BCS National Championship: Everything You Need to Know About LSU vs. Alabama
the 2012 BCS National Championship Game has already garnered several nicknames from the "Game of the Century II" to the "Mulligan Bowl". However, at the end of the game, like it or not, we will have crowned the 2011 National Champions.
Coming into the season there were two questions surrounding this game. First, would another SEC school win the national championship? Secondly, who would be the first SEC team to lose. By a strange twist of fate the streak will continue and an SEC team will lose in the national championship game for the first time in BCS history.
The question now remains, who will be the team that helps the streak continue the streak and who will be the first SEC team to lose?
14th Annual BCS National Championship Game
When: Monday, Jan. 9
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. EST
Where: New Orleans, LA
Site: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Radio: ESPN Radio
Streaming: ESPN3.com, LSUSports.net
History of the BCS National Championship Game
At the completion of the 1998 season, the first ever BSS championship game was held at Sun Devils Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. Prior to the 1998 season, the Big Ten and Pac-12 had chosen not to participate in the then called Bowl Alliance System in an attempt to preserve the tradition of the Rose Bowl matchup.
As a result, the previous system could not guarantee a No.1 and No.2. Now with the Rose Bowl in the mix, college football was at least closer to naming a national champion. Coincidently, a Big Ten or Pac 10 team did not make it into the championship game until 2004.
The University of Tennessee would win the first ever BCS championship with a 23-16 wins over Florida State. This season’s matchup between LSU and Alabama will mark the 8th time that an SEC team has won the BCS championship game in the 13 year history.
How Alabama Got Here
The Crimson Tides trip to the national championship game was one of both accomplishments and luck as well. For the most part, the Crimson Tide looked the part of their preseason No.2 ranking. Their defense has led the way and has proven themselves as one of the top defenses of the last decade.
The Alabama defense was ranked No.1 in the nation in total defense and only gave up more than 14 points one time and that was to the FCS Georgia Southern Eagles. Moreover, one of those touchdowns was the result of a kickoff return.
The offense was led by Heisman finalist Trent Richardson who ran over and past opposing defenses all season. The Tides combination of a lights out defense and a blue collar offense led to them being undefeated in regulation and only losing their only game to the No.1 ranked LSU Tigers.
It was not a perfect season, but it was pretty close.
How LSU Got Here
LSU’s road to the BCS national championship was one of little resistance despite facing the nation’s toughest schedule. The Tigers defeated three teams (Oregon, Alabama, and Arkansas) that were ranked in the top three at the time of their game. They also boast three wins versus teams (West Virginia, Oregon, and Alabama) who will be playing in BCS bowls.
Not only did the Tigers defeat six teams ranked in the top 25 of the BCS final rankings but they did so in dominant fashion. LSU outscored all opponents by an average of 28 points. They also outscored six current top 25 teams 37.4 to 15.2.
If the Tigers win the BCS championship game they will go down as one of the most impressive teams in BCS history.
Alabama's Best Win
The one knock on the Alabama football resume is that they did not defeat many good football teams as only three finished the season with a winning record. As a result, their victories against Penn State, Arkansas, and Auburn stand the tallest.
Of those three games, the Arkansas game might have been the most impressive. The win against Penn State and Auburn were on the road, but the Arkansas team was their toughest opponent. The Razorbacks were able to keep the game close early but they missed too many opportunities in the first half.
Despite only trailing by 10 at halftime, the Razorbacks were dismantled in the second half. The Crimson Tide hit Razorbacks quarterback Tyler Wilson on nearly every play in the second half and the offense was efficient enough to finish Arkansas off 38-14.
LSU's Best Win
As I stated in an earlier slide, there were many big games for the Bayou Bengals. However, only one of their games against top 25 teams was close and that was the first matchup versus Alabama. Lesser teams would have folded under the pressure that the Tigers faced going into Tuscaloosa in a game pre-dubbed the “Game of the Century”.
Les Miles would have to lead the Tigers into hostile territory for a game that was receiving more hype than any other regular season game in recent memory. Moreover, three of their top players had been suspended and missed the game the prior week.
Almost every major media outlet was picking the Tide and some in a land slide.
This Tiger team remained unfazed and willed their selves to victory. Every time a play needed to be made it was the Bayou Bengals that made it. Every time Alabama gained momentum, the Tigers snatched it back.
Yes the Tigers only won the game 9-6 but too many it appeared they made the Tide lay down in overtime. Was it the game of the century? Probably not. However, it was the top win of the season for LSU.
Alabama's Bowl History
Alabama is first in the NCAA all-time in bowl wins but they are also fourth all-time in bowl losses. The Tide have an all-time bowl record of 32-22-3 with an overall winning percentage of .576.
Perhaps the most important stat for the Tide, in regards to this game, is their bowl record under Nick Saban. The Tide are 3-1 in bowl games under Saban with wins against Colorado, Texas, and Michigan State.
Their only bowl loss with Saban at the helm was the disappointing defeat at the hands of Utah in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. The Tide are 1-1 in BCS bowls during this span.
LSU's Bowl History
The LSU Tigers recent success has catapulted them to 10th in NCAA history with 22 wins. This recent surge has included them winning 12 of their last 15 bowl games.
While the Tigers have been impressive for the last two decades in bowl games, they have been their best under current coach Les Miles. The Tigers are 5-1 under Miles and 2-0 in BCS bowl games.
The Tigers lone bowl defeat under Miles was 19017 to Penn State in the 2010 Capital One Bowl.
Meet Alabama's Best Player--Trent Richardson
Although the defense is the backbone of the Crimson Tide football team, Trent Richardson is their star. Richardson is half man-half bulldozer. Few running backs in recent memory have the combination of quick feet and brute strength that Richardson does.
