You’ll probably hear a billion stats leading up to LSU at Alabama – did you know the Tigers have allowed 7 punt return yards this season? – and said stats will lead to arguments galore. In talking with some Vegas-types last night, one of the stats that has led to Alabama being a 5-point favorite: Yards per play.
Alabama Total Offense: Yards / Play 6.8 Opponents: 3.2
LSU Total Offense: Yards / Play 5.6 Opponents 4.0
This would lead some to believe the Alabama offense has an advantage over LSU (disagree), and you can move the ball on the Tigers’ vaunted defense (disagree). To get the discussion rolling:
1) Alabama has played nobody. It’s difficult for nobodies to move the football.
Arkansas is the only top 80 total offense the Tide have played (currently 23rd). That game was closer than the 38-14 final indicated. Alabama only led 17-7 at the half and used a punt return for a TD and a freaky 61-yard screen pass to Richardson to bust the game open in the third quarter. And this isn’t the Razorbacks from last year, not with Knile Davis out for the season. I’m not saying the LSU offense is anything special – 81st in the country – but it’ll be the best one Alabama has faced in a month.
2) LSU has seen much better offenses – passing and running – than Alabama’s.
West Virginia’s spread offense is 13th in the country in total offense, and 7th in passing. The Mountaineers moved the ball through the air against LSU (463 passing yards on 65 passes). Oregon is 5th in total offense in the country and 4th in rushing. They could not move the ball against LSU in the season opener (98 yards on 28 rushes). It is safe to say LSU has already seen two of the best offenses this season in college football. Alabama, meanwhile, is 63rd in total offense. It could probably ring up 300 yards of passing offense … if it is willing to pass the ball 50 times. That would mean Trent Richardson is marginalized.
Those who look at Las Vegas lines in the offseason tell me that back in July/August, LSU was a 9-point dog against Alabama. What’s changed? My guesses: the LSU QB situation hasn’t been as inconsistent as last year, and their young defense has been significantly better than expected.
I can see Alabama winning a 16-13 game, but I think LSU covers.
* Note: I couldn’t have been more wrong about Stanford against USC, even though the Cardinal covered.