LSU-Alabama play for National Championship
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (11-1)
vs. LSU TIGERS (13-0)
BCS National Championship Game
Superdome - New Orleans, LA
Kickoff: Monday, 8:30 p.m. EDT
Line: Alabama -2, Total: 40.5
The nation’s top two teams, No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama, slug it out once again, this time for the BCS Championship on Monday night in New Orleans. Both schools have won the title recently with LSU claiming the 2007 season title and Alabama taking home the hardware following the 2009 season.
Expect the cliché to hold true here that defense really does wins championships. Not special teams, or turnovers, or missed field goals like the last meeting, but straight defense. If so, Alabama will walk away as the national champs. The Tide held LSU to 239 total yards in their meeting on Nov. 5, and Alabama is allowing just 191 YPG on the season (LSU is giving up 252 YPG). Alabama leads the nation in scoring defense, run defense and pass defense despite a pedestrian 2.1 sacks per game and an offense that is good, but certainly not elite (433 YPG, 31st in nation). The Crimson Tide defense is on the field for 27:19 per game, and has still allowed a meager 3.4 yards per play. The difference on offense will be ‘Bama RB Trent Richardson, who gained 169 total yards on 28 touches versus LSU in November. This game will be tight and low-scoring again, but this time ALABAMA prevails.
This three-star FoxSheets coaching trend also backs the Crimson Tide:
Nick Saban is 18-5 ATS (78.3%, +12.5 Units) after gaining 6.25 or more yards/play in their previous game as the coach of ALABAMA. The average score was ALABAMA 36.8, OPPONENT 12.4 - (Rating = 3*).
The first meeting this year had a final score of 9-6 in overtime and this three-star FoxSheets trend points to the UNDER occurring again:
ALABAMA is 15-2 UNDER (88.2%, +12.8 Units) after scoring 42 points or more last game since 1992. The average score was ALABAMA 28.4, OPPONENT 12.0 - (Rating = 3*).
Since beating Alabama in November’s “Game of the Century,” LSU has been even better, outscoring its final four opponents (two of them ranked) 177 to 39. The Tigers are putting up 38.5 PPG (12th in nation) and allowing just 10.5 PPG (2nd in nation). They have won every game by 13+ points with the exception of the victory over the Tide. But despite the huge points, the Tigers rank 74th in the nation in total offense (375 YPG) including 105th in passing (160 YPG). QB Jordan Jefferson (8.24 YPA, 6 TD, 1 INT) will start on Monday, but Jarrett Lee (7.82 YPA, 14 TD, 3 INT) will also see time under center. Jefferson is a strong 26-of-40 (65%) for 322 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT in three career games against Alabama, while Lee has struggled mightily, going 24-for-58 (41%) for 316 yards (5.45 YPA), 1 TD and 7 INT against the Tide.
Since gaining a mere 148 yards on 41 carries (3.6 YPC) against Alabama, LSU has been running all over its opponents, averaging 284 YPG on a whopping 6.6 yards per carry. Sophomore RB Alfred Blue didn’t have any carries against the Tide, but has piled up a ridiculous 287 yards on just 21 attempts (13.7 YPC) in his past three games, leading the team in rushing yards each time. Michael Ford leads LSU with 755 rushing yards, while Spencer Ware and Kenny Hilliard are tied for the team lead with eight rushing touchdowns. Ford was the most effective back against Alabama this year, rushing for 72 yards on just 11 carries (6.5 YPC), while the rest of his team was held to 76 yards on 30 carries (2.5 YPC).
The Crimson Tide have allowed more than 14 points only once all year (to lowly Georgia Southern). Although Richardson was the lone offensive threat against the Tigers in the last meeting, has he rushed for just 144 yards (4.1 YPC) in three career games versus LSU. He currently ranks fourth in the nation in rushing (132 YPG) and fifth in scoring (23 TD). Speedy sophomore Eddie Lacy also has big-play ability, rushing for 631 yards and 7 TD on a hefty 7.5 YPC average. Since the team was held to 96 yards on 31 carries (3.1 YPC) against LSU, Alabama has rushed for 708 yards (236 YPG) on 5.5 yards per carry in the past three weeks, with 505 coming from Richardson and 147 from Lacy.
Sophomore QB A.J. McCarron has had a strong season (8.16 YPA, 16 TD, 5 INT) and made some nice throws against LSU, finishing the day 16-of-28 for 199 yards, 0 TD and 1 INT. He has put together two straight excellent performances, completing 32-of-42 passes (76%) for 374 yards, 6 TD and 1 INT in wins over Georgia Southern and Auburn. His top receiver has been senior Marquis Maze (56 rec, 627 yds), who had six catches for 61 yards in the first meeting this year. But Maze has just one receiving touchdown all season, and that came in the season-opening win over Kent State. Senior TE Brad Smelley leads Alabama with four receiving touchdowns, with three of those coming in the past two weeks along with 10 catches and 144 yards.
Both schools have done a great job of protecting the football this season. Alabama has turned it over just seven times since the season opener (5 TO vs. Kent State) while LSU has a mere eight giveaways in 13 games. The Tigers defense forces more turnovers though, with 30 takeaways this season, as compared to Alabama’s 18. LSU has two excellent sophomore pass-rushers in Sam Montgomery (nine sacks) and Barkevious Mingo (eight sacks), while ‘Bama senior LB Courtney Upshaw (8½ sacks, 17 TFL) is the only player on the team with at least four sacks. Upshaw and LB Dont’a Hightower (81 tackles, 9.5 TFL) were among Alabama’s six All-Americans. The Tigers boast two All-American cornerbacks in Morris Claiborne (6 INT) and Tyrann Mathieu, who has been the country’s most valuable defensive player. Mathieu has a team-high 70 tackles, six forced fumbles and four fumble returns, two for touchdowns. He has also scored punt return touchdowns in two straight games and ranks third in the nation with 16.2 yards per punt return. The Tide also have a great punt return man in Maze, who ranks 11th in the nation with a 12.4-yard average.