11/04/2011 09:30 AM
LSU's toughest test will be trying to stop Trent Richardson, who has rushed for nearly 1000 yards, 7 ypc and 17 TDs. While both of these teams average 39 ppg, the total is set rather low at 42 given the success of their defenses. Alabama holds a slight statistical edge on both sides of the ball, and I think the quarterback play for both teams will be crucial As good as my defensive line and linebackers have been, I'm still going to cheat my safeties up close to the line and make these quarterbacks show that they can throw the ball under pressure. Make these receivers show that they can get away from man coverage.
Jarrett Lee is completing 72% of his passes on first-and-10, and A.J. McCarron is completing close to 70%. Both of these guys need to be put in a position to succeed, and I think that throwing on first-and-10 is very important to do, because if you hit 'em and even if you don't, it's going to remind those safeties that you're not afraid to do that, and it can open up some things back in the running game. LSU operates on a dual threat system. Lee has managed to get his interceptions under control, and what's more, he's actually developed into a rather reliable pocket passer. He's completing an impressive 63.2 percent of his passes, having thrown 13 TDs and just one interception so far this season. Then, there is fellow senior Jordan Jefferson, who has become an effective second option since returning from suspension in late September. Jefferson doesn’t have the pocket presence Lee has, but he is a remarkably gifted runner and fantastic change of pace for the Tiger offense. However, with the speed of the Alabama defense, I would expect Jefferson will have limited opportunities to run, pushing head coach Les Miles to lean primarily on Lee.
Perhaps the scariest part of the Tide running game though is Eddie Lacy backing Richardson up. Almost anywhere else, Lacy would be starting right now. A true interior runner who rests Richardson just enough to keep him fresh, his efforts have the two running backs combining to rush for a robust 1,454 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. Alabama is absolutely loaded on defense, with not only elite talent, but also experience. The Tide start 10 upperclassmen and lead the nation in rushing defense (44.8 yards per game), pass efficiency, and both total and scoring defense (6.9 points). Much of that can be attributed to its duo of cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie, both likely Thorpe Award finalists who can change a game single-handedly. In front of them are linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, two guys that look like seasoned NFL pros. Hightower and Upshaw are really big and shockingly fast from end-to-end. They both excel in stopping the run and are versatile enough to line up on the edge when needed. And then there is Mark Barron, a two-time All-American safety who ranks second on the team with 40 tackles. At 6'2," 218 lbs, Barron has the size to support the run and dexterity to halt passing attacks. A near-certain future starter in the NFL, his presence alone makes the Crimson Tide defense that much better. With all of these weapons this year, Alabama has simply worn down opponents by the second half, outscoring them 176-22 after the break.
Nick Saban has the confidence and inspirational abilities that rub off on his players, and he is unable to get rattled, even in the most pressured scenarios. That is what separates him from every other coach in the game and what makes his teams consistently the best in football. I don't read much into the inexperience factor with McCarron, because the matchup is so closely contested athletically and competitively on the field.
Alabama -5 and over 42.
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