Why LSU Will Win The National Title
Ten reasons why the Tide will win the rematch on Monday.
- Why Alabama Will Win
Teams always seem to take on the personalities of their head coaches, and the same goes for these two. Nick Saban might try to open up a bit when features in TV pieces and in interviews, but he’s one of the hardest-edged coaches in sports, for good and bad. On the plus side, his no-nonsense, business-like approach helps properly prepare players for life in the NFL, and his style tends to work perfectly for a football factory in a place deadly serious about football like Alabama.
Les Miles is serious, too. He just doesn’t show it 24 hours a day.
Miles is an eccentric, outgoing type who might not always say the right things and might come across as a bit goofy at times, but he’s also extremely confident and as fearless as any coach in college football. While he doesn’t come across as a bully, that’s the attitude he’s instilled in his team, and with his confidence and believing in who he’s coaching, there’s no worrying and no panicking no matter what the situation. He has playmakers across the board, and he’s the type who believes that somehow, some way, his team will find a way to make it happen. At 13-0, his players know it, too.
If either team is going to be tight, it’s going to be Alabama.
9. The Fastball
Alabama got tricked the first time around, waiting for the goofy play that never came. It was as if Saban and the Tide coaching staff outthought themselves at times, and with more than a month to prepare, the pressure to make sure Miles doesn’t strike with one of his gimmicks will be greater than ever.
More than that, though, Alabama will likely try to do more with its gameplan. It’s more in Miles’ personality to run his team out on the field and let it do what it does. Of course there will be adjustments and added wrinkles from the first time around, but for the most part, LSU and Miles will basically be daring Alabama to turn on the fastball. There won’t be any secrets to what LSU wants to do, and it’s going to dare the Tide to win by being the better team.
On the other side, Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart are almost certainly going to dial up the pressure with changes in the scheme, while the Tide offense knows it might have to open things up a bit more than it did the first time around. In other words, Alabama will have to change a bit to win this game, while LSU might be able to win it by simply being LSU.
8. Home Field Advantage
Alabama will be well represented in the Mercedez-Bend Superdome, but make no mistake about it; this will be like an LSU home game.
It’s New Orleans, and right now it’s all about the Saints and the Tigers in the center of the football universe at the moment. Alabama is used to dealing with hostile environments, and the Superdome won’t be Death Valley, but there’s clearly a home team in this neutral site game.
Crowd noise isn’t going to be the difference if Alabama loses, and being away from home actually suits the business-like attitude of the Tide, but this makes up for the first game being in Tuscaloosa.
Oregon might have lost to USC in a wild home shootout, but a reasonable case could be made that it could be the second best team in a playoff format. The speed on the outside and the option-like attack would work well against a Tide defense that struggled with LSU running wide and had a nightmare of a time early against Georgia Southern’s attack.
This was a national title-level Duck team that was held to just 95 rushing yards in the opening day loss, as its potent offense had to rely on the passing game to try loosening up a Tiger defense that didn’t allow a thing.
LSU not only beat the Rose Bowl champs, but it didn’t panic in wins over Orange Bowl champion West Virginia. The Tigers roared back to beat Georgia, and it had no problems flying past Arkansas. In all, they beat eight bowl teams – including Alabama – and six bowl winners. They came up with the plays they needed in overtime to beat the Tide and showed they could overcome their errors – like the two Jarrett Lee picks in the first game. Under pressure situations, Alabama, who played only one close game all year, hasn’t proven it can come through.
Alabama beat Arkansas at home, and the biggest road win of the year came in a struggle at Penn State. The Tide will end up playing seven bowl teams, too, but the résumé wins aren’t there.
6. Brad Wing
Alabama isn’t going to go on many 10-play, 83-yard scoring marches against the LSU defense. The Tide points will come off of turnovers – if there are any – and winning the special teams battle to tilt the field to one side. LSU punter Brad Wing might not let that happen.
The Australian had a brilliant season, averaging 44.1 yards per kick while putting 23 inside the 20 and banging out 18 punts of 50 yards or more. Throw in the phenomenal LSU punt coverage team that allowed an average of 0.4 yards per try, and it’ll be easier said than done for Alabama to play much on the other side of the field.
Wing was the unsung star the first time around, putting four of his six kicks inside the 20 and screwing up Alabama time and again. He has a huge leg and can get the team out of jams when needed, and as he showed against Florida, he’s athletic enough to come up with the trick play that Bama will be waiting for. At the very least, he’s making the Tide worry about whether or not he’ll take off, and that’s enough.
5. Drew Alleman
Talk about icing the kicker, Alabama’s placekickers have been waiting for two months to make a truly meaningful kick.
Unlike in most big games decided by big misses from the kickers, no one with a brain blamed Alabama’s loss in the first game only on kickers Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster. Foster missed from 44, 50, and 52 yards out – hardly layups – and hit from 46 yards away, while Shelley got a 49-yarder blocked and hit from 34.
