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LSU 9 … at Alabama 6 OT
LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu
LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 5, 2011


CFN Week 10 Game Preview & Prediction - LSU at Alabama

2011 Prediction & Game Story

Week 10, LSU vs. Alabama

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Nov. 5 LSU 9 … at Alabama 6 OT
CFN Analysis: LSU didn’t take any wild chances and it didn’t do anything crazy. It played the game straight, let the defense make the plays it needed to, and outlasted the Tide in a dead-even game. From Drew Alleman’s three field goals to Alabama’s four misses, to Brad Wing’s 73-yard boot and four punts put inside the 20, the special teams were the difference in a game that was decided by the slimmest of margins. Eric Reid was the MVP of the game with six big tackles and an interception for the ages that saved the game and the national title, but it was the play of Jordan Jefferson stepping in for an ineffective Jarrett Lee that changed the game around. Jefferson wasn’t great, but he didn’t screw things up, and that’s all that mattered. Now the Tigers have to keep fighting and keep working; the national title isn’t won yet. They still have to deal with Arkansas, the SEC Championship and the BCS Championship, if all goes according to plan, and they’re going to spend the next few weeks getting their butts kissed. This game has to be put in the rearview mirror in a big hurry.

The Tide screwed this up. LSU won it, but Alabama also lost it. The four missed field goals were bombs, including the block, with the attempts coming from 44, 50, 49, and 52; the offense should’ve put the kickers in a better position, especially in the overtime. Marquis Maze did his best, with 61 yards on six catches, but the lack of a gamebreaking receiver turned out to be costly in the second half as Trent Richardson didn’t have any room to move against the swarming Tiger linebackers. The Tide D did its job with Nico Johnson coming up with 11 tackles and with constant pressure in the backfield from all sides, and the offense outgained the Tide 295 yards to 239, but the special teams were the difference. Alabama outplayed LSU in several ways and seemed to have control, but it never got the field position it needed and it didn’t take advantage of opportunities. Going forward, coming up with blowouts is a must to show everyone it deserves the No. 2 spot and a rematch.

(AP) TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The defenses lived up to the billing in the latest Game of the Century. Neither No. 1 LSU nor No. 2 Alabama could reach the end zone Saturday night, not even with extra time.

The Tigers aren't complaining.

They now have the inside track to the BCS title game.

Drew Alleman kicked a 25-yard field goal in overtime to lead LSU to a 9-6 victory over Alabama, which missed four field goals and squandered another scoring chance by throwing a goal-line interception -- simply too many mistakes to overcome in a fierce defensive struggle that didn't produce a lot of style points.

Or any points, for that matter.

"It didn't go by the script," LSU coach Les Miles said. "The key is to keep fighting, to find a way."

Find a way, these Tigers did.

With a lot of help from the Crimson Tide.

"It's a difficult pill to swallow," said receiver Marquis Maze, who was hobbled by a leg injury and wound up at the center of two key miscues in the fourth quarter. "If everybody executes in the red area, that wasn't even a close game. The defense played outstanding."

Alabama missed four field goals, including Cade Foster's 52-yard attempt after the Tide got the ball first in the extra period. LSU appeared to win the game on Michael Ford's run around left end after taking a pitch, but he stepped out of bounds at the 7.

Two plays gained nothing, so LSU (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) sent on Alleman to attempt his third field goal of the game on third down. Alabama (8-1, 5-1) tried to freeze the junior kicker by calling timeout, but he calmly knocked it through to set off a wild celebration by the visiting team.

A small contingent in purple and gold chanted, "LSU! LSU! LSU!" The players ran to the far end of the field to celebrate with their band and the fans who made the trip from Louisiana.

"Before I went to bed last night, I was preparing for it," Alleman said. "It's every kicker's dream, and I got to live it."

The crowd of more than 100,000 at Bryant-Denny Stadium -- most of them dressed in crimson -- sat in stunned silence as LSU celebrated its victory in only the 23rd regular-season matchup between the top two teams in The Associated Press rankings.

LSU still must win its last three regular-season games -- No. 8 Arkansas is the toughest test -- and then would have to get through the SEC championship game. But the Tigers are the clear favorite after winning another huge game away from home, emerging with the victory in a matchup between two teams generally considered the best in the land.

And what if the BCS formula pits LSU against Alabama again in the national championship game?

"I'd be honored to face that team again," Miles said.

The Crimson Tide isn't giving up.

"They only beat us by three," Maze said. "I hope we get that chance."

