Alabama's Defensive leader, Dont'a Zeus Hightower
After two solid weeks of postseason football, one thing stands out: There are two teams that play exceptional defense in college football. They will clash on January 9, and compete for the national title. In the end, despite all the grumbling, the BCS got it right.
In the first meeting between Alabama and LSU, commentators, writers, football fans outside of the SEC and other novices complained of the low score and how boring a rematch would be if such a game should ever happen at season's end.
Alabama and LSU are without question the only two teams in college football with defenses that strike fear into any and all opposition. Offensive coordinators across the country know that great defenses, particularly those teams with great speed and strength on defense, can shut down offensive production, no matter what scheme they come up with to contend for scores. And that is exactly what Alabama and LSU bring to every gridiron matchup.
Well, after seeing so much offense on new year's day, it's about time to show the fans of college football how the game was meant to be played. It's supposed to be difficult to score, not a cake walk. Across the country, in every venue, teams are putting up 450 to 600 yards of offense and moving the chains on drives, accumulating 17 to 23 first downs for four quarters. Gawdy numbers, to say the least.
In the Fiesta Bowl, Stanford began the first quarter with some semblance of a defense against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, but soon thereafter returned to their midseason form of allowing easy scores on very short drives.
And enough about the four missed field goals by Alabama in the first contest against west division rival LSU. Stanford missed their first field goal after an opening 57-yard drive. The 41-yard attempt was pathetic. And then, with a chance to win the game at the end of the fourth quarter, a 35-yard attempt was hooked wide left, again, not even close.
Moreover, after the offenses ran amuck for a 38-38 final score in regulation, the game came down to a battle by the field goal kickers in overtime. Another miss by Stanford in the first overtime left the opportunity wide open for Oklahoma State to close out the game on a second down field goal of 19 yards.
Georgia at Michigan State wasn't much better. Sloppy play on both sides, offensively and defensively, left the game tied after regulation at 27-27. And again, the game came down to who could make a field goal in overtime. After Georgia's Bacarri Rambo intercepted Kirk Cousins in the first overtime, the Georgia kicker choked and missed the first of three attempts in overtime, allowing new life for MSU.
In the third overtime, the Georgia kicker missed again. MSU closed out the win, its first bowl victory since 2001.
Against Michigan, the Virginia Tech third-string kicker was called on to play because of suspensions to the first- and second-string players. Details of the suspensions were not available. For four quarters, the kicker was on target, putting 12 points on the board for the Hokies. The game ended in a tie and went into overtime. But the pressure finally caused the young man to crack, missing the first attempt in overtime, opening the window for a Wolverines victory.
Kickers are a lonely bunch, and this season of bowl games has made many feel the agony of de-feet!
In the TicketCity Bowl, Case Keenum lit up the Penn State defense for 532 yards. Amazingly, that only added up to 30 points at the game's end. At season's end, the Penn State program must be bankrupt, both physically and emotionally. Yet the proud Nittany Lions still managed 306 total yards against Houston's non-existent defense. Unfortunately, that only led to 14 points, a case of missed opportunities and poor passing leading to three Cougars interceptions.
Baylor posted 777 yards of total offense in the Valero Alamo Bowl, yet barely squeaked out a victory over the Washington Huskies by a score of 67-56. The Alabama and LSU scout defenses could put up more resistance than the starting units for either team in this contest.
The 620 yards posted by the Huskies combined with Baylor's offensive output set a new bowl record of 1,397 total yards. The 123 points scored in regulation was also a new bowl record, shattering the old record of 102 points, and nearly superseded overall record of 125 points in a game that went into two overtimes.
Earlier in the week Boise State posted 56 points and 460 yards of total offense. In the loss, Arizona State still passed for 395 yards and posted 24 points of their own.
Florida, a team that averaged 10.5 points against Alabama and LSU, posted an average of 20.75 points against all SEC competition on the year. Against Ohio State, they scored 24 points in a game in which victory was really never in doubt. Again, if not for the SEC, where would defense be in college football?
I think most readers get the point by now. Football played at its best should include quality defense. And let's not forget, both Alabama and LSU will field offenses that averaged 38.7 points and 40.9 points per game, respectively, against all other competition. Both offenses have proven more than effective against all other competition. The low score in Game 1 reflected the effectiveness of the defense.
So watch the last few games this week and enjoy the college equivalent to the pee wee leagues played in sandlots across this great country. Sure, it's exciting, but it is not big-time college football.
On January 9, both Alabama and LSU are going to field a defense that rivals any in the history of college football. Points will once again be scarce.
"The Rematch," as it has been called, will remind fans that a defense should be designed to take an active role in the outcome of the game. Defense should be aggressive, fast, and intimidating against any attempt to score. An offense threatening to put the ball into the end zone of a quality team should be dealt with severely.
Punishment meted out on the field of play is the proper response to any such threat. And that is what both of these defenses do every time they take the field. The winner of this game will have every right to claim the undisputed national championship of college football. Get ready for some football.