ESPN's College GameDay made the right choice to go to Baton Rouge, because the third time is the charm for LSU and Alabama.
The first game was a defensive classic that fans hated, and the rematch in the national championship was a mauling by Alabama. But in LSU and Alabama's confrontation this Saturday, it will be different—slightly.
At this point, Alabama seems unbeatable. Seriously, this team doesn't just win—it dominates. The Crimson Tide have the No. 1 defense in the SEC, allowing just 203 yards per game, while Alabama's offense is No. 2 in the league with 40.6 points per game. So really, does any team stand a chance against Alabama?
The No. 2 team in the SEC West, Mississippi State, was embarrassed 38-7, for heaven's sake. So truthfully, this game is not an epic clash between two amazing teams like it was last season. Nope—it's about a talented team taking on one of the greatest teams college football fans have ever seen.
Pac-12 fans clamor, "Yeah that's cool, but can this game remain competitive? What's the difference between this game and last year's national championship game?"
Look, Alabama has outscored its opponents 778 to 171 in the past two seasons, and the Crimson Tide sport a record of 20-1 over that span. That one loss came against LSU, and here in 2012, the Tigers may be the only team that can at least offer Alabama a challenge this season.
Think about it. If you were to create a situation where Alabama would be tested, you would first find a team that can stop Alabama's rushing attack.
LSU's defense is a good start. With Kevin Minter No. 4 in the conference with 95 tackles and LSU's deep defensive line, this group should be able to contain Eddie Lacy and company. The Tigers are No. 2 in the league (behind Alabama) in rush defense, allowing just 95 yards per game.
Next, you need a defense that can get to AJ McCarron and disrupt his flow. Look no further. Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are two of the best defensive ends that can get to the quarterback, and the Tigers are No. 3 in the league in sacks with 23. LSU's back four aren't too bad either. The Tigers are only giving up 148 yards per game through the air with 13 interceptions (No. 2 behind Alabama).
So this defense has the capability to keep this game close. But still, as efficient as Alabama is, this unit will need help. Here's the difference in this game and last year's title game—Death Valley.
It can be argued that a setting has never meant more to any other team than Death Valley means to LSU. LSU playing under the bright lights in Tiger Stadium has always been a dangerous team, and the fans get so loud that it's easy for opposing players to get rattled. Heck, it's the place where opponents' dreams "come to die."
"That's great and all but can LSU move the football against this dominant defense? We all have doubts," Big 12 fans chime in.
We live in such an offensive football world these days, don't we? Will people ever learn that defense wins championships. Certainly, West Virginia realizes that now.
As far as LSU scoring on Alabama—don't hold your breath. LSU will struggle on offense, as Zach Mettenberger will be sacked often and forced to punt. But the Tigers defense will keep them in the game.
As the game goes on, expect Jeremy Hill to find key blocks behind his offensive line and churn away tough yards that will lead to scores.
"I thought you said this was going to be an exciting game," Pac-12 fans say as they lose patience.
What's not exciting about seeing the best team in football on the ropes? Alabama has been in trouble only once in the past two seasons, and it just so happened to be against LSU. Alabama is clearly the better team this season, but going against LSU in Death Valley might even out the odds.
And let's face it—grown-man football is the way to go if you're going to beat either of these teams. LSU and Alabama have proven this for the past two seasons, and there's no team out there that do this any better than they will.
By the way, what's the other game ESPN would have chosen—Oregon and USC? Yeah, USC coming off of a loss to play Oregon is certain to make fans tune in. With that USC defense giving up 39 points to Arizona's offense, who's to argue that Oregon doesn't light up the scoreboard in the first half and run away with it like they've been doing?
Besides, if LSU does pull off the upset, that will be something that college football fans will want to witness. Not only because it will be an upset driven by the passion of 92,000-plus fans, but because it'll shake up the entire BCS.
It puts Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame in the driver's seat for the time being, but it also brings up another conversation—where does a one-loss SEC team figure in the mix?
Though Alabama is the favorite in this game, as it should be, the Crimson Tide are staring at their first loss of the season when they enter Death Valley. It's a likely possibility, and that creates more drama and anticipation.
Simply put, these are two of the best programs in the past two years going at it once again for the SEC West, eventual SEC Championship and BCS Championship berth. It's Nick Saban vs. the Mad Hatter, it's Alabama vs. LSU and it's ultimately the game that decides champions.
Let the valley shake.
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