If a rematch doesn't work out, Alabama will long be moaning about how this one got away. Foster missed two first-quarter field goals, and Jeremy Shelley had one blocked before Shelley finally made one from 34 yards. Alleman kicked a 19-yarder on the final play of the first half, leaving the teams tied at 3 even though the Crimson Tide clearly had the upper hand.

Interceptions set up both field goals in the second half. Foster made one from 46 yards after Jarrett Lee threw his second pick of the game, then Alleman connected from 30 yards after AJ McCarron's ill-timed throw was picked off by Morris Claiborne.

"Defense wins ball games," Claiborne said. "That's all I've got to say about that. You come out and you prepare hard and play like we did tonight, and you come out on top."

Outside of the kicking woes, Maze was involved in a pair of decisive plays that helped finish off the Crimson Tide. First, with Alabama threatening at the LSU 28, he took a snap in the wildcat formation and tried to surprise LSU with a pass. Tight end Michael Williams broke into the clear near the goal line, but Eric Reid hustled back to snatch it away as both players tumbled to the ground at the 1.

Reid wound up with the ball, the officials ruled it an interception and a replay upheld the call.

LSU failed to pick up a first down, and it looked as though Alabama would get it back in good field position to take another crack at the LSU end zone. But Maze, favoring his leg, couldn't catch the long line-drive punt. He turned away from it around his own 40 and the ball rolled all the way to the Alabama 19.

Afterward, he said his injury had nothing to do with it -- the ball struck a wire that allows a television camera to hover above the field.

The Tiger got it out to around midfield on their final possession of regulation, then had to punt it away. Alabama took over with only 52 seconds left and settled for overtime.

"Our season was at stake," Claiborne said. "We knew where we want to be at the end of the season."

Unlike Notre Dame's infamous 10-10 tie with Michigan State in another 1-2 matchup in 1966, when the Irish ran out the clock at the end of the fourth quarter, this one could not end that way.

Though even with extra time it will go down as the second-lowest scoring No. 1 vs. No. 2 game in the 75-year history of the AP poll. The fewest points in a 1-2 game is zero, the famous Army-Notre Dame scoreless tie in 1946.

"When you get blown out, you've got lots of issues and problems," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I don't think anybody could watch that game and say Alabama doesn't have a really good team and didn't play a really good game. We just didn't win."

The buildup to the game resembled a Super Bowl, especially with both teams getting a couple of weeks to prepare. A crowd of 101,821 squeezed into Bryant-Denny Stadium. Tens of thousands more converged on Tuscaloosa without tickets, content to just tailgate, soak up the atmosphere and watch the game on televisions set up outside the stadium.

Two ferocious defenses played as well as advertised. Alabama came in allowing just 6.9 points and 44.9 yards rushing per game, leading the nation in both categories, and the second-fewest passing yards. LSU wasn't far behind in any of those areas.

The Crimson Tide finished with 295 yards, while the Tigers won with just 239.

The Game of the Century it wasn't, at least in the first half. Alabama missed three field goals. LSU was called for a pair of facemask penalties and Lee threw the first of his two interceptions. Both teams were flagged for silly penalties, such as substitution infractions and an offsides on Alabama that extended LSU's only decent drive of the first two quarters.

With the defenses dominating, it became clear the game would come down to which team could take advantage of its rare opportunities.

Advantage, LSU.

For all of Alabama's heralded recruiting classes under Saban, it was clear the Crimson Tide didn't devote a lot of time to finding a kicker. Foster was wide right from 44 and 50 yards before Saban switched up. The coach sent in Shelley, his short kicking specialist, for a 49-yard try, but that didn't work out so well, either. He drove it low -- right into the outstretched hands of the LSU defender Bennie Logan.

Finally, the Tide drove it close enough to actually make one.

Trent Richardson slipped out of the background to haul in his second long pass completion of the first half, a 39-yarder down to the LSU 19. The next three plays produced only 2 yards, so Shelley trotted out again to a few nervous groans from the crowd. Those turned to cheers of relief when he knocked it through, giving Alabama the lead with just under 4 minutes left in the half.

It didn't hold up.

Jordan Jefferson, who wound up taking most of the snap instead of Lee, guided the Tigers down the field, most notably on a 34-yard completion to Russell Shepard when Alabama botched its deep coverage and left only one guy to cover two receivers.

That gave LSU first-and-goal at the Alabama 8, its first serious scoring chance of the game. The Tide's defense stiffened, even after being called for holding, and LSU came uncomfortably close to running off too much time.