Richardson has 1,910 total yards and 23 total touchdowns on the season. What has been most impressive about Richardson are his yards after contact.
I cannot remember a running back in recent memory that leaves so much carnage in his path. When opposing players tackle Richardson they are slow getting up and he pops up like the Energizer Bunny.
In the first matchup, there were a few “great” plays he did not make. Most notable, the pass he missed in overtime. Yes it would a difficult play but he has to make the plays no one else could if the Tide are going to win this time around.
Meet LSU's Best Player
More than any team I have ever covered in college football, LSU does not have one player that stands above the rest. For example, Tyrann Mathieu has the distinction of being one of the rare defensive players who are invited to New York as a Heisman finalist.
However, it is not certain if he is even the best defensive back on the Tigers football team.
What makes LSU so special is their depth. Teams like Alabama have a great number of really good players but LSU has a great depth of stars. The Tigers have four running backs who could start for 85 percent of other schools.
With that said, Jordan Jefferson will be the key player of the game. His ability to run the speed option is what makes him so valuable in this game. How he plays will be the difference in this game.
Alabama's Strengths and Weaknesses
The strength of the Alabama team is clear, it is their defense. Because of their stout defense this team could be competitive with any team in the BCS era. While there are many teams that are more complete, the old saying is true—if you can’t score, you can’t win. This Alabama defense is nothing short of elite.
However, outside of their defense, they do have major flaws. Special teams plays has been horrific. In each of the last two games, the Tide has given up a long kickoff return for touchdowns. There is also the inconsistent kicking and punting teams.
The problems do not stop there. The Crimson Tide have no deep threat options at receiver. The few big plays they have made have in the passing game have been trick plays. Their starting receivers have combined for an anemic two touchdowns. Most of their passes are in the short and intermediate range.
The Tide also have a weakness that rarely shows up and that is their defense against the option. While a team can study for sets like the triple option during a bowl month, LSU runs a speed option. In other words, the linebackers will need to get faster to stop them.
If Alabama can take away the speed option their defense can make up the rest of the gap.
LSU's Strength and Weaknesses
The greatest strength of the LSU team can be found on the offense, defense, and special teams. It is their ability to create big plays at big moments. The name might change but the result remains the same—LSU makes the big plays.
The play can come in the way of a run, interceptions, special teams play, or any way they chose. However, the big play will happen.
The Tigers have few weaknesses but the inconsistency of the passing game is a concern. Jordan Jefferson played very well most of the season but was horrific in the SEC championship game. He only completed 5-of-13 passed for 30 yards and could have been picked twice.
The good news for LSU is that they have beaten Alabama with Jefferson before.
Alabama Expected Starting Lineup
QB: A.J. McCarron
RB: Trent Richardson
TE: Mike Williams
H-back: Brad Smelley
WR: Darius Hanks
WR: Marquis Maze
LT: Barrett Jones
LG: Chance Warmack
C: William Vlachos
RG: Alfred McCullough
RT: D.J. Fluker
DE: Damion Square
NG: Josh Chapman
DE: Jesse Williams
Jack: Courtney Upshaw
MLB: Dont'a Hightower
WLB: Nico Johnson
SLB: Jerrell Harris
CB: Dre Kirkpatric
CB: DeQuan Menzie
S: Mark Barron
S: Robert Lester
P: Cody Mandell
PK: Jeremy Shelley - Cade Foster
LSU Expected Lineup
QB: Jordan Jefferson
RB: Spencer Ware, Kenny Hilliard, & Alfred Blue
FB: J.C. Copeland
WR: Reuben Randle & Kadron Boone
TE: Deangelo Peterson & Chase Clement
OT: Chris Faulk & Alex Hurst
OG: La'el Collins & Will Blackwell
C: P.J. Lonergan
DE: Ken Adams & Sam Montgomery, Lavar Edwards
DT: Josh Downs & Anthony Johnson, Michael Brockers
Weakside LB: Ryan Baker
MLB: Kevin Minter, Karnell Hatcher
Strongside LB: Stefoin Francois
CB: Mo Claiborne & Tyrann Mathieu, Tharold Simon
FS: Eric Reid
SS: Branden Taylor
Key Matchup: Barrett Jones Versus Sam Montgomery
Barrett Jones is a fine football player and an even better man. He will likely have a solid NFL career and has had a fantastic college career. However, on November 5th, 2011 he was absolutely owned by LSU defensive lineman Sam Montgomery.
Montgomery’s ability to manhandle Jones cannot happen again or it will be a long night for the Tide. Moreover, if the Tide are forced to double team Montgomery the Tigers are going to have someone else freed up to dominate the game.
While it is true Jones was banged up, Montgomery presents a bad matchup in general for Jones. It was Jones that felt the need to state on Sportscenter, “"This game is for more than revenge, it's about restoring order."
Jones needs to look in the mirror to see why the order changed.
In the “Game of the Century I” I chose LSU to win by three. While I got the overall score wrong the deficit was correct. Since that time, LSU has improved dramatically and Alabama has improved slightly.
While I believe Alabama is likely the second best team in the nation because of their defense, the Tigers are the clear No.1.
In the first game, Miles approached Alabama like he did earlier in the season against MSU. He had decided to commit to wearing the opposing team down and let his play makers win the ball game.
This will not be the case in the second matchup. Miles will unleash his Tigers and they will play their best game of the season. One of the key differences in these two football teams is the abilities to make big plays on the big stage.
LSU will make them, Alabama will not.
Final Score: LSU 27 Alabama 13