Alabama vs. LSU: Potential Unsung Heroes of the 2012 National Championship Game

Michael MillSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 7, 2012

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 26:  Brad Smelley #17 of the Alabama Crimson Tide scores a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It's easy to look at a piece of paper and break down a game every single week.

You look at each team's strengths. You look at their weaknesses. You decide which team has the advantage in certain situations.

The days leading up to the 2012 National Championship Game will be no different.

For a while now, we have been breaking down both No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama to figure out who has the advantage when the two teams face off in the epic rematch on Monday.

To be blunt, it's really impossible to tell. On paper, these teams look to be almost identical in every single way. The first matchup between the teams this year told that story when LSU pulled off the 9-6 overtime win.

When things are this even is when you expect somebody to step up and make a play. It's somebody that nobody expects, an unsung hero. A player that nobody has talked about all week that emerges in the clutch and gives their team an edge.

Who could those players be?

Brad Smelley (TE, Alabama)

On Monday, Brad Smelley will likely play the final football game of his career with the ultimate prize at stake.

Smelley is the starting tight end for the Crimson Tide. He has had a quiet season, accumulating 27 receptions for 317 yards and four touchdowns.

Those stats may not seem like much, but on a run first team like Alabama, he actually ranks third on the team in terms of receptions and receiving yards. His four receiving touchdowns are a team high.

Most importantly, Smelley got hot at the end of the season. 10 of his catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns came in the final two games of the season against Georgia Southern and Auburn.

Half of his production came in the final two weeks of the year. It seems like A.J. McCarron may have a new favorite target.

Alfred Blue (RB, LSU)

As long as Jordan Jefferson is under center, don't expect the Tigers to get much going in the passing game.

Jarrett Lee lost his starting spot after a rough performance the first time these two teams matched up. If Lee gets on the field, all bets are off. Otherwise, the unsung hero for LSU is going to come with the team's rushing game.

Spencer Ware and Michael Ford are the two running backs that get most of the attention for the Tigers, but the team's biggest threat may actually be their third running back.

Out of all the running backs on the roster, sophomore Alfred Blue actually has the best yards per carry average on the team at 6.9 yards. He was the leading rusher in the team's win in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia with 94 yards and a touchdown.

Blue is more of a big play threat. All it may take in this game is one big offensive play to walk away with a win. Blue is very capable of being the guy to make that happen.