Fiesta Bowl Football

LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) reacts after scoring a touchdown against UCF in the second half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, in Glendale, AZ. LSU won 40-32. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron wouldn't trade them for anybody.

If there's a better trio of wide receivers than he's taking to Tuscaloosa for Saturday's showdown with Alabama, he said he hasn't seen them.

Certainly not on any of the many teams he's been a part of.

But if he ever does see a better threesome, it might be Saturday when he gets to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

Two quarterbacks in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race might be stealing the pregame spotlight — not much hype left after all the adjectives are expended on LSU's Joe Burrow and Bama's Tua Tagovailoa.

But the supporting cast, their pass catchers, may well decide who wins the latest edition of Game of the Century.

Orgeron is dead sure of one thing: he's never been in a game with six wide receivers the likes of which will be on display.

For LSU it's sophomores Ja'Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall along with junior Justin Jefferson.

Alabama counters with Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs III, all juniors.

There are others. Alabama's speedy Jalon Waddle isn't thrown to as much but is as apt to torch opponents in the return game as anything.

Among the many shocking developments in the LSU offense this season has been the realization that tight ends are eligible receivers, much to the delight of Thaddeus Moss, the Tigers' fourth-leading receiver.

Both featured running backs, LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Bama's Najee Harris, catch a lot of balls out of the backfield.

But it's the big three receivers from each team who figure to give two proud defenses the worst nightmares.

"We were up at 6 o'clock talking about that," Orgeron said earlier this week.

If all six are not one day stars in the NFL it will surprise a lot of scouts.

Jefferson is a double legacy for the Tigers and probably the best of the three Jeffersons who've suited up for LSU ­— his eldest brother Jordan quarterbacked the 2011 team in the Tigers' 9-6 victory over Bama the last time it was the Game of the Century; Rickey was later a two-year starter in the secondary.

Justin wasn't highly recruited out of Destrehan High, but he was by far LSU's most consistent — and leading — receiver a year ago, Meanwhile, Chase and Marshall showed flashes of what made them both five-star recruits mixed in with a lot of freshman inconsistency.

They're all grown up as sophomores, likely benefitting from the innovative pass-catching drills that new passing game coordinator Joe Brady introduced in the offseason.

Few balls have hit the ground as Burrow leads the nation with a 78.8 completion percentage.

"I feel like we're better equipped to go in there (Alabama) with what we've got now," Orgeron said.

So does Alabama with its trio, who prefer quick-hitting slants that make it tough to pressure Tua before he releases the ball.

"They're very dangerous in yards after catch, contact," Orgeron said. "That's where they make both of their plays."

That's part of the build-up for something different, an LSU-Alabama shootout.

Even with the usual amount of defensive talent on hand, expect some fireworks, "chunk plays," they call them.

This season LSU has 55 plays of 20 yards or longer. Alabama has 51.

Most of them come from the teams' trios of wide receivers, who are all over the Southeastern Conference statistical leaders.

The game will feature five of the top 12 SEC leaders in receptions; six of the top 11 in yards per game; five of the top 13 in yards per catch.

Jefferson and Chase are tied for the SEC lead in touchdown receptions with nine — they're also tied with Bama's Smith. Jeudy is fourth with eight. Marshall, who missed three games with an injury, is right behind with seven and Ruggs pulling in with six. So that's six of the SEC's top eight touchdown catchers in the league in one game.

"It goes to show the direction of the SEC ­— the spread," Orgeron said. "I think it's a tribute to having a great quarterback and a spread offense."

And great receivers.

All three of Orgeron's are Louisiana-bred, a not untypical crop in the state.

"We've just been fortunate to have great receivers in this state and we're excited about that," Orgeron said. "But all the top players in the country have an interest in coming to play in the SEC. So we basically can go anywhere in the country and get a top receiver."

So can Alabama. And it shows.

"I believe that if we're playing man-to-man, they're probably going to catch the slant," Orgeron said of Bama's favorite route. "But it should be a 3- or 4-yard gain, not for a 10- or 15-yard gain. I believe the tackles we make in the open field are going to be critical."

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