Published November 1, 2012 - 10:50am
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November 3rd. Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
We’ve had this game circled on our calendars since January, and the entire country will be tuning into Baton Rouge Saturday night to see if the Tigers can indeed bear the rest of the country’s cross and take down the mighty Crimson Tide, furthermore all but nixing the SEC’s chances of playing for a national championship. The situation is slightly different than we expected, with a one-loss LSU team, but nonetheless, the stakes are no lower. Win, and your team has a chance to play for the SEC Championship and national championship. Lose, and you watch both from the couch.
LSU has been LSU through the first nine weeks – dominating the ground game, enforcing the physical defense and outlasting every team not named Florida. Although there are new names in the box scores, it’s the same result. Zach Mettenberger, wildly viewed as the X-Factor for this very week, hasn’t proven he can make explosive plays through the air, and freshman running back Jeremy Hill has really emerged as a fresh set of legs to carry the offense and running game the last few weeks. Can LSU seemingly pull this upset? Here’s a recipe for an upset, and it doesn’t include Jambalaya.
1. Win Turnover Battle: In order to beat Alabama, teams have to force a fundamentally flawless football team to make mistakes. That’s the hard part. Alabama plays against its own standards, not against anyone else’s. The Tide currently lead the SEC and are tied for second in the country in turnover margin at +17. LSU sits at +9 but haven’t had the impact in the turnover game like last season. LSU must take care of the football on offense with the four-headed monster at running back, along with Mettenberger, and the Tigers’ defense must create turnovers. AJ McCarron has nearly been flawless in the passing game, leading the country in passing efficiency, and he hasn’t thrown a single interception yet. There will be times where windows will be small in the passing game, and LSU must take every advantage and make the plays when they present themselves. Alabama doesn’t beat themselves, and opponents have to force the issue, as tough as that may be.
2. Take Some Risks: Les has played it close to the vest this season. The Tigers have attempted no fake field goals or punts through nine weeks. That has to be a record for Miles. Likewise, they’ve attempted an SEC-low three fourth downs, and they’ve converted all of them. Miles has been ultra-conservative on offense because Mett hasn’t proven he can throw on defenses yet. Les is going to have to take risks on special teams and the passing game and make a conservative effort to get outside his comfort zone. He’ll have the crowd behind his team and the lore of Tiger Stadium bearing down on the Tide. But risks will have to be taken in order to get great rewards.
3. Passing Game: Last but certainly not least – and probably most importantly – Mettenberger is going to have to make plays down the field. Mett is seventh in the SEC with passing plays over 20 yards and eighth in passing plays over 30 yards. The Tigers are the 12th best team in the SEC passing the football and are ranked 109th in the country, averaging only 177.4 yards per game. That number must increase to a minimum of 250 yards. Mett is the single-biggest factor for LSU in this football game, not Tiger Stadium nor all that alcohol Tigers’ fans drink before the game. This game rests upon his arm and his ability to loosen up the Bama secondary. The notion that LSU will run the football on Alabama if the Tigers’ passing game doesn’t get going is ludicrous. The Tide will feast off one-dimensional offenses. The Tigers are going to have to make some explosive plays downfield with Mett at the helm. It will make the running game that much more effective.
The gap between Alabama appears to be widening, but if LSU can play a complete game, something they haven’t done thus far, it will be a recipe for the upset heard ‘round college football. It would sure throw a wrench in the BCS.