Don't Try to Copy LSU's Success Against Alabama, Because You Can't
In the wake of LSU's 435 yards of total offense against Alabama, there are fans, and media folks, all over the country who think they saw a chink in the armor of the mighty Crimson Tide—people who think LSU's offensive performance exposed the Crimson Tide as a fraud when it comes to being a dominant defense. Look, I get it, you read a box score, watched a little football and suddenly you think that success can be extrapolated to other teams.
Calm your behinds down, folks. Your team is not going to duplicate that sort of an effort against the Crimson Tide. All rushing success is not created equal. All game plans are not created equal. Most importantly, all teams are not created equal.
What we saw out of LSU was far from its regular game plan. What the Bayou Bengals did was the exact same thing Alabama did to them in the BCS National Championship Game; they self-scouted. The game plan that ensued was a mixture of off-tendency runs and passes that the Crimson Tide had not seen executed on film all season long.
In other words, LSU played an entirely different offense from its base sets that its has been slogging along with through eight games. Instead of the toss power that the Tigers used to grind South Carolina and Texas A&M into the ground, they used zone runs and man-on blocking against Alabama. Instead of the slow-developing play-action passes to stretch the ball vertically, they used quick passes to get the ball out of Zach Mettenberger's hands.
The biggest indicator of going off tendency? Entering the game, LSU was averaging just 25 passes per contest. Against Alabama, when everyone including the Tide expected the Tigers to stick to their average or below, they threw the ball 44 percent more against Alabama.
Which team do you think can duplicate LSU's success?
Point being, LSU abandoned everything it was offensively against Alabama. The toss-power play had been its bread and butter for several years, and stopping it was critical to beating the Tigers. Alabama knew that going in and prepared to stop it. What the Tide got was stretch-zone runs and some weak-side man-on blocked handoffs.
At this point, you might be sitting back thinking, "Well why doesn't my team just do all of those things you mentioned?" Well, mostly because it can't. At least not successfully against a team like Alabama. You see, you still have to have the players to make it all work, and love them or hate them, the LSU Tigers have got a roster that's better than most.
Whether LSU is running its traditional power, or the zone and man-on that we saw Saturday, it was still playing a muscled-up game and moving Alabama off the point of attack. Most teams don't have the personnel to to push around the Crimson Tide the way the Tigers did.
If you can't control Jesse Williams, as LSU did to find its rushing success, then you can't run against Alabama. Shield-blocking Damion Square, Jeoffrey Pagan, Ed Stinson or the linebackers isn't going to get things done. You have to move bodies off the point to pick up yards, and that takes big, powerful linemen who want to outmuscle opponents.
Most teams don't have those.
Most teams also don't have a coach willing to blow up what they do well in favor of something wildly new. Especially when it comes to throwing the ball 44 percent more than normal. Throwing it extra when you're playing catchup is one thing, as is throwing it in a blowout to get your quarterback some reps. Starting out the game by throwing quick hitters against the Tide in an effort to avoid doing what you've done best for most of the year? Most coaches aren't signing up for that.
It will certainly be interesting to see if teams attempt to follow the LSU blueprint that we saw this past Saturday. As teams with not-so-powerful rosters look to duplicate the successes of Les Miles' team, we'll see just how close they can keep the game against the Tide.
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