BCS National Championship Game
#1 LSU (13-0) vs. #2 Alabama (11-1) in New Orleans, Louisiana
The buzz surrounding this game is minimal. It is funny that their meeting in November that ended up essentially being meaningless received more hype than this game, that will decide the national champion. LSU and Alabama underwhelmed when they played in the Game of the Century two months ago and because of that most of America is bracing themselves for a boring, field goal fest. I didn't find the game boring two months ago but it definitely didn't leave me clamoring to see it again. Based on resume Oklahoma State deserved to be in this game more than Alabama, but I think it is clear that these are the two best teams in the country.
The offenses are incidental in this game, it will be won or lost by the defenses. Alabama finished number one in defense, LSU a close second. The most points Alabama allowed this season was 21, to believe it or not, Georgia Southern. The star players on the defense are their linebackers Courtney Upshaw (8 sacks) and Dont'a Hightower, who led the team in tackles with 81. In the first meeting Alabama allowed just 239 yards, just 91 of those yards through and forced 2 LSU interceptions. What came back to bite the Tide was their inability to hit field goals. They missed three and had one blocked. It could come back to bite them again tonight, as it is expected this will be another close one. Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley shared duties last time but Foster is the usual starter and should be the one kicking them this game. Alabama was unable to get RB Trent Richardson really going last game, he was held to 89 yards on 23 carries. That put more pressure on QB AJ McCarron than the Tide would have liked, as he was forced to throw it 28 times. WR Marquis Maze was able to find some holes in the Tigers secondary and will be the go to option for McCarron tonight.
As for the Tigers, their all world defense is led by the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu. It isn't just defense where Mathieu is dangerous though, he is even scarier as a punt returner. In his last two games he returned punts for scores against Arkansas and then Georgia in the SEC championship. His fellow first team All-American, Morris Claiborne is no slouch either. He had an interception against Alabama in the first meeting and finished with 6 on the season. On the defensive line, the Tigers have ferocious pass rushers Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. On offense, the quarterback situation was muddled in the first game, but Jordan Jefferson has emerged as the starter since then. Jarrett Lee started the last game and had two interceptions before being yanked for Jefferson. Jefferson avoided any mistakes and did what was needed to win a tight ballgame. He also was somewhat effective on the ground, which was key because Spencer Ware was held to 29 yards on 16 carries. Michael Ford finished as the Tigers leading rusher and I expect him to get more than the 11 carries he got last game. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry against the Tide and Les Miles should be more apt to feed him the ball this game. Leading receiver Rueben Randle had just 2 catches for 19 yards against Alabama,. so the Tigers are hoping to get much more production out of him and the passing game in general.
The question surrounding this game is whether the month off will have any effect on the domination of the defenses. Both teams have talked about how chances were left on the table last game and this game has a chance to play out much differently. I just don't see it. Neither team will suddenly forget to play defense, and neither team is all that great offensively to be able to exploit the others defense. I do think we will see touchdowns this time but not many. I expect LSU to win the turnover battle and for that to end up being the difference in the game. I predict LSU will win the touchdown battle two to one, and the Honey Badger will be named the game's MVP. The win will make the Tigers the undisputed champion. If Alabama wins and it is close, all hell could break loose, and we could be seeing another split champion if the AP pollsters decide to go that route.
Prediction: LSU 17, Alabama 13
Overall Record: 118-23