Alabama (11-1) vs. L-S-U (13-0)|
Monday, January 9th, 8:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
GAME NOTES: The top two teams in the country will collide in the Superdome, as
SEC foes Alabama and LSU meet again this season, this time with the 2012 BCS
National Championship on the line.
Les Miles was tabbed the National Coach of the Year as his Tigers ran the
table and finished 13-0, while capturing the SEC title with a 42-10 rout of
Georgia in the conference championship game. Not many teams even presented a
challenge to LSU's run to New Orleans, with a 19-6 win over Mississippi State
in mid-September and a 9-6 overtime win in Tuscaloosa against Alabama in early
November representing the closest contests.
Miles knows that the experience of being in this position in the recent past
is certainly a plus.
"The good news is that we've been in this game before, understand what it
means to play game with a month out and how to divide the time. We're
prepared. The first place we will start is the first game where we played
them. It might be rendered as different. I think there will be some
similarities and some contrasting styles."
LSU is seeking its second national crown in the last four years, winning the
title in 2008 with a 38-24 win over Ohio State. Overall, the Tigers are
22-19-1 in postseason play with wins in five of their last six bowl games.
Last year, LSU bested Texas A&M, 41-24, in the Cotton Bowl.
Nick Saban's Crimson Tide have had yet another impressive season, winning 11
games. It marked the third time in the last four years that Alabama amassed 11
victories in a season. However, the overtime loss to the Tigers left Alabama
second-fiddle in the SEC. Still, the team closed out November with three
straight wins to remain within striking distance of a spot in New Orleans and
edged out some potent teams to get there.
Saban is certainly excited about the opportunity his team has.
"Our players and everyone associated with our program are very excited about
the opportunity to play in the national championship game. We are very
appreciative of the chance to play an LSU team that we have tremendous respect
for, and we are looking forward to the challenge."
Alabama is just two years removed from capturing a national title, topping
Texas in the 2010 BCS Championship Game, 37-21, for the school's 13th national
crown. The team is making its fourth BCS Bowl appearance and third in the last
four years under Saban's watchful eye.
Alabama is the most storied postseason program, owning the NCAA record
for bowl game appearances (58) and bowl wins (32). The Crimson Tide are
32-22-3 all-time in postseason play, with three wins in the last four bowl
games. Last year, the Tide rolled over Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl,
This marks the 76th all-time meeting between these two teams. Alabama holds a
45-25-5 series advantage, as the two programs have split the last four
The Tigers' defense received a great deal of attention this season, but the
offense also had its moments in 2011. LSU comes into the postseason averaging
38.5 ppg. The passing attack struggled at times and accounted for only 160.2
ypg, but that was due in large part to uncertainty under center. Jarrett Lee
got the nod at quarterback with the off-the-field issues surrounding Jordan
Jefferson. Lee was solid, completing just over 62 percent of his passes, for
1,306 yards, with 13 TDs and just three INTs. Jefferson earned playing time
down the stretch and played well in a limited time frame, completing 60.2
percent of his throws, for 684 yards, with six TDs and just one INT. Rueben
Randle is the team's top option in the vertical game, leading the Tigers in
receptions (50), receiving yards (904) and TD catches (eight).
Everything LSU does offensively comes off the run. The Tigers average 215.2
yards per game and have a couple of options in the backfield to rely on.
Michael Ford only got two starts this season, but led the team in rushing
with 755 yards on 6.1 yards per carry with seven TDs. Spencer Ware (700 yards,
eight TDs), Alfred Blue (539 yards, seven TDs) and Kenny Hilliard (320 yards,
eight TDs) all made contributions as well.
The LSU defense is the primary reason the Tigers are playing for the national
title. One of the nation's premier units, LSU limited the opposition to just
10.5 ppg (second nationally), showing equal disdain for the run (third
nationally at 85.5 ypg) and the pass (eighth nationally at 166.6 ypg). The
result was 252.1 yards per game against (second nationally). Overall, LSU
racked up 37 sacks and forced 30 turnovers.
Playmakers abound on the defensive side of the ball for LSU, starting with a
pair of First-Team All-American cornerbacks in Tyrann Mathieu (team-high 70
tackles, two INTs, five fumble recoveries, six forced fumbles) and Morris
Claiborne (46 tackles, six INTs). Matthieu was regarded as the nation's top
defender and was named the Thorpe Award winner this year as a result.
In the front seven, Sam Montgomery (44 tackles, 13.0 TFL, nine sacks) and
Barkevious Mingo (41 tackles, 13.5 TFL, eight sacks) have been disruptive up
Offensively speaking, the Crimson Tide present a balanced attack, with near-
equal ability to move the chains on the ground (219.8 ypg) and through the air
(213.6 ypg). However, like LSU, it is the run that sets up everything else for
Heisman finalist Trent Richardson had a remarkable 2011 campaign, racking up
1,583 yards and 20 TDS on 131.9 yards per game and 6.0 yards per carry,
earning the Doak Walker Award and being named the SEC Offensive Player of the
Year. A true workhorse, Richardson amassed 263 carries this season, while also
showing the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield (27 receptions, 327
yards, three TDs).
A.J. McCarron played well under center in his first season at QB for Alabama,
completing 66.7 percent of his passes, for 2,400 yards, with 16 TDs against
five interceptions. Wideout Marquis Maze (56 receptions, 627 yards, one TD) is
the team's top target downfield.
If any defensive unit has the ability to match play for play with LSU's
dominant squad, it is Alabama. The Crimson Tide finished the season as the top
defense in the country, leading the nation in scoring defense (8.8 ppg), rush
defense (74.9 ypg), pass defense (116.3 ypg) and of course total defense
All-American talent abounds on the UA defense, headlined by linebackers Dont'a
Hightower (81 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks, one INT), Courtney Upshaw (45
tackles, 17.0 TFL, 8.5 sacks) and Nico Johnson (43 tackles, 5.5 TFL, one sack,
Upshaw thinks the team is ready for its biggest challenge to date.
"We have been able to use this time to get back into game shape and rest since
the Auburn game and I think that has really helped us out. There have been no
regrets this season and hopefully we can finish it off with a national
The Alabama secondary features talented DBs Mark Barron (66 tackles, two
INTs), Robert Lester (36 tackles, two INTs) and Dre Kirpatrick (26 tackles,
The SEC is finally going to lose a national title game, but then again, it
will capture its sixth straight championship as well.
Alabama failed to capitalize on several opportunities in the regular-season
matchup with LSU, as the two defenses certainly lived up to the hype. This one
shapes up to be yet another defensive struggle. Richardson could be the
difference though. If the Tide are to earn the win, their talented tailback
could be the key.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama 21, LSU 17
01/06 10:39:12 ET