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Strength vs. strength: Leonard Fournette vs. Alabama's defense

The most riveting matchup within Saturday’s contest between LSU and Alabama looks to be Tigers running back Leonard Fournette against the Crimson Tide run defense.

Fournette is averaging an FBS-high 193 rushing yards per game and accounting for more than 43 percent of his team's yards from scrimmage.

The list of players with the most rushing yards per game in SEC history includes some impressive names, and Fournette is on pace to outpace them all.

His 15 rushing touchdowns are the second-most in the FBS this season, one behind Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. Fournette has scored a touchdown on 8.5 percent of his rushes, eighth-best in the FBS (minimum 70 rushes).

Fournette has rushed for 100 yards in each of his past nine games, tied with Charles Alexander (1977-78) for the longest such streak in LSU history.

Of Fournette’s 1,352 rushing yards, 792 have come before contact. He averages 4.5 yards before contact per rush.

Alabama’s defense, on the other hand, allows 1.07 yards before contact per rush, the sixth-fewest in the FBS.

Alabama defense

According to ESPN’s efficiency metrics, which measure a unit’s per-play contribution to the team’s scoring margin, the Crimson Tide have played the best defense in the FBS this season.

In the nine seasons that Nick Saban has been Alabama’s coach, the Crimson Tide have allowed 11 players to rush for 100 yards against them, the fewest in the FBS over that span. During that span, every other FBS team has allowed more than 20 individual 100-yard rushing games.

Could a season low for Fournette be in store? He has rushed for at least 150 yards in each game this season. In the Saban era, Alabama has allowed three FBS players to rush for 150 yards in a game: Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott last season, Auburn’s Tre Mason in 2013 and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden in 2007.

Fournette has 10 rushes of 20 or more yards outside the tackles this season, which leads the Power 5 conferences. Alabama’s run defense has allowed nine such runs over that past four seasons, tied with TCU for the fewest in the Power 5.

Alabama has an elite running back of its own

Alabama’s Derrick Henry is having a great season himself. He averages more than 130 rushing yards per game (12th in the FBS) and has 14 rushing touchdowns (tied for third in the FBS).

Henry has a rushing touchdown in 13 consecutive games, one shy of matching Tim Tebow for the longest streak by an SEC player over the last 10 seasons (Tebow’s streak spanned the 2006 and 2007 seasons).

Of Henry’s 14 rushing touchdowns, nine have come on runs outside the tackles. He’s second in that category among Power 5 running backs to Fournette, who has 10.