The general rule is that elite college kickers with NFL futures should never miss from inside 50 yards, while everyone else isn’t allowed to miss from inside 40. Foster has a big leg and Shelley is good, but it’s throwing out a prayer to ask for a 52-yarder in overtime.
However, they were the storyline the first time around with the misses changing the tenor of the game. Foster hasn’t been accurate from deep this year, but he has the ability to do it. Saban won’t give him the chance, though, likely to pooch punt it instead of going for long bombs again, and that changes the overall gameplan. Against mediocre teams it’s okay to take a chance on a long field goal, but Saban isn’t going to make that mistake again. Meanwhile, will Tide fans feel comfortable is Shelley has to connect on a 39-yarder in crunch time? The jury is still out.
LSU doesn’t have any worries. Drew Alleman doesn’t have the biggest leg, but he’s not asked to bomb away, missing his one chance from 50 yards out. He’s rock-solid from 40 yards and in, hitting his last ten attempts including three against Alabama. LSU isn’t going to ask him to come up with a 52-yard try, because it hasn’t had to all year.
4. Alabama’s Receiving Corps Should Be Shut Down
The LSU defensive backs vs. the Alabama receivers is the biggest unit gap in the game, and since the Tide likely has to throw to win, that could be a problem.
Tide senior Marquis Maze will be drafted. He’s not all that big, but he has good 4.4 speed and he’s the team’s lone gamebreaking receiving threat. While he’ll get a tryout in a pro camp, he’s a late round draft pick at best and will hardly be a sure thing to stick on a roster.
Meanwhile, three LSU defensive backs are going to be first round picks. Corner Morris Claiborne will probably go in the top ten overall if and when he choose to come out this year. Sophomore free safety Eric Reid will be a first rounder whenever he’s ready, and Tyrann Mathieu will almost certainly be a top 20 pick next year if he chooses to bolt. Throw in senior strong safety Brandon Taylor, a likely top free agent pickup after the draft ends, and the Tigers have the best secondary in America.
3. LSU’s Option
LSU knows that Alabama knows that LSU knows.
Jordan Jefferson was just getting into the swing of things again in the first game, but when he ran wide and the Tigers used a little option, the offense moved the ball. The option also worked for Georgia Southern, who came up with 302 yards on the ground as it got to the outside time and again to come up with nice gain after nice gain.
The option has been an angle played up enough that Alabama of course is going to be looking out for it, and LSU is of course going to have to try to see if it works. Meanwhile, LSU is at its best when its terrific offensive line is pounding away on defensive fronts. While Alabama’s three-man line isn’t going to give an inch, the more the linebackers have to keep an eye out for plays to the outside, the more chances will be for the wave of Tiger running backs to find room to move at the second level. Again, Alabama has to gameplan more for LSU than LSU has to gameplan for Alabama. The Tide has to do more adjusting, and that’s not a plus.
And then there’s the possibility that LSU runs the option and the thing works no matter what Alabama does. Jefferson isn’t exactly Jamelle Holieway, but he’s good at making the read and stretching the field for the attack.
2. Literally, LSU Is A “Damn Strong” Football Team
Wisconsin has the most physical offensive line in college football, but LSU’s might have been better. In game after game, the Tiger running attack became Mariano Rivera, closing things out with frightening effectiveness and efficiency. All of a sudden, LSU’s offense would go from being a trickle to a full blown dam break with the line taking control.
It even happened a bit against Alabama, especially in overtime. The Tide was a bit down after the missed field goal, and then boom … it was as if LSU’s line sensed a weakness and paved the way to set up the game-winning kick.
But it’s not just the offensive line. The defensive tackles are rocks; the secondary is elite; and the linebackers can fly. The special teams are special; the running backs are all productive; and Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard are NFL-caliber receivers – at least Randle is – with the ability to make big plays at any time. Even Jefferson, arguably the team’s weakest link, is a veteran who knows how to run the offense. This is a complete team.
Alabama has more high-end stars and better NFL prospects, but LSU is stronger from top to bottom, unit to unit. This is the most talented team LSU has ever fielded, and it’s far better than the two recent national champions. This Alabama team is phenomenal, but the 2009 version was better.
1. Les Miles Is A “Damn Strong” Football Coach
Ask 100 different coaches who they’d rather have – Saban or Miles – to coach the Game To Save Mankind, and 99.5 of them would pick Saban. He commands that much respect, and he’s considered the Belichick-like gold standard for game preparation and teaching.
But Miles has been better, going 3-0 against Saban when he gets extra time, winning in 2007, 2010, and 2011.
Miles might be known mostly for being a top-shelf recruiter, but he and his staff are producing with the talent. Just having a ton of great players doesn’t always ensure success – as Texas, Florida, and Ohio State showed this year.
Yes, Miles is absolutely an elite head coach, and yes, even if LSU loses he’s still among the best. This program isn’t going away, and it seems like a mortal lock that Miles – either on Monday night or at some point in the next few years – will become a multiple national title winner and will become legendary.