With 8 seconds left and one timeout remaining, the Tigers handed off to Spencer Ware from the 2. He powered into the middle of the line, tried to keep his legs going but was eventually whistled down while LSU frantically signaled for a timeout. The clock stopped with 1 second left, though the officials put an extra tick back on.

Alleman knocked through the chip shot to send the teams to the locker room tied at 3.

Richardson, a Heisman Trophy candidate, had a solid game with 23 carries for 89 yards and five catches for 80 yards. It wasn't enough to win the game, and it may not be enough to win the Heisman, either.

Jefferson did just enough, completing 6 of 10 passes for 67 yards and running 11 times for 43 yards.

Alabama no longer controls its own fate in the race to get to the title game.

LSU took care of that.

"Whoever the folks are who make those decisions will make those decisions based on the full body of work of every team in the country and choose which teams are the best," Saban said. "I really can't speculate on a hypothetical situation and it's really not our focus right now, anyway."

Sunday
LSU-Bama Preview: Who is QB AJ McCarron?
Monday
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tiger Offense
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tide Offense
LSU-Bama Preview: Bama's "New" Stadium
Point/Counterpoint: McCarron v. Mathieu et al
Tuesday
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tiger Defense
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tide Defense
LSU-Bama Preview: Famous Two QB Programs
LSU-Bama Preview: Life Without Julio
Point/Counterpoint: LSU's QBs v. Bama's D
Wednesday
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tiger Special Teams
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tide Special Teams
LSU-Bama Preview: Bama Before/After Saban
Point/Counterpoint: Les v. Saban's LSU Legacy

Follow Live Tweets For LSU-Alabama ... http://twitter.com/CFBNews 

LSU (8-0) at Alabama (8-0) Nov. 5, 8:00, CBS

Here’s The Deal … If this isn’t the 2011 national championship, it’ll be the biggest piece to the puzzle.

Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State will likely be another part of the equation, and Oregon vs. Stanford will be important, but for all intents and purposes, no matter how this shakes out, the winner will be the unquestioned No. 1 team in the country and the overwhelming favorite to blow through the five remaining games on the slate – assuming an SEC title berth, a win, and a spot in the BCS Championship – while the loser will likely finish no worse than fourth in the final BCS rankings, and barring an LSU upset to Arkansas or an Alabama clunker against Auburn, will be likely end up in the Sugar Bowl.

So head-and-shoulders above the fray are these two that much of the talk isn’t about who’ll win, but how likely a rematch will be on January 9th. Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Boise State are all very good, but so far, there’s no question and no argument that LSU and Alabama are the two best teams in college football after the first two months of the year.

For all the concern surrounding quarterback Jordan Jefferson’s role in a bar fight, and for all the drama and speculation of major problems this August, LSU hasn’t missed a beat. In a good way, this has been a cocky, confident bully of a team that treats adversity by slugging opponents in the mouth with a bruising running game, and stopping offenses when absolutely needed on defense. So far the Tigers have toyed with their prey, and then when it’s time to end the fun, it’s a swift death.

LSU made its national title statement right away with BCS Championship-level matchup against Oregon, who was held to just 95 rushing yards and was blown away by the third quarter. Since then, it’s been a seven-game run of dominance, but there have been a few minor things to nitpick over.

West Virginia threw way too easily when LSU took its foot off the gas in the 47-21 Tiger win. The final score looks impressive, but Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith threw for 463 yards and two scores. He had the game there for the taking after leading the way to a touchdown late in the third to cut the lead to 27-21, but LSU decided to start playing again, Morris Claiborne took the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to spark a run of 20 unanswered points.

The win over Mississippi State was a slugfest, with LSU only up 9-6 going into the fourth quarter, but the outcome was never really in doubt; the Tiger defense didn’t give up a thing, and the offense was in total command, despite the lack of points.

But for all the efficiency on offense and for all the toughness and dominance on defense, there’s a chance that the LSU résumé looks a lot better on paper than in reality. As it turns out, beating Mississippi State and West Virginia on the road really isn’t that big a deal, and beating Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn by a combined score of 124 to 28 isn’t really like beating Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn by a combined score of 124 to 28. Instead of facing Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning, and Cam Newton, the Tigers dealt with Jacoby Brissett, Matt Simms, and Clint Moseley. Basically, the SEC sort of stinks this year, and blowing through it isn’t that big a deal.

