Many are calling this the best game of the season, and we haven't even reached the BCS national championship game yet. Many more are even calling it "The Game of the Century."
It's guaranteed that many of this nation's most devoted college football fans surrounded televisions all across the country to watch SEC powers collide when the LSU Tigers faced off against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Bryant Denny Stadium. The SEC has the pride of being the conference that holds both the No.1 and No.2 ranked teams that are both in the same conference and in the same division.
Both teams have so much talent to offer on both sides of the ball, especially defensively, with both teams possessing some of the best defensive talent in all of college football. LSU coach Les Miles and Alabama head coach Nick Saban are both in the prime of their coaching careers and are looking to add another BCS championship to their resumes.
And tonight, many of our nation's most devoted college football fans learned several things from both the winner and the loser of this game.
Both of these teams showed that you must respect both of their defenses.
LSU and Alabama showcased plenty of talent and drew plenty of NFL scouts that were eager to assess the talent that these two SEC West powers have developed under superb coaching staffs.
The main attraction between these two defenses were LSU's superior defensive speed vs. Alabama's superior strength. While both teams have a great combination of both attributes, these two attributes are what have allowed many to better distinguish between the two, as both defenses are very similar statistically in what they do, especially in points allowed and run defense.
With the winner almost assured a spot in the national championship game, it looks like the team who plays team will have a lot on their hands dealing with this defense.
When Saban hit the college football scene again after his tint with the Miami Dolphins, it revitalized all of Crimson Tide nation in a way that very few Crimson Tide coaches had done before. Many were surprised by the huge deal the University of Alabama gave Saban, who in his first year won only six games.
In a couple of years, he would win a national championship. Since then, he has managed several more 10-win seasons in a tight SEC West Division.
LSU's Les Miles also has a similar pedigree to Nick Saban, having been a winner ever since he was named head coach in 2005. He has earned prominence as one of the best at LSU, having lost very few night games and earned himself a national championship despite having two losses.
Through all the coaching rumors and allegations, Miles has remained a steadfast winner through it all and has his team on the fast track to the BCS and could see another national championship in his near future.
Early on, it looked as though it was clearly going to become a lower scoring game. It's another when the kickers miss field goals early, when in low-scoring affairs against teams who both have crushing, physical defenses, special teams turns into the biggest difference makers in games such as these.
With either LSU or Alabama yet to score in the second quarter, it was apparent that quarterbacks AJ McCarron and quarterbacks Jarrett Lee/Jordan Jefferson would have to step up to lead their respective offenses into decent scoring positions. \
It's clear that this game was won in the second half.
Although Alabama running back Trent Richardson did see himself limited by LSU's stout run defense, he did showcase his ability to obtain yards after contact against one of the best run defenses in the nation. Richardson has shown himself to be just as good, if not better, than former Alabama star running back Mark Ingram.
Richardson has shown to be faster, stronger and have a better skill set in terms of the receiving game than Ingram did. Even though running backs aren't becoming as high a draft pick as they have been in the past, Richardson may be in a class where several backs, including himself, may be chosen in the first round.
It's surprising in that despite the type of defenses that these teams have no kind of play-making quarterbacks under center to give their offenses an extra element of surprise. Sure, LSU quarterback Jarrrett Lee and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron were unable to truly get their offenses going, though it's no surprise against these stout defenses.
Still, it's a wonder that as good as these teams are, that their quarterbacks are unable to do more than they have been, and their quarterbacks have been exposed after going against better competition, as their opposing defenses are among the best that they will face all year.
Out of all the NFL-caliber talent that both sides have, there appears to be little going on in terms of NFL ability between Lee and McCarron, and even Jefferson did not have too much of a rhythm against the Crimson Tide.
With game-managing quarterbacks and average passing games, the defenses are among the only things that make these teams great. What strengths do these defenses have?
Well, Alabama has its defensive line and its front seven. LSU has a playmaking secondary, which gets coverage sacks on a consistent basis and is perhaps the biggest strength of this LSU defense. The secondary, led by Tyranne Mathieu, is among the best in the nation at limiting big plays in the passing game, and Alabama had a tough time getting too much going in the passing game, which made it even harder for Alabama quarterback McCarron to get anything going.
By the second half, both teams held the ball for a little over 20 minutes, and while both teams managed to sustain decent drives with no touchdowns, it has made a difference in limiting both teams offenses and put the pressure on the opposing defenses to make stops and make the plays, which turned out to be the difference for the victor in this game.
It also showed the kind of talent that these coaches have been able to develop, especially with both teams sending top talent to NFL scouts every year. The time of possession, coupled with the turnovers, made it hard for both Alabama and LSU to truly take the game over and separate themselves from one another.
Both the LSU Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide both had their ups and downs throughout the game. But both teams showed one defining characteristic about both of these athletic programs: they both have fantastic weight training programs and offseason training programs.
Alabama's ability to pound the football between the tackles with running back Trent Richardson and pound LSU's offensive line was a thing of beauty for those old-fashioned, smash-mouth football fans. But yet, LSU's deceptive speed and