Yep, LSU vs. Alabama on Nov. 7 is again guaranteed to be one of the biggest games of the year ... assuming both take care of business this weekend.

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You can hear the rumble in the distance. The Week 8 slate is decent, and Week 9 is ... less so. But right there, staring at us from Week 10, is Manball Christmas.

The hype will pick up sooner than later for LSU's trip to Tuscaloosa. Both the Tigers and Alabama are favorites to win this Saturday, and both will get Halloween off to rest and prepare. And the winner will be your most likely SEC West champion and, therefore, a favorite to snare a Playoff spot.

Seriously, brace yourself now. You're going to hear a ridiculous amount about this game.

S&P+ win probabilities give Alabama an 83 percent chance of beating Tennessee before advancing to host LSU, and we probably already know how Vols-Tide is going to go. Hosting Tennessee will not be a cakewalk, but LSU has by far the more interesting game this Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

Western Kentucky, a Week 1 victor over Vanderbilt that has won its last four games by an average score of 55-20, visits Baton Rouge with one of the hottest offenses in the country, and S&P+ projects a game about eight points closer than Bama's.


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That LSU has Leonard Fournette, a battle cannon with legs, is probably enough to get the job done. But the Hilltoppers are going to test the Bayou Bengals in a way they haven't been tested this year. Assume LSU wins, but watch just in case. It will be entertaining no matter what.

Fournette has begun to live up to nearly untouchable high school hype, averaging 25 carries and 200 yards per game. The sophomore from New Orleans Saint Augustine can run over, around or by you and makes defenders lose their minds in the open field. Against Auburn, he ran toward an AU defender, who inexplicably jumped into the air and tried to grab his shoulder. It was a video game glitch in real life.

Fournette is one hell of a trump card. But he doesn't play defense. And the Tigers who do, especially those in the secondary, are in for a test.

Only 11 FBS quarterbacks have posted a 163 passer rating or higher for the 2015 season. Brandon Doughty has hit that mark in 11 of his last 12 games. He was merely good against Vanderbilt in the season opener (a 14-12 WKU win), but in his last six games, he's completed 178 of 236 passes for 2,500 yards, 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions. That's a 75 percent completion rate and 14 yards per completion with a minuscule 1.7 percent interception rate. That'll play.

Before you can say, "Yeah, but who's he played?" realize that, even adjusting for opponent, WKU ranks eighth in the country in Passing S&P+. The 'Toppers are third in passing success rate and sixth in passing IsoPPP (which measures the magnitude of successful plays). He's targeted five different receivers at least 35 times each -- his No. 5 target, Nicholas Norris, has more catches than LSU's No. 1, Travin Dural -- and three of the five average at least 12.5 yards per target.

If your secondary has a weakness, Doughty will find it.

So the question is ... does LSU's secondary have a weakness? The Tiger defense ranks a solid 19th in Passing S&P+ -- 43rd in success rate, 46th in IsoPPP. They don't have a great pass rush, but secondary depth is a strength. (It usually is.)

The secondary's also gotten some practice. Tasked with either testing a great run D or trying out the pass, opponents have been choosing the latter. Opponents are running only 48 percent of the time on LSU on standard downs (121st in the country) and 27 percent of the time on passing downs (110th). That's given a lot of guys opportunities to make plays, and they're doing just that -- Rickey Jefferson, Dwayne Thomas, Tre'Davious White, Jamal Adams, Kevin Toliver II and John Battle have all gotten hands on passes over the first half of the season.

Still, Florida found some success through the air last week. And while WKU doesn't have recruiting rankings that can match Florida's, the Hilltoppers have been otherworldly on the field of late.

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