Regardless of what may or may not be sitting on Trent Richardson's mantle, he's had a Heisman-caliber season and he'll keep it going against the LSU Tigers in the BCS National Championship Game.
In many other years, Richardson would have a nice piece of hardware to show for his efforts, but 2011 was an exceptionally outstanding season for college football's most outstanding players.
In 2009, for instance, his 1,583 rushing yards and 23 total touchdowns would have certainly earned him a statue. On a per-game basis, he gained more yards and scored more touchdowns than his former Alabama teammate Mark Ingram.
Unfortunately, Richardson just happened to run up against Baylor's Robert Griffin III and the most efficient passing season of all time.
It's a disappointment for a player that entered the 2011 season as one of the Heisman favorites, but for Richardson, it will only serve as motivation for another fantastic performance against LSU.
Although his team came out on the short end, Richardson played like the star he is in the Tide's first meeting with the Tigers.
Heading into the game, LSU knew what Alabama wanted to do. Nick Saban's team certainly didn't want force untested sophomore quarterback A.J. McCarron to beat the nation's second-best pass efficiency defense on his own. The Tide would try to avoid mistakes in the pass game and ride Richardson as far as he could take them.
So, LSU stacked the box and sold out its defense to stop Richardson.
While the Tigers were able to keep Richardson out of the end zone, something no other Alabama opponent was able to accomplish, he still had a fantastic night as the focal point of the Crimson Tide offense.
And Richardson was most certainly the focal point. Alabama was not shy about feeding him the ball.
The Tide ran 60 offensive plays against LSU; Richardson either received a handoff or was targeted with a pass on 31 of them.
Even with that heavy workload, he gained a total of 169 yards from scrimmage. Divided by his 28 touches, that works out to an average of just over six yards per touch against a defense that allows an average under four yards per play.
However, Richardson's success wasn't just about volume. He was able to create big plays against an LSU defense that excels at bottling up explosive players.
In an average game, the Tigers allow only 10 plays of 10 or more yards and just two plays of 20 or more yards. When they faced Richardson, he racked up seven plays for 10-plus and three plays for 20-plus by himself.
Most of those big plays came in the passing game, where Richardson took advantage of the LSU linebackers' weakness in coverage, grabbing a season-high five receptions.
With that performance in mind, expect Richardson to be the focus when the Tide and Tigers meet again. Only this time, he'll find a way to get on the scoreboard.
As a downhill, power runner, the schedule between the end of the season and the title game sets up perfectly for Richardson. His running style exposes him to a pounding every time he takes the field, but prior to this game, he's had a full six weeks to heal up.
For a quarterback or wide receiver, there would be reason for concern about rust after such a long layoff, but for a battering ram like Richardson, rhythm won't be an issue. He's incredibly shifty for his size, but when you boil it down, there isn't much nuance to Richardson's game. He just finds a hole and plows his way through it.
He'll arrive in New Orleans fully rested and motivated to write the final chapter in his legacy at Alabama.
Though nothing has been formally announced, this game will probably be Richardson's last as a member of the Crimson Tide. He still has a year of eligibility left, but with his draft stock settling in the top five overall, it would shock the college football world if he decided to return for his senior season.
After a career in which he's lost just four games in three years, Richardson certainly doesn't want to go out a loser. Especially not to an LSU team that's handed him two of those four losses.
It's quite obvious Trent Richardson doesn't like to lose, and when he has a chance to avenge a loss, he takes advantage.
Earlier this season, Richardson had an opportunity to avenge his 2010 loss to the rival Auburn Tigers. In that game, he turned his 26 touches into 208 total yards and a touchdown.
On top of that, Richardson will be eager to prove that he can lead a team to a title. He has a BCS National Championship on his resume, but he was just a backup to Ingram on that team. If Richardson can lead a team to a national title on his own, he'll go down as one of the greatest players in the storied history of Alabama football.
So there you have it. He's done it before, and he couldn't possibly be more motivated to do it again.
Richardson can't guarantee his Tide will walk out with the hardware—that'll require some assistance from the Alabama defense—but expect him to dominate the phase of the game that he can control.
In a rematch against a defense that can make a strong case to be called the best in the nation, Richardson will finally reach the end zone and will roll up no less than 180 total yards on his way there.
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