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Here We Go Again - Alabama vs. LSU

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Oct 31, 2012


Week 10 Fearless Predictions & Game Story - Alabama at LSU

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Alabama (8-0) at LSU (7-1) Nov. 3, 8:00, CBS

Here’s The Deal: This year, really, it will be the only time these two play.

When LSU and Alabama squared off last season in their titanic regular season matchup, everyone knew it was for the national championship.

Oklahoma State was dangerous, Oregon and Stanford were good, and Wisconsin was a steamroller, but there was LSU, there was Alabama, and with all due respect to Arkansas, there was everyone else. The Tigers and the Tide were playing at a whole other level.

Of course, in the end, the regular season 9-6 thriller didn’t matter a lick – LSU won that game and all it amounted to was a lousy 2012 SEC Champion t-shirt – and Alabama finished the year holding up the crystal egg-looking thing in New Orleans with all the confetti flying.

This season, LSU already lost to Florida and has been as underwhelming as a 7-1 team with wins over Texas A&M, Washington and South Carolina can be, but everything can change with another regular season victory. Losing at Florida this year is more than acceptable, especially considering the 14-6 game could’ve gone either way, and LSU will go from being the best of the one-loss teams in the current BCS rankings into the national championship discussion if it can make amends for its 2012 BCS championship clunker. The Tigers are ranked fifth, and would at least move up to fourth with a win, and most likely a lot higher considering just how much respect Alabama is getting at the moment.

Can a one-loss LSU push out an unbeaten Oregon, Notre Dame or Kansas State to finish in the top two of the BCS rankings? That’s still several steps down the road, and there are still dangerous games against Mississippi State and Ole Miss coming up, along with an SEC championship game if everything goes right, but getting by the Tide would be a big start to change the narrative of the 2012 season.

Alabama has won 21 of its last 22 games with the lone loss coming to the Tigers last season. This year, everyone keeps waiting for the hiccup, and everyone is trying to find the chink it the armor, but this is the most focused and sharpest team in college football, blowing through everyone and everything in its path without even a split-second of doubt about the outcome in any game.

No, the Tide hasn’t dealt with a Florida or a South Carolina like LSU has, but Michigan, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Mississippi State are all solid teams that came out throwing their best shots, and they didn’t even make a dent.

Western Kentucky will go bowling, and it couldn’t move the ball a lick. Arkansas might have been down and demoralized, but it still has offensive talent and it was embarrassed at home. Missouri might be a disappointment, but getting up 28-0 in the first half in Columbia is what a national title-level team is supposed to do.

Style points don’t matter in any way for either team. All Alabama has to do is win, and it’s going to be the unquestioned No. 1 team in the country the rest of the way. All LSU has to do is win, and it’s going to get all the juice that comes from knocking the big bully off the throne.

So yeah, this might really be the 2012 national championship. And this time, winning the regular season showdown will matter.

Why Alabama Might Win: The team has not only risen up to every challenge, but it has done so with cold efficiency and effectiveness. Alabama has to replace a ton of defensive talent and might need a while to gel – Alabama 41, Michigan 14. The defense hasn’t faced a team that can throw a forward pass – Alabama 44, Tennessee 13. Mississippi State was unbeaten and might have the right mix to pull off the upset – Alabama 38, Mississippi State 7. Alabama hasn’t faced a killer defense like LSU’s – why wouldn’t you think that the Tide can adapt and answer the next question mark? With the possible exception of Oregon so far, no team has been as sharp, as focused, or as driven so far this season. Everyone likes to yell about teams like Texas and USC that don’t play up to their talent level, but Alabama maximizes everything it has with devastating results.

Does LSU have another level? Georgia had the talent and the ability, but it didn’t bring the energy or the toughness until last week against Florida. LSU is LSU. The Saturday night, big game, Death Valley atmosphere might account for a little bit of a spike, but cheering fans won’t make Zach Mettenberger more accurate. Alabama has been getting to the quarterback more often than normal, but it’s not going to do anything fancy to tee off into the backfield. The nation’s No. 1 pass defense kept Tennessee’s Tyler Bray to 184 yards and no touchdowns with two picks, and on the year, even with teams needing to bomb away to try to stay alive in blowouts, Bama has allowed just three touchdown passes with 14 picks. This isn’t going to be the week Mettenberger turns into Drew Brees.

Why LSU Might Win: The Tiger defense can get to A.J. McCarron. The Tide quarterback leads the nation in passing efficiency, and he has been extremely effective when he gets his chances to let the plays develop, but he’s also getting beaten up with a knee injury and a back problem. The bumps and bruises haven’t mattered so far, but he’s about to be under more pressure than he has seen all season long. The deep passes aren’t going to be there against a defense that’s second in the nation in pass efficiency D, and while Alabama might lead the country allowing just 146 passing yards per game, LSU is merely giving up 148.5 with 13 picks on the year and five in the last two weeks.

There’s also the question of being pushed. While LSU made some of its own problems against Auburn and Towson, it has spent the last six weeks struggling through battle after battle. The Tigers were in a war against Florida, they needed to hang on for dear life against South Carolina, and they had a dogfight two weeks ago at Texas A&M. They have played a full sixty minutes and a full four quarters ever since they blew away Idaho on September 15th. This is a tested team that knows it can come through in the clutch, and it’s also rested after getting two weeks off to take a little bit of a deep breath. Florida might be the only other team in America with the lines and the ability to hang punch for punch in a physical fight with the Tide, and LSU should be able to hold its own.

What To Watch Out For: Zach, just complete a few third down throws. No one is expecting much out of Mettenberger, but not moving the chains against the Alabama defense equals a quick and painful death. LSU has had a big, big problem going on long drives, converting just 37.7% of its third down chances. Alabama converts 45% of its tries, and the Tide D is fourth in the nation on third downs. Mettenberger isn’t going to throw for 300 yards, and he’s not going to hit 20-of-23 passes, but he has to be effective. He has to avoid the big mistakes, and he can’t go 11-of-29 for 97 yards with a score like he did against Texas A&M. Over the brutal three-game stretch against the Aggies, Florida and South Carolina, he only completed 43% of his throws with one scoring pass and two interceptions. The LSU coaching staff can’t hide its passing game this week; Mettenberger has to be solid.

Mettenberger’s counterpart might be getting hit, but McCarron is working behind the best offensive line in college football. The Tide front five is loaded with veteran pro prospects who work as a well-oiled machine for the ground game. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, left guard Chance Warmack, center Barrett Jones, right guard Anthony Steen and right tackle D.J. Fluker still have room to improve in pass protection, but unlike LSU, who came into the year with a supremely talented offensive line that’s gone through a slew of problems, the overall consistency has been a huge key to the team’s success. Now it’s about to get challenged.

What Will Happen: Business as usual. Another week, another team jacked up to take down the No. 1, another big letdown. LSU has the defensive front to hold the speed and power of the Alabama running game in check, and it certainly has the ability to get to the quarterback, but McCarron has been here before. The term game manager will be thrown around more than a few drives as he’s patient, calm, and unrattled even when LSU comes up with a few big plays. The Tigers will get nasty and physical, trying to blast away on the Alabama defensive front that has yet to be punched. However, no one moves nose guard Jesse Williams from the middle, and the ground attack won’t be enough to overcome a miserable day from Mettenberger.

CFN Prediction: Alabama 27 … LSU 13
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Alabama -9.5 O/U: 42
Must Watch Rating (5 – The Man With The Iron Fists, 1 – Election coverage until Tuesday morning): 5