Alabama has also fattened up on a boatload of teams with big names and no games. The Tide D knocked out John Brantley in the Florida game, and held the Gator attack to 157 yards of total offense after giving up a 65-yard touchdown in the opening minute. Tennessee is a mess offensively without Tyler Bray, Penn State is as soft an 8-1 as an 8-1 Big Ten team can be, and Kent State, North Texas, Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss are Kent State, North Texas, Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss.

However, Alabama blew out an Arkansas team that’s probably the third-best team in the conference and is just good enough to finish no worse than 10-2 – with a possible regular-season finale loss to LSU. The Tigers’ win over Oregon can’t be dismissed, either. Outside of Texas Tech’s win over Oklahoma, that victory over a Duck team that might end up winning the Pac-12 title and could finish up 12-1 was the best anyone has come up with.

And now the hype is off the charts. A No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown is always a big deal, and they’re always memorable, but not since the 1991 Miami win over Florida State – not counting conference championships – has the game actually determined the national championship.

No. 1 vs. No. 2 has happened in the regular season just 22 times since 1943, and many of them count among the greatest games in college football history. This one has all the makings of being special, too. The season won’t be over once the clock hits 0:00, but it’ll sure seem like it.

Why LSU Might Win: Quarterback experience.

The better quarterback hasn’t always won the 1 vs. 2 battle in recent years, but not since the 1991 Miami-Florida State game has the matchup been so dead-even across the board between two teams so similar in style and substance. They both have great lines; they both have NFL talent to burn; they both have tremendous running games. The one key difference between the two is that LSU has a quarterback who’s been around for years, and Alabama’s starting quarterback is playing in just his ninth game as a starter.

It’s not like LSU’s Jarrett Lee is Aaron Rodgers and Alabama is starting Tim Tebow, but Lee has been cool as a cucumber all season long as the unheralded caretaker of a team that doesn’t need 300 yard passing days, but needs a game-manager, in the positive way, to make a third down throw once in a while, keep the mistakes to a minimum, and take advantage of mismatches. Lee is playing his best football at just the right time, completing 72% of his throws over the last three games with six touchdown passes and now picks. On the year, he has given away just one interception against Mississippi State with 13 touchdown passes, and while he won’t hit 13-of-17 throws like he did against Tennessee, it’ll be the ones he misses on – putting them in the stands or going to the safe outlet pass – that’ll help keep the team in the game.

On the flip side, AJ McCarron has also been terrific lately, with a pick against Tennessee last week the only once since the season opener. But again, Lee is the crustier veteran, and he has an experienced relief pitcher in Jefferson waiting to come in and give the Tide D a different look. Alabama’s Phillip Sims might be a tremendous talent, but for a game of this magnitude it’ll be McCarron or bust.

On the other side, the Alabama defensive front is about to get shoved for the first time all season long. The Tide might have the No. 1 defense in America, and it’s only allowing 45 rushing yards per game, but that’s partly because it’s played just one team - Penn State - that can run a lick. The Nittany Lions gained just 107 yards, but Bama was able to tee off knowing the miserable passing game wasn’t going to be a problem.

Alabama has been terrific all year at hanging on to the ball and winning the time of possession battle, but LSU is even better, keeping it for close to 34 minutes per game and able to crank out long, bruising drives with one of the best offensive lines in the country. Basically, Alabama’s lines are phenomenal, but LSU’s might be better.

Why Alabama Might Win: Bobby Knight once famously quipped, “I was worried about losing until I looked down the floor and saw Dale Brown. Then I knew we had a chance.”

The two teams are nearly dead-even talent-wise, so in a game like this, the difference might be the coaching, the little things, and who makes the big mistake first.

If one of the two teams is going to get flaky at the wrong time, which one do you think it’ll be?

Remember, LSU, including the Nick Saban years, hasn’t gone undefeated since 1958, and while the program has been phenomenal under Les Miles, no team in college football has had more bizarre finishes, more wacky moments, and more flat-out luck in key times. In fact, under Miles, LSU has never lost fewer than two games, even in years when it had as much talent or more than everyone on the schedule – like 2007. Basically, if everything else is even, and you had to pick one of the two coaching staffs you’d want to win the Game of the Millennium, which one would you choose?

LSU doesn’t necessarily have a problem with penalties, but it’s 79th in the nation in sins committing 52, or an average of 6.5 per game, while Bama is air-tight, ranking second in the nation behind Navy with just 27 penalties for just 29.5 yards per game.

