2011 LSU Football Team
Alabama opened it's 2011 season as No. 2 in most polls against a struggling MAC team, Kent State.
Meanwhile, LSU opened it's season ranked No. 4 in most polls against the No. 3 ranked Oregon Ducks of the PAC-12 in the Cowboy Shootout in Arlington, Texas. This game was hyped all summer as a top 5 matchup with the winner having a leg up on playing in the BCS title game.
To make this game even bigger, it was LSU's strong defense challenging the No. 1 offense in all of college football.
As a result, LSU won this game convincingly and held Oregon's powerful offense to 343 yards. The boost from the national media that LSU received was immeasurable. In the following weeks, LSU was able to leap over No. 2 ranked Alabama and eventually over No. 1 Oklahoma.
Alabama and LSU have both separated themselves from all other teams, becoming all but equals in the eyes of the BCS and the AP pollsters.
The The winner of this matchup on November 5th in Tuscaloosa, will most likely be one of the participants in the BCS national title game.
There is very little that separates these two titans of the SEC. Picking a winner will be very difficult since they are basically mirror images of each other in offensive and defensive styles of play.
Neither team has had a close game yet and both teams tout strong defenses with a based running game on offense.
However, LSU has probably its most balanced and talented team in recent years. I have submitted five reasons why I believe No. 1 LSU should be the favorite to win this game.
LSU vs Oregon 2011
The overall strength of schedule between LSU and Alabama is not as glaring today as it was during the first four games of the year. Three of LSU's games were played on the road and against top-25 competition, and Oregon was ranked No. 3 in preseason.
LSU's scheduling argument is that they had to be prepared to take on the No. 1 offense in all of college football for 2011's opening game of the year. In addition, Oregon was also the national runner up to Auburn in 2010 and their up-tempo, fast-paced offense was supposed to be unstoppable.
Meanwhile, Alabama had the luxury of opening at home with a sure victory against Kent State (Saban's old school) in Tuscaloosa.
LSU not only won all of their games, but they turned in dominating performances against top teams on the road.
As the season has gone along, Alabama also has dominated its opponents and they did defeat Arkansas convincingly in Tuscaloosa. But it was a home game. Also, a home game against North Texas State did not help Alabama with the AP voters.
So the strength of schedule point goes to LSU as they have defeated and dominated four top-25 teams all on the road and mostly in hostile environments.
Since LSU has proven they are a tough team that can focus in tough environments, LSU's strength of schedule on the road will certainly work to their favor while playing in front of a hostile crowd awaiting them in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama's Bryant Denny Stadium
Most media people that are not familiar with the LSU/Alabama series have tended to favor Alabama in the upcoming game because they are playing at home.
This series is a very unusual rivalry in that the visiting team has tended to win more than the home team. In fact, I have heard Alabama is being favored by as many as five points just because the game is being played in Tuscaloosa.
However, since 2000, LSU has won seven out of its 10 meetings against Alabama. LSU is 4-1 in games played in Tuscaloosa.
Not only has LSU played well in previous games in Tuscaloosa, but this year's LSU team has proven over and over that they are an excellent road team, all the while dominating their opponents.
Under Les Miles, LSU has not lost focus or allowed other teams to intimidate them.
Let's just all hope the referees don't try to control this game too much like they sometimes have. That way we can have a very fair and impartial game decided on the field by the players and not by the refs.
Alabama certainly has a very strong running attack featuring Trent Richardson. Most likely Trent Richardson will be one of the top, if not the top, Heisman Trophy candidates in the nation.
In fact, he is my pick for the Heisman as I have never seen a more complete and powerful running back. Sorry to most Mark Ingram fans, but Richardson is just a much more talented back and he will do what it takes to get in the end zone.
Unlike Alabama, LSU relies on a committee of five very talented running backs to serve their purpose of banging on the opponent's line. Much like Alabama, LSU likes to wear out the opponent with a solid running attack, burning the clock when needed.
Last weekend, LSU played Auburn in Baton Rouge without three starters due to suspensions. One was running back Spencer Ware, the leading rusher. Tyrann Mathieu, their top defensive back, and cornerback Tharold Simon also sat out.
LSU still defeated a proud but young Auburn team by the largest margin in the recent rivalry history between the two teams. In the meantime, LSU introduced new running back sensation, Kenny Hilliard to fill in for Spencer Ware. All he did was lead the game in rushing and score two touchdowns.
Meanwhile Ron Brooks filled in for Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu and saved a sure touchdown. He also intercepted another and ran it in for a pick six.
Alabama is filled with all-stars and they feature Trent Richardson. They are truly one of the most potent and balanced teams on both sides of the ball in America.
But unlike Alabama, LSU will freely substitute and run talented athletes in and out of the game to always keep fresh legs. It is this tremendous depth that coach Les Miles has recruited to LSU that has become the key to their success.
When the fourth quarter comes, the fresh legs of LSU will definitely be to their advantage. I give the depth advantage to LSU.
LSU Red Zone Offense
This game could come down to who has the best red zone offense.
The fact that Alabama has Trent Richardson to hand the ball to for a score, one would think that Bama would be just licking their chops for this opportunity to maybe win the game.
Of course, it certainly could be a situation that is right up Bama's alley, but season statistics do not lend themselves to this notion.
Actually, it is LSU that has the best red zone offensive statistics, as the Tigers have scored points 97 percent of the time. They have scored touchdowns 79 percent of the time when in the red zone.
In comparison, Alabama scores points 85 percent of the time, 59 percent of which are touchdowns.
When in the red zone, both teams feel they can run the ball on anybody, at which they have been very successful. However, LSU seems to have more weapons at its disposal.
The Tigers will throw with Lee, but rarely do they run with him. However, they will bring in Jordan Jefferson—who can both run and throw the ball—to score.
With two senior quarterbacks, a group of experienced receivers and a committee of running backs with fresh legs, LSU presents more viable options to score points in the red zone.
Should the game come down to who has the best red zone offense, it could go either way since both teams like to run the ball. Based on red zone statistics for both teams, LSU should have the advantage.
Barkevious " KeKe" Mingo
Comparing LSU and Bama's defenses, they are probably the two best in America. But they seem to accomplish their goals in somewhat different manners.
From what I have seen, Alabama has a very physical and tough defense that will lay you out if they get the chance. LSU is also known to be very physical too, but they accomplish most of their plays by using their tremendous overall team speed to react to the ball.
Several examples of this showed up in the Tennessee game when Matt Sims, the Vols' quarterback, thought he had his man open on a deep pattern against Morris Claiborne. Claiborne stayed with his man and eventually outran and outleaped the Vol receiver for the ball.
Claiborne then returned the ball back 97 yards until he was caught unsuspectingly by a Vols receiver on the 5-yard line.
Next, in the Auburn game, an AU receiver seemed wide open for a TD, but Ron Brooks closed on the ball to intercept it for a touchback. Also in the AU game, KeKe Mingo, the defensive end with blazing 4.5 speed, sacked the AU quarterback on several occasions to Mosely's surprise.
Also, it was Mingo who ran down LaMichael James, Oregon's speedy running back, from behind in the backfield for a loss. Mingo is 6'5" and weights 240 lbs. and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 or better. On the other end, LSU has Sam Montgomery, who also runs a 4.7 40-yard dash even though he is larger.
Rarely does a team have the speed and talent of KeKe Mingo, Mo Claiborne, Sam Montgomery and Tyrann Mathieu on the same team.
Because of team speed on defense, LSU can lull a quarterback into thinking he sees something he does not. So I give the edge to LSU in overall defensive team speed.