BCS Rankings 2011: 10 Reasons Why LSU vs. Alabama Will Live Up to the Hype
As we exit Week 9 of college football and head into Week 10, all eyes will be on the highly anticipated matchup between the LSU Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide. The winner will not only gain dominance in the SEC West Division, but will likely grab a spot in the BCS National Championship Game, assuming it wins out.
Many have been looking forward to this game for several weeks, as it now has national championship implications and BCS Bowl bids on the line. Many are already debating whether LSU has what it takes to actually upset Alabama in their own stadium, and if quarterback Jarrett Lee will be able to handle a defense like Alabama's.
Many are also wondering how Alabama's offense will fare against LSU's defense, which has performed well this season. And for those who think this game may not be worth the hype, you may have to think twice about that.
Battle of Lesser-Known Quarterbacks
One of the headlines going into the season for both teams was their uncertainties at quarterback. For LSU, it was Jarrett Lee, whom they had to turn to after the suspension of Jordan Jefferson. Lee has not relinquished the job since then, even after Jefferson's return.
This game is the chance for Lee to fully redeem himself after his inconsistent years as a backup, and for him to fully claim the spotlight as the rightful starter. Lee has proven himself thus far by throwing for 13 touchdowns and only one interception and taking care of the football.
Alabama had to turn to AJ McCarron, who they had some uncertainties about throughout the spring and early in the season. McCarron has had to prove himself week in and week out and show fans and the coaching staff that he can run this Alabama offense.
After some early test runs, he managed to hold onto the job and has emerged in recent weeks, continuing Alabama on its undefeated winning streak and possible run at a national championship.
Neither of these quarterbacks will have huge, game-breaking numbers, but both manage the game very well and hold onto the football. Both will be tested Saturday by some superb defenses.
LSU and Alabama both have exceptional ability running the football and it's a big reason for their success, especially for their game-managing quarterbacks.
LSU is propelled by the two-headed attack of leading-rusher Spencer Ware and second leading-rusher Michael Ford. The dual runners are a big reason why LSU has college football's 30th best running game.
Ware has 512 rushing yards with six touchdowns and averages four yards per carry, while Ford adds 441 yards and another six touchdowns. LSU has an underrated rushing attack that the Alabama defense can't sleep on.
On the other side, Alabama has its own monster with running back Trent Richardson, who has truly come into his own after the departure of Mark Ingram, who is now getting his paycheck in the NFL. Richardson is an aggressive runner who has rushed for 989 yards and 17 touchdowns and is Alabama's biggest threat on the ground. He is occasionally relieved by Eddie Lacy, who has rushed for 465 yards and six touchdowns.
Both LSU's and Alabama's defenses have been touted as among the best in the nation. In Week 8, even as LSU had three starters suspended, they still managed to completely shut down Auburn's spread offense.
Alabama's defense has everyone talking after its drastic improvement from last season, when it took a step back after starting so many young players. Now those young players have grown up quite a bit and are hitting harder than ever before. The 'Bama defense is exceptional at stopping the opposing team, ranking first in points for the opponent, and have yet to come up against an offense that has managed to truly score against them.
LSU's defense is in the same class, ranking third for points allowed by the opponent. While they are also an aggressive defense, they have the speed that Alabama tends to trade for strength. But both defenses have few weaknesses and are basically interchangeable, posing a threat to anyone that they play.
Questionable Passing Yards
The Tigers and the Crimson Tide both have very respectable running games, but their quarterbacks have yet to truly decide games for themselves. Neither of these teams has had to rely on their passing game, which will have to happen due to both of these teams' ability to limit the running game.
The LSU Tigers are ranked 99th in passing yards, and Jarrett Lee will have to prove he can throw the ball better than he has if LSU will want to stand a chance. The same can be said for Alabama's AJ McCarron, as the Crimson Tide are ranked 63rd in passing yards.
Whichever quarterback can have the best day throwing the ball against these ball-hawking secondaries will put their team in the best position to win.
How Will Alabama Prepare for Two QBs?
As good as Alabams's defense is, the LSU offense does have its own ace in the hole: quarterback Jordan Jefferson.
Sure, Jarrett Lee is the starter, but Jefferson's athletic ability gives the Tigers an added element that Lee does not give them. The Tigers have have found certain ways to get Jefferson back on the field, and it has proven a great method to provide their offense with an element of surprise.
Alabama will have to prepare for these Jefferson packages and also worry about not letting Lee beat them, as he will get the majority of playing time as the starter. But Jefferson must be careful that he doesn't do any damage to his team when he enters the game for a short period.
Defensive Star Power
The LSU secondary is thriving, even with the departure of former star defensive back Patrick Peterson.
Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu has been a shutdown corner for the Tigers and has been a prime contributor for LSU's highly touted defense. His threat to take it the distance makes him a dangerous figure in the secondary if he gets his hands on the football.
Mathieu is an athletic corner that should be playing on Sundays in the near future, and Alabama quarterback McCarron will have to be careful when throwing anywhere in Mathieu's vicinity.
Miles vs. Saban
Both of these coaches don't play around.
Head coach Nick Saban came to Alabama with high expectations, and within three years he won a national championship. LSU head coach Les Miles has been the subject of hot seat and coaching rumors, but he has continually proven that LSU made the right decision to hire him, especially when winning a national championship in 2007.
Both Saban and Miles are among the top tier of coaches in the nation and consistently recruit the nation's top talents year in and year out. These schools' former recruits will duke it out on the field on Saturday, attempting to show all of college football that they have NFL-caliber talent and that the SEC West is the best division in the best conference in college football.
If Miles can work on his clock management and Saban continues his usual knack of stellar halftime adjustments, this game could come down to one final play.
Too Much at Stake
This game is not only a battle for dominance in the SEC West, it's a battle for a spot in the National Championship Game.
Let's face it, the SEC is good and the BCS loves the SEC. Since a playoff system is still non-existent, this BCS-choosing computer is all we have to work with to sort out which top-ranked teams are worthy of a spot in the championship game. An undefeated SEC team is always a shoe-in to get that seat, and not without good reason.
This time, there are two undefeated teams, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the LSU Tigers. While the loser will still gain another BCS Bowl bid should they both win out, the winner will step onto college football's biggest stage in January.
While both Saban and Miles have one national championship to their name, both would love to add another ring to their collection of accolades and awards.
Home Field Advantages
Having home field advantage always makes a difference in how a team plays and how the visiting team is affected by the twelfth man, the crowd. And unfortunately for LSU, they must go to Bryant-Denny Stadium when they face the Alabama Crimson Tide for all of the marbles.
Alabama is a tough environment to play in, with more than 100,000 seats. Teams are always hard-pressed to win in Crimson Tide country, particularly in night games.
In the state of Alabama, football is a way of life. Tide fans will be hounding the LSU offense all game long, making it hard for them to get anything done offensively.
Differentiating Between These Two Teams
As much as we talk about the LSU and Alabama matchup, many are still unsure of which team will triumph. Both teams are so similar in what they do, especially defensively, and both are actually more similar offensively than many people think, with the only difference being that LSU will be implementing Jefferson for his athletic ability to run as well as to throw the ball.
The most notable difference, however, is the speed of LSU matching up against the strength of LSU. LSU possesses more team speed, while Alabama likewise possesses more team strength. It will be interesting to see how well these opposites attract (or repel) each other in this prime-time matchup.