Again, especially at home, the small things might make all the difference. Alabama is terrific on third downs, converting 51% of its chances, while LSU is just a bit worse, but still great, converting 46% of the time. Bama is second in the nation in third down conversion defense, allowing teams to connect just 26.5% of the time, while LSU is just a bit worse, allowing offenses to click on 32.46% of the chances.

LSU’s offense is ultra-efficient and ultra-effective, taking chances at the right times and using its brutish offensive front to help maintain a nearly perfect balance. However, special teams and big defensive plays have helped turn games into routs more than anything the offense usually does. Alabama’s attack averages 85 yards per game more than LSU’s. The Tigers turned the Oregon game around with a fumble return for a score, they broke open the Kentucky game with another fumble return for a touchdown, and Morris Claiborne broke West Virginia’s heart with a kickoff return for a score.

With 18 takeaways and an aggressive, opportunistic group of playmakers on defense and special teams, LSU wins with the game-changing mistake from the other side.

Alabama doesn’t make game-changing mistakes.

What To Watch Out For: This is the matchup college football fans have been waiting for, but it’s the game the NFL scouts have been drooling over.

By rough calculations, Alabama will field at least 15 players who’ll end up getting drafted, and four in running back Trent Richardson, corner Dre Kirkpatrick, safety Mark Barron, and outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, that could be the first players taken at their respective positions in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Even more frightening, one NFL scout intimated that all 11 LSU defensive starters could see time in a pro camp at some point. If Kirkpatrick is the No. 1 corner prospect, Tiger defensive back Morris Claiborne could be No. 1A. However, while the two teams all have around the same number of pro prospects, Alabama has the more elite ones. LSU is loaded with players who’ll make NFL rosters. Alabama is loaded with players who’ll start.

Of all the elite talents on the field, no one can up his stock more than LSU junior receiver Reuben Randle. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he has the size, and while he’s not a blazer, he checks in at around a 4.6 and can get down the field. Last year he came up with the defining moment in the 24-21 win over the Tide with a 75-yard touchdown catch midway through the third quarter, and he caught a key two-point conversion midway through the fourth. He’s been everything for the Tiger passing game, catching 33 passes for 638 yards and seven touchdowns with three 100-yard games on the season and four of his touchdown catches in the last three games. The LSU offense isn’t going to get the ball in his hands ten times, but the key will be whether or not he can get by Kirkpatrick and company for around six key catches that move the chains and keep the safeties off the running game.

For Alabama, this needs to be the time when Trent Richardson’s Heisman campaign gets rolling. It’s a dead year for the Heisman, with Andrew Luck the front-runner mainly because of his pro potential. Compared to some of the other top backs, the stats aren’t there, but Richardson has six 100-yard games and 17 touchdowns, highlighted by his electrifying 183-yard, four score day against Ole Miss. Last year he only ran for 28 yards on six carries against the Tigers, but he got banged up. Healthy as a freshman, he was limited to just 27 yards on six carries. This year, if he doesn’t hit the 75-yard mark, Alabama probably can’t win.

What Will Happen: LSU is just a bit better. There’s more of a swagger on defense, and there’s more of a physical style on offense. The Lee/Jefferson combination will be a little bit better than McCarron, and the LSU running back combo of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford will hold serve against the Bama 1-2 punch of Richardson and Eddie Lacy.

In the end, it’ll come down to whichever team controls the turnover margin. LSU is No. 2 in the nation behind Oklahoma State at a +1.88 per game, while Alabama is +0.75. Both teams are stingy with the ball, both teams are efficient, and both teams are physical. LSU is just a little bit better at all three.

Demand a classic.

CFN Prediction: LSU 20 … Alabama 16
- Click For Latest Line From ATS:  Alabama -5    O/U: 42.5

Sunday
LSU-Bama Preview: Who is QB AJ McCarron?
Monday
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tiger Offense
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tide Offense
LSU-Bama Preview: Bama's "New" Stadium
Point/Counterpoint: McCarron v. Mathieu et al
Tuesday
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tiger Defense
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tide Defense
LSU-Bama Preview: Famous Two QB Programs
LSU-Bama Preview: Life Without Julio
Point/Counterpoint: LSU's QBs v. Bama's D
Wednesday
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tiger Special Teams
LSU-Bama Preview: The Tide Special Teams
LSU-Bama Preview: Bama Before/After Saban
Point/Counterpoint: Les v. Saban's LSU Legacy

- Get Tickets For This Game

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