November 4th, 2011 04:01 PM║ Posted By: MrSEC.com ║ Permalink
Tags: Boomo Bugg Show, Brett Beaird, LSU, WZTV
If many SEC fans had their wish, LSU vs. Alabama would play January 9, 2012 in New Orleans, La in the BCS National Championship game instead of November 5 in Tuscaloosa, Al. Many college football experts currently rank LSU 1 and Alabama 1A. The two teams are very similar in philosophy, talent and performance. Let’s examine each team’s schedule, coaching philosophy and intangibles to see if we can predict a winner.
LSU schedule: One advantage that LSU has is they have the confidence to win on the road. The Tiger defense also has been successful shutting down three of the top offenses in the nation in then No. 3 Oregon (40-27), then No. 24 Mississippi State (19-6) and then No. 16 West Virginia (47-21). Tiger cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu just simply know how to make plays at key times in the game. Claiborne also had the kickoff return for a touchdown that turned the game for LSU. Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith threw for a lot of yards (463), but his passes were primary short underneath coverage completions. Tiger defensive coordinator John Chavis kept the vaunted West Virginia passing game in front of them without giving up explosive scoring plays.
Alabama schedule: The three teams that highlight Alabama’s top wins this season are Penn State (27-11), Arkansas (38-14) and believe it or not Vanderbilt (34-0). Many experts believe Arkansas was the Tide’s toughest game. The Tide secondary shut down Arkansas’s prolific offensive attack by hammering the Razorbacks talented wide receivers and providing key run-support. Penn State currently ranked No. 16 in the BCS has one of the worst offenses in the nation. However, the Nittany Lions finally settled on quarterback Matt McGloin who drove PSU 80-yards to beat Illinois 10-7 in the final one minute to get Joe Paterno’s 409th career win. No matter how much the Razorbacks struggled to beat Ole Miss 29-14 and to hang on and beat the Commodores 31-28, Arkansas is ranked No. 7 in the this weeks BSC standings. Commodore coach James Franklin has sent out a strong message to the league this year, our team will fight and scratch for 60 minutes now because we can compete at the line-of-scrimmage. Vanderbilt lost to Georgia (33-28) and Arkansas, but outplayed both teams.
Miles does not allow distractions to effect LSU: There is not a better coach in the nation in handling off-the-field distractions than Les Miles. Earlier this year, Miles’ sister, Ann Hope Browne was killed in a car accident. But players and assistant coaches did not sense any self-pity from their coach. Miles has a unique ability to separate a major tragedy to minor distractions, and focus on the task-at-hand. This game will provide another test of his ability to deflect the massive media hype buildup. Besides the personal loss of his sister, when offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, LSU seamlessly promoted offensive line coach Greg Studrawa to play calling. When a significant number of players were involved in a bar fight, including starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson, Miles termed the incident a “team violation,” and LSU opened the season by whipping Oregon 40-27. Most recently, LSU suspended three top players, including leading rusher Spencer Ware and defensive backs Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon. LSU did not miss a beat by hammering the Tigers Auburn 45-10, the worst defeat a defending national champion suffered since 1983.
Miles may not be an eloquent speaker, throws caution to the wind occasionally with strange game-day strategy and sometimes his erratic behavior attracts a lot of media attention. While some of his antics may be a ploy, Miles is quietly shielding the team from outside distractions.
Nick Saban’s process: The 2011 version of the Crimson Tide has been molded to perfectly match Nick Saban’s personality. This team is a combination of five years of top-five recruiting, mental edge conditioning by Dr. Kevin Elko and the Pacific Institute and five years of being indoctrinated into “the process”. Strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran has helped morph this team into one of the biggest, fastest most agile teams in SEC history. Saban is a firm believer in controlling the line of scrimmage. In today’s high octane offensive era, he prefers to run the pro-set formation with a dominating run game lead by Heisman Trophy candidate Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. First-year starting quarterback AJ McCarron manages the game, uses play-action passing and has ball-security as one of his primary goals. Saban’s defense is led by two 265-pound linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont ‘a Hightower who come off the edge with unrelenting ferocity.
LSU and Alabama do not beat themselves and force turnovers:. The Crimson Tide ranks second nationally in fewest penalties, being flagged an average of just 3.38 times per game. The Tide also ranks third in fewest penalty yards in the country, averaging 29.50 per contest. Alabama leads the SEC in fewest penalties per game and ranks second behind Kentucky in penalty yards per game (27.86).
LSU ranks second in the nation in turnover margin (plus-1.88). The Tigers have intercepted 11 passes and recovered seven fumbles. Mathieu has two interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Both Alabama and LSU are very balanced on offense. The Tigers average 189 rushing yards and 183 yards passing. The Crimson Tide offense comes in averaging an amazing 229 yards rushing and 228 yards passing per game.
Who wins: The November 5 “clash of the titans” will be fueled by a raucous home crowd motivated by a team that supported many of their citizens in the darkest hours after the April 27 tornadoes. However, putting emotions aside, blocking and tackling still win football games. One of Saban’s foundations of “the process” is mental toughness and discipline. Ten years have passed since Saban lost in consecutive years to the same coach in college. Ever since Steve Spurrier pounded Saban’s LSU teams 41-9 in 2000 and 44-15 in 2001, Saban has won 12 straight rematch games.
The difference in the outcome of the Alabama/LSU game will be two or three plays made by the more disciplined team. Alabama will make one or two more plays at key times in the game and win 24-16.
Brett Beaird and Harold Bugg are co-hosts of the Boomo Bugg Show on WYTK 93.9 FM the Score weekdays from 12:00-2:00 pm and the Sportsbuzz on WZTV weekdays at 5:30 and 11:00 pm CT. Brett is also a contributing writer for Tiderinsider.com and the Huntsville Times.
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