Alabama vs. LSU: fascinating in conception, excruciating when viewed on television. This is the third “Game of the Century” in the past 13 months. Most had seen enough after the first. This may be the meeting fleet young fellows finally advance the oblong ball forward. This may be the meeting we plunge into uncharted depths of nothingness. Either way, Gary Danielson will enjoy it.
Juxtaposition: Discussing this game proves impossible without dissecting the coaching matchup between Les Miles and Nick Saban. Both have brought extended success. Both have won at least one BCS titles. Both, in their distinct ways, are cartoons. Miles is pure bravado. His eyes have a perverse salesman’s glimmer (did he just wink at me?). He has a hard time registering losing. It’s incongruous. It’s not in his “What Would Bo Do” handbook. Saban is the near opposite. He’s dark, shriveled and shrouded by his insecurity. You can feel the obsession and the tension eating at him. He does not celebrate wins. He stops clenching. The methodologies are different. Their records against each other, 3-3, are the same.
Testosterone: Alabama has the nation’s best offensive line. LSU has the nation’s best defensive line. Those units may have seven first round draft picks combined. That’s not diving into the Freshman who might get there. This will be man ball at its apex. To find weaknesses we must nitpick. The Tide have had some breakdowns on the right side in pass protection with D.J. Fluker. The draftniks would point out Barkevious Mingo’s production has not quite matched his athleticism. One of the two showing up could turn the battle.
Turnovers: The Tigers’ offense won’t win them this game. They must win the field position battle through turnovers. LSU is 10th nationally in turnover margin. Creating turnovers and key spots won the South Carolina and Texas A&M games. Losing the turnover margin against Florida cost them. This won’t be easy vs. Alabama. The Crimson Tide are fifth nationally with just six turnovers in eight games. A.J. McCarron has not thrown an interception this season.
The Schedule Strength: Both SRS and Sagarin credit Alabama for playing a tougher schedule. That’s misleading. LSU played minnows such as Towson, North Texas, Idaho and Auburn. That drags down their rating, but they have also won two of three against Florida, South Carolina and Texas A&M, three of the SRS top eight. The Crimson Tide opponents may average out better, but their three best have been Michigan, Mississippi State and Tennessee. One got within 20 points.
The Nightmare: Alabama vs. LSU was expected to decide the BCS Title or, like last season, be an inconclusive blip as both teams marched to the title game. This year, with Florida beating LSU and a number of qualified undefeateds, an LSU upset might eliminate both schools. The title streak would end, without an SEC team to defend it in the game.
Interesting Stat… LSU has been shutout three times in its last 244 games. All three were against Alabama, in the state of Louisiana, at night.
Odds: Some numbers via RJ in Vegas. This is the 36th straight game in which Alabama enters as the favorite. This is only the second time this season the spread has been less than 20 points (Michigan). It has been more than a decade since LSU was this great an underdog at Tiger Stadium.
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