Published November 2, 2011 - 1:25pm
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I believe LSU will beat Alabama. I have watched both teams, and I have watched their competition. One things stands out, BAMA has not played the same level of talent as the Tigers have. That much ballyhooed BAMA defense, it has played five offenses in the bottom 18 for total offense. By no means am I denying that BAMA has future Sunday players on defense, but it easy to look great against substandard competition. You can also say that BAMA contributed to those poor rankings, but it takes more than one game to be that bad. Who knows, maybe LSU would be the #1 defense if it had played the same schedule.
However, it didn’t. LSU cut its teeth against top ranked offenses such as West Virginia and Oregon. LSU has already faced a one-time Heisman candidate, LaMichael James, and proceeded to clip his wings. LSU has also seen some of the best running backs the SEC has to offer…Ballard, Demps, Dyer, McCaleb and Poole. All have found the going tough against the LSU defense. Call it a hunch, but Trent won’t be breaking ankles like he did against Ole Miss’ Senquez Golson and he won’t be getting to the corner like he did against Florida and Arkansas. Ask LaMichael James, who was tackled from behind by an LSU DE.
LSU is quite well-known for its defensive backs, including Thorpe semi-finalist Morris Claiborne and glaring Thorpe omission, Tyrann Mathieu. The Tiger secondary commands the spotlight, but it is what is lurking in the trenches that should concern BAMA. LSU is only allowing 76 rushing YPG and 2.5 yards per carry. The Tigers have 61 tackles behind the line of scrimmage that have accounted for almost 240 negative yards. One man might not bring Richardson down right away, but the speed at which LSU flows to the football will prevent broken tackles from becoming long gainers.
Aside from the dominance in the trenches, the LSU defense as a unit is one big, fast, mean, nasty, disruptive force. Of the 503 offensive plays run against LSU, FORTY percent of those have ended in tackles for loss, incompletions or turnovers. Think about it. How would your day be if 40% of the things you did ended badly?
Back to the trenches. AJ McCarron’s head should be on a swivel. LSU has gotten to the QB a league leading 19 times and can bring pressure with just four or they can sneak a DB or two on a blitz. It isn’t necessarily one or two players that stand out, it is the rotation of playmakers along the line. Adams, Montgomery, Ferguson, Mingo, Johnson, Rasco, Brockers, Logan, and Downs are all capable of starting for any team in the nation. John Chavis has the luxury of having a stable of fresh legs from the first quarter through the fourth. It is that depth and speed that takes control of the line of scrimmage in the second half.
Controlling the line of scrimmage is also part of why the LSU secondary is so successful. The 19 sacks are a big reason why there are 11 Tiger interceptions this year. Opposing quarterbacks simply don’t have enough time to see the whole field and are forced into mistakes. LSU can play man and bring an extra DB, Mathieu usually, for extra pressure. McCarron (1664 passing yards, 10TD) has been effective, but will he be able to do it against LSU? What will happen when Marquis Maze is blanketed by Claiborne and he doesn’t have time for his second option because LSU defenders are already knocking on his front door? Probably the biggest question is whether McCarron can help move the team enough to win the field position battle early on. Those precious early yards that may mean the difference between putting three on the board instead of punting. Three points might as well be a thousand in a game like this.
Come Saturday, though, the most dangerous weapon in regards to field position will not be a DB, DE, RB or a QB. It will be LSU punter, Brad Wing. Wing has punted 31 times and put 15 of them inside the opponent’s twenty yard line. Eleven of his punts have travelled over 50 yards. Wing can call his shots, left or right and that allows the return team to be very effective. How effective? Opponents are only averaging .6 net punt return yards. POINT SIX! Wing’s leg along with the LSU D, have consistently left LSU with short fields to work with. In the early grind of this showdown, it could be Wing’s leg that helps determine the outcome.
Containing the BAMA offense is the lesser of the two tall orders for Saturday. I am confident that LSU will fill both orders, but it will be a battle. Next order up: Will LSU’s run game be able to punish the BAMA defense? Will the General Lee be able to get in gear against the Tide?