Alabama became just the second team ever to defeat a Les Miles coached LSU team in Baton Rouge on Saturday night.
Despite a stagnant second-half offense, quarterback AJ McCarron led his team down the field and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 51 seconds left to play. LSU played a fantastic football game, but the Crimson Tide came up Big when it counted most. However, Nick Saban's impeccable preparation, composure and patience were perhaps the difference in an otherwise even matchup.
Every college football fan knows Nick Saban is nothing short of a legendary coach. Saban's three national championships and two AP Poll Coach of the Year awards will forever vault him into the elite category to be considered among the best college football coaches ever.
Saban did not need to beat LSU on Saturday night to cement his legacy. However, Saban seized this opportunity to once again prove why he is the best college football coach in the nation.
Let's take a look at a few aspects of Saturday night's matchup that demonstrated how Saban thoroughly out-coached Les Miles.
Alabama Was More Prepared
Each Friday night, Nick Saban has a meeting with his quarterbacks and goes over his opponent's two-minute drill defense. He makes sure to allow his gunslingers to get a look at the various defensive schemes they may see in the game's most crucial moments.
AJ McCarron knew not only how LSU was going to attack him on Alabama's final drive, but he knew exactly what plays he was going to run and where to go with the ball. He fired his passes toward the sidelines to conserve time and led his team with poise. On his 28-yard touchdown pass to TJ Yeldon in the fourth quarter, McCarron held the ball to the last second to let the screen develop. It was a masterful performance by a player who was struggling up until that point.
Although McCarron is not used to playing from behind, he had practiced that same scenario on countless occasions. He and his offense knew they had the ability to get down the field to score, and they were prepared to get the job done.
Nick Saban didn't catch or throw any touchdown passes on Saturday night, but he made sure those who needed to were put in the best possible position to succeed.
On the other hand, Les Miles' offense was disorganized and ineffective on their final drive. The offensive line missed several assignments, and Zach Mettenberger failed to even make an attempt to get the ball downfield.
Saban Was Ready for Miles' Aggressive Style
LSU matched up well with Alabama on Saturday night. LSU's wideouts were able to get open against Alabama's suffocating secondary. Jeremy Hill had 107 rushing yards and the defense was lights out for most of the second half. However, Les Miles could not resist taking unnecessary risks at key moments in Saturday's matchup.
The first instance in which Miles made a poor coaching decision came on LSU's fake field-goal attempt in the second quarter. It was a 4th-and -12 from the 30-yard line. Although LSU was losing 7-3, he did not catch anybody off guard with his trickery.
Nick Saban has three safeties on the field on the field-goal attempt. Alabama was prepared for anything to happen on the play. Despite having two timeouts in his pocket, Miles failed to see that Alabama had three players waiting for the fake and let the play continue. LSU lost two yards on the play and Alabama got the ball back.
Furthermore, Miles decided to go for it on fourth down with 3:10 to go in the game. Instead of sticking with Mettenberger, who had been effective all night, he put Spencer Ware in to run a sneak out of the Wildcat formation. Miles telegraphed the play with his formations, put a player under center who was not used to taking a direct snap and ran straight into the teeth of the nation's top defense.
Alabama Did the Little Things
LSU was penalized seven times for 51 yards tonight. Alabama was penalized once for 15 yards. Saban had prepared his players for the hectic, adverse situations that arose throughout the game. Alabama played with poise and stayed composed even as the outlook looked bleak. In a matchup of two even teams, LSU's penalties could have been the difference in this matchup.