LSU vs. Alabama: 10 Things We Learned About the Tide's BCS National Championship
Second chances are rare in life, and in the world of college football, it is uncharted territory in the BCS era.
After a 9-6 loss to LSU on Nov. 5, the Alabama Crimson Tide were left to pray for a second chance against the Tigers.
Christmas came early for Tide fans, on the first Sunday in December, when their dreams became a reality and they were awarded a spot in the national title game.
With the memories of failed opportunities in Round 1 deeply embedded in their minds, Alabama came out and executed nearly flawlessly in all three phases as it dominated LSU Monday night en route to a 21-0 victory and the school’s second national title in three years.
Here are 10 things we learned about Alabama’s BCS title game win over LSU
10. Mental Toughness
Marquis Maze sparked Alabama to its first scoring opportunity with a huge first-quarter punt return that setup the offense deep in LSU territory.
However, he hurt his hamstring on the end of the run and would not return, which was thought to be a crippling blow to Alabama’s offense.
The offense was able to overcome the loss of its leading receiver, and a valuable senior leader.
Alabama's much-maligned receiver unit would step up and out-duel the vaunted LSU secondary.
9. Aerial Assault
Coming into this game, many observers (myself included) theorized that Alabama would have utilize a game plan that relied heavily on All-American running back Trent Richardson.
Instead, outgoing offensive coordinator Jim McElwain came out throwing on nearly every first down.
The strategy may not have resulted in touchdowns (until garbage time), but it did confuse LSU’s defense enough for the Tide to dominate time of possession, and effectively seize control of the game.
Alabama used their tight ends in the flats effectively early, which opened up things for their slot receivers later in the game.
8. Receivers Rise Up
With Maze lost to injury, the main weapon for Tide quarterback AJ McCarron were his sure-handed tight ends, who accounted for 11 of his 23 completions.
Led by senior Brad Smelley who caught seven passes for 39 yards mostly on first down plays, McElwain helped give McCarron some confidence by hitting safe and short passes.
Wide receivers Kevin Norwood (four catches for 78 yards) and Darius Hanks (five catches for 58 yards) also stepped up and made several big plays that kept LSU’s secondary on its heels.
7. Option Denied
LSU’s offense had come into the national title game with a renewed sense of optimism because of the added dimension of the option attack with Jordan Jefferson at the helm.
Combine that with the fact that Alabama’s defense struggled with FCS juggernaut Georgia Southern’s option attack, and a battle line for Round 2 was drawn.
Like most elements in this game, this battle was decided heavily in the favor of the Crimson Tide as LSU finished with just 39 yards rushing.
Alabama’s defense also did a much better job of corralling Jefferson and limited his ability to make plays with via scrambles.
6. Dominant Defense
After the first meeting, most media members were indecisive as to which team possessed the better defense.
Both teams ranked among the top five nationally in most defensive statistical categories, but Alabama made a resounding statement with their shutout victory in the Tigers’ backyard.
LSU finished with 92 yards of total offense, and failed to cross midfield until late in the fourth quarter.
This dominant effort ensures that this defense will be remembered as one of the best units in the history of the sport.
5. Road Warriors
The last two times the Sugar Bowl hosted the national title game, LSU capitalized on getting to play at their “home away from home” in the Superdome and came away with a a pair of crystal balls.
From the opening kickoff, Alabama neutralized the Tigers raucous fan base by playing with an edge befitting of a team poised to gain revenge.
Even though they could not capitalize on all of their opportunities, the team maintained its focus in every phase, which resulted in its most impressive effort this season.
With the victory, Alabama finished with a perfect 6-0 record away from home this season, and notched its third consecutive bowl victory.
In the first meeting at Bryant-Denny Stadium, LSU played the underdog role and pulled out a victory by playing sound football and making the least mistakes.
The second meeting would be defined by their costly lapses of focus in crucial situations.
Penalties, botched snaps, and their failure to coerce Alabama into similar blunders ultimately led to LSU playing catch up from the get go.
Considering that the Crimson Tide did not turn the ball over and only had one penalty called against them, Alabama turned in a near flawless performance from every segment on their roster.
3. Special Teams
Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley was responsible for one of the Crimson Tide’s four missed field goal attempts in the first meeting with LSU.
While he did miss one and have another attempt blocked in the rematch, Shelley converted on five of seven attempts and gained a measure of redemption for he and Cade Foster’s miscues.
Meanwhile, the Tide thwarted LSU’s vaunted punt returner extraordinaire, Tyrann Mathieu, and Maze’s early punt return set the tone for the Tide’s special teams unit and jump started the rout.
2. Opportunity Knocks
While the debate about whether Alabama should have made it into the national title game will be revisited in the offseason, their demolition of the nation’s only unbeaten team solidified that the BCS did put the two best teams on the field for the title game.
Nick Saban clearly was able to correct his team's flaws from the first meeting against LSU, and further proved why he is the best coach in college football.
By winning his third national championship, Saban cemented his legacy as one the greatest coaches in the history of the sport.
1. AJ Coming of Age
Coming into this matchup, Jefferson was thought to be the quarterback who would make the plays to deliver for his team in the clutch.
After all, the senior had sparked the Tiger’s rally against the Tide in the first meeting.
Meanwhile, McCarron had shouldered the blame for his inability to make plays in fourth quarter of that game.
Instead of pounding Richardson, Saban put the game in the hands of his sophomore QB, who in turn, responded with a calm and efficient effort that caught LSU off-guard.
While the defense will get the majority of the accolades from this win (and rightfully so), let the record show that McCarron stepped up and delivered the finest effort of his short career, at the biggest of moments.