Monday, January 9, 2012

Alabama vs. LSU Remix: Keys to the Game

1) LSU's other receivers - LSU's offense has been simple this year: physically overmatch the opposition in the run game and take advantage of one-on-one opportunities with Ruben Randle. Unfortunately for LSU, Alabama is the only team LSU has faced that can physically match up with their offensive line and Ruben Randle, arguably the best receiver in the SEC, will be matched up with Dre Kirkpatrick, a potential top 15 pick in this year's NFL Draft. Alabama forced LSU to play left handed in the first game, and LSU had no counter. If LSU can't run their normal offense, look for them to start running more misdirection/zone-read/option type plays to take advantage of the Alabama aggressive style, and if that doesn't look for them to attack the other one-on-one receiver matchups, specifically with Russell Shepperd and Odell Becham. If those two guys are beating their man early on, expect LSU to look for them on 1st down throws throughout the game.

2) Short yardage conversions - I expect this game to come down to a few 4th and 1 or 3rd and short situations. It would seem that Alabama has a big advantage because of Trent Richardson, but Jordan Jefferson's ability to run the speed option on these downs could be even more valuable. I give Alabama the slight edge, because they can also use their tight ends off play-action more often, but this is an area that Alabama has to dominate. Mostly because of the special teams disparity. Speaking of special teams...

3) Alabama can't get dominated in special teams - Whether or not you believe LSU's defenese is better than Alabama, LSU has without a the greatest defense/special teams combination this year, and possibly of all time. LSU is going to win this battle. People will focus on Alabama's field goal kicking, but that isn't even the biggest concern. LSU has the greatest punt and kickoff coverage team of all time, an NFL punter, a dynamic punt returner, and a coach who's willing to throw a few tricks into the gameplan. Alabama doesn't have to return any kicks for touchdowns, but they absolutely have to take care of the ball on punts and kickoffs and they can't allow Mathieu to break a long return.

4) Trent Richardson - Trent Richardson is the best all-around player in this game. If Alabama is going to win, he's going to have to have similar production to his last game. Look for him to run behind LG Barrett Jones throughout this game. If he can consistently get 3 or 4 yards a carry, that'll be enough to keep AJ Mcarron in good situations. Also, look for Trent to get a lot of work in the passing game. Maze and Hanks will probably struggle, but if Bama can find a way to get Trent matched up on a linebacker on a wheel route or if they call a well-timed screen, he may be able to break a long play for a Touchdown. Finally, watch Trent when it comes to pass protection. LSU likes to run Buddy Ryan's famous "Bear" defense, in which LSU's three defensive linemen are lined up over the center and two guards. LSU has been blitzing one, and sometimes both, of their middle linebackers right up the middle, forcing a running back to pick up of one of their over-powering linebackers. LSU killed Arkansas with that blitz. If Trent can pick it up, AJ can hopefully buy enough time for someone to get open.

Since the Alabama game, LSU has continued to improve offensively. Jordan Jefferson was essentially playing in a Jarrett Lee gameplan last game. In today's game, LSU will be featuring Jordan Jefferson's running ability more often. I actually wouldn't be surprised if LSU blew out Alabama and completed one of the greatest resume's in college football history (wins against Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Cotton Bowl winners, as well as Georgia and Bama twice). However, I just can't see Nick Saban losing twice to the same team. I can't see Trent Richardson not having a big game after losing the Heisman. I can't see Les Miles going an entire season without out one costly mental error. And I can't see Nick Saban not using this long layoff to significantly improve his team.

Alabama jumps out to a big lead, LSU replaces Jefferson with Lee, Lee leads the Tigers all the way back, but Trent Richardson and Alabama pull it out in the end.

Alabama 21 LSU 17

And LSU will still be ranked #1 a few days from now.

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