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BCS Rankings 2011: Tale of the Tape for LSU vs. Alabama

Jim SullivanFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2011

BCS Rankings 2011: Tale of the Tape for LSU vs. Alabama

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    The college football world will forever change on Nov. 5th, 2011. The No. 1 LSU Tigers will take on the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide in Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa AL.

    A clash for the ages, these two SEC powerhouses are poised to find out who will be attending the national title game in what should be an extremely close matchup. Each team has multiple factors that affect how it plays each week, and although measuring those factors is difficult, we can attempt to compare them.

    We take a look at each squad's offensive production, defensive power, special teams abilities, coaching strength and intangible qualities to determine who has the edge. 

Offense

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    So far this season, the Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers have been very comparable on the offensive side of the ball. Both teams have easily outscored their opponents, allowing no room for error. 

    LSU gains around 370 yards per game, splitting the rushing and passing yards almost equally (189 yards/game on the ground and 183 yards/game in the air). The Tigers put up around 39 points per game, scoring with two different quarterbacks. Overall, they have 37 touchdowns and have only turned the ball over eight times, seven of which were fumbles. 

    Alabama on the other hand, puts up just under 460 yards per game, almost perfectly distributing the ball to both rushing and passing (229 yards/game rushing and 228 yards/game passing). The Crimson Tide have also scored 37 touchdowns combined and put up just over 39 points per game. They have turned the ball over 10 times though, with five fumbles and five interceptions.

    The Crimson Tide put up more yards per game and have a Heisman candidate leading their backfield.

    EDGE: Alabama Crimson Tide 

Defense

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    Defense wins championships as the saying goes. Both squads own strong defenses who have stopped everyone that has come up against them. Seeing how they take on these big-time offenses will be fantastic to watch.

    By the numbers, LSU only allows 11.5 points per game and just over 250 yards per game. They've only given up 116 first downs and have created 13 turnovers, most of which were interceptions. The Tigers have given up a dangerous amount of yards in the air as compared to the ground (175 yards/game passing against 76 yards/game rushing), but against Trent Richardson a strong run defense is exactly what LSU needs. The defensive front is strong, already having 19 sacks this season, one of the highest in the league.

    This Crimson Tide defense is heavily considered to be one of the best Alabama has ever had. They only give up seven points per game and 180 total yards per game. Creating turnovers isn't their specialty, only having 12 on the year, but they've only given up an amazing 79 first downs through eight games. The Crimson Tide don't allow even 50 yards rushing per game even with the 135 yards they give up in the air. Alabama is strong in their front as well, sacking the opposing QB 17 times.

    Overall, the LSU offense needs to be extremely wary of how difficult it is going to be to score on the Crimson Tide, especially in Tuscaloosa.

    EDGE: Alabama Crimson Tide  

Special Teams

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    Almost every fan underrates how important specials teams are. A blocked punt, a huge punt return or a kickoff that goes for six is a game changer you can measure. Having the advantage here could be the factor that makes everything go your way.

    Unfortunately, both these teams are pretty awesome on special teams so choosing who is better is extremely difficult. They both have an average kickoff return of 24 yards and only a difference of four yards in punt returns (12 yards against eight yards). The Crimson Tide and the Tigers both allow an average of 19 yards on kickoffs, but LSU only allows a half yard on punts while Alabama allows just over five. 

    In the kicking game, both kickers have missed extra points and field goals, but LSU's kicker retains a higher percentage of success on field goals. Overall, these two squads won't be making any huge plays in the special teams, but if they do, it will be game changing.

    EDGE: Even

Coaching

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    Two great coaches head these two powerhouses. Nick Saban and Les Miles have proven multiple times that they belong at the top, leading young men into battles of mind, body and spirit.

    Les Miles is a strangely great coach. He eats grass, which almost everyone who isn't a hippie will agree is kind of out there. He owns a 98-38 record, winning six of his nine bowl games. "The Hat" gets paid over $3.5 million annually and is extremely loyal, choosing to stay at LSU as opposed to heading up to Michigan to coach at his alma mater. He has one national championship with LSU in 2007, the second of five for the SEC. 

    Nick Saban is one of the best coaches around. He is solid on both sides of the ball and holds a 142-53-1 record in college football, going 6-6 in bowl games. His two national championships have come with two different SEC teams. He won the 2003 title at LSU and the 2010 title at Alabama. Saban receives just under $6 million per year and unfortunately isn't as loyal as Miles, choosing to leave LSU for the Miami Dolphins in 2005.

    Both coaches are fantastic and will coach for a much longer time in the SEC, but Saban's experience will give him the edge here.

    EDGE: Alabama Crimson Tide 

Intangibles

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    Intangibles include so many factors it is insane. It stretches from penalties to playmakers. LSU and Alabama have a lot of people who can change the game, and seeing them match up two weeks from now will be exciting.

    The Crimson Tide own only 27 penalties through eight games as compared to the Tigers who have been caught in the act 52 times. Penalties could kill LSU if they get into a pattern of committing them. 

    Considering the game is in Tuscaloosa and not Death Valley, it is a huge leg up for the Crimson Tide. Bryant-Denny Stadium can be extremely hostile. Crowd noise can and will affect Jarrett Lee and the offense, and with such a strong 'Bama defense, it may be the breaking point for the Tigers.

    Playmakers is the last thing for intangibles. The Crimson Tide have one big playmaker in Trent Richardson who has not only made Tide fans forget about Mark Ingram, but is also up for the Heisman. LSU on the other hand, has a huge man in Tyrann Mathieu. I'm not saying huge because he's big physically, only standing at 5'9", but because the man knows how to make an impact on the playing field. The Tigers rally around him for support and encouragement and he will play a huge factor for a strong defense.

    The Tide hold two of the three measured qualities and even though Tyrann Mathieu plays for the purple and yellow, Alabama has the crowd and the penalty margin.

    EDGE: Alabama Crimson Tide 

Conclusion

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    On paper, The No. 1 team versus the No. 2 team in the nation seems to be extremely lopsided in No. 2's favor. This game will be a close one, but glancing at the numbers leaves a lot to be doubted on the Tiger sideline.

    The Crimson Tide hold comfortable margins in both offense and defense, easily owning both categories. The special teams was a virtual tie and shouldn't be a much of a factor. Alabama pays the more experienced coach bigger bucks to win these big games and on the intangible factor, the stadium, fans and penalties will be giant pluses for the Tide.

    LSU will have a tough game on the road and will certainly prove themselves to everyone in the nation if they pull off a win in Tuscaloosa. Don't miss this game for anything.

    Overall, I have to give the edge to Alabama due to their numerical superiority.

    EDGE: Alabama Crimson Tide

    Prediction: Alabama 24 LSU 14

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