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5 Thoughts On Who Wins The Rematch & Why
LSU P Brad Wing
LSU P Brad Wing
Posted Jan 6, 2012

CFN's SEC Bloggers each give their pick for Monday night's BCS championship game winner, and the chief reason it the likely reasons including quarterback play and coaching, to the less expected, like punt coverage and Special Teams.

Barrett Sallee: Winner: LSU - With Jordan Jefferson

Coming into the season, Jordan Jefferson was as heavily criticized in Baton Rouge as Jamie Howard was following the 1994 LSU/Auburn game. But since Jefferson took over for an ineffective Jarrett Lee in the middle of the first “Game of the Century,” LSU’s offense has clicked better than it has all season.

Just look at the numbers. The Tiger offense eclipsed the 450 total yard mark in precisely one game before Jefferson reclaimed the starting quarterback role. Since Nov. 5, they’ve gone north of 450 yards in three of their final four games. Efficiency-wise, he’s comparable to Lee, and brings the added dimension of the running game, which was a big benefit for LSU the last time these two teams met.

While most of the matchups in the BCS National Championship Game mirror each other, the one that stands out is the fact that LSU has a playmaker at quarterback. The last time I checked, that’s a pretty important position - even in defensive slugfests.

Russ Mitchell: Winner: LSU - Punting

It was my most important reason for the first game, and not surprisingly, a few weeks later it’s still the number one reason: Punting. Behind the freshman leg of Brad Wing, the Tigers’ punt coverage team is as much responsible for LSU’s success this season as any other unit. That’s not a joke - it’s a cold, hard fact.

Through 13 games against eight ranked teams - more than half on the road or at a neutral site - LSU’s punt coverage has allowed six net yards. Not six yards per game...six yards TOTAL. For 13 games. 57 punts.

And that’s against some of the best returners in the game. Guys like Arkansas’ Joe Adams, the nation’s second best punt returner, WVU’s Tavon Austin (#6), Bama’s Marquis Maze (#11), Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks (#23), Georgia’s Brandon Boykin...

Six yards.

In the first game, Wing had six punts - Alabama didn’t have a single return yard. Wing’s average per punt was artificially deflated given four of his six boots were pooch punts downed inside the 20, but anyone that remembers his 73 yard rainmaker out of the end zone with nine minutes to play in a tied game understands his importance.

Saban may punt more the second time around, instead of forcing his kickers to try field goals outside of their range. And in a defensive struggle, you would expect that. Punting equals field position - and in defensive battles, field position is King. From a net punting perspective, LSU has one of the best punters in the nation, while Bama’s is near the bottom of the conference.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. LSU’s punt returner? Some kid named Badger, Honey. Currently the third best in the nation, and only Adams has more touchdowns.

In a game full of future NFL super stars, something like punting isn't very glamorous, but facts often aren’t. Stellar punt coverage is the primary reason LSU will beat Bama. Again.

Brian Harbach: Winner: LSU - Les Miles

A common opinion regarding the "SEC" National Championship Game is how difficult it's going to be for LSU to beat Alabama twice in one season. There is a lot of merit to this discussion, but the real SEC Championship is an excellent precedent to review when it comes to rematches. There have been six rematches of regular season games in the authentic SEC Championship Game. Five of them have been won by the team that won the regular season game. Conveniently enough, that one regular season loss was avenged by, you guessed it, LSU in 2001 - however, Nick Saban was the Head Coach.

Even with Saban being the lone man to reverse a trend in rematches in the SECCG, Les Miles is the reason that LSU will win the National Championship this year. Miles is a master of preparation. His loose and calm attitude rubs off on the players, who in turn seem very relaxed in the toughest of situations. Rarely does Miles lose games when he has time to prepare and against Saban he is 3-0 when he has a bye before coaching against Nick.

For so many years Miles was viewed as a goofball who was lucky to win with another coaches players. Years later it is obviously not the case. Miles knows football, he knows how to beat Alabama and he knows how to prepare for BCS games. There is no difference in the talent between these two teams, but there is a difference in coaching styles. Neither style is intrinsically better than the other, but in situations like this Miles may have the upper hand. The calm that Miles exudes is enough to take the pressure out of the game for his players. Miles goofy style will take his team to BCS Championship glory...again.

Gabe Harris: Winner: LSU - Special Teams

This is an easy one. When you have two evenly matched or similar teams then the difference is almost always who plays better in special teams. We’ve seen it already several times this bowl season with the Outback, Fiesta and Sugar Bowls coming down to who played better in the kicking game.

There is not a team playing better special teams top to bottom than LSU. Tyrann Mathieu is a game-changer as a punt returner who can flip the field multiple times, and has been worth a first down and a half this season averaging 16.2 yards per punt return to go along with three special teams touchdowns (one on punt coverage). LSU is ranked higher than Alabama in punt return average and kickoff coverage, which will make a big difference in the field position battle.

While Alabama has good returners to potentially match LSU, like Marquis Maze, the place kicking game is where LSU will win the BCS National Championship just as they did in LSU-Alabama, Part 1. LSU leads the SEC in field goal percentage while Alabama is ranked #9, and I don’t even need to expound on the confidence level of Alabama’s kickers after the first game between these two. At the other end of the confidence spectrum you have P Brad Wing and K Drew Alleman. Wing is 3rd in the SEC in punting average and is 6 yards per punt ahead of Alabama’s Cody Mandell. Alleman leads the SEC in FG percentage as he only missed 2 FGs all year.

This game is going to come down to special teams, and in that respect, there isn’t a team in the country I’d rather have with the game on the line than LSU.

David Sweigart: Winner: LSU - Tigers Will Out Rush Bama

For the year, both teams averaged more than 200 yards per game on the ground and just 3.7 yards separate Alabama and LSU in total rushing yards per game. Both teams rely heavily on a strong power running game as a focal point of their offensive game plan. Alabama mainly counts on the legs of Trent Richardson with Eddie Lacy providing some quality reps. LSU counters with their Four Horsemen; Spencer Ware, Kenny Hilliard, Alfred Blue, Michael Ford.

Going back to the first meeting, it was LSU that out rushed Alabama by 52 yards. In the 2010 game, LSU more than doubled Alabama on the ground and broke the 200 yard mark on the Tide defense. It should therefore come as no surprise that LSU has won both of the last two meetings between these two, because of the Tigers' willingness and effectiveness to be successful on the ground. Les Miles is 5-2 against Alabama as the head coach of LSU, and in four of those five wins, LSU has out rushed Alabama. LSU has out rushed Alabama in every win that has come vs. a Nick Saban defense as well.

With the Tigers having so many equally effective options in the backfield, they are able to ground and pound opposing defenses in ways that cater to the running style of each back while always staying fresh for a full 60 minutes at that position. It is also worth mentioning that since the first match up, Jordan Jefferson and Kenny Hilliard have become important pieces for LSU on offense, only making the LSU attack more vicious and dangerous.

When the clock reads 00:00 and LSU is crowned the BCS National Champions, the box score will show that LSU was the more successful team on the ground.

Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @RussMitchelCFB, Brian Harbach @HarbachCFN, Gabe Harris @gpharris Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee and David Sweigart @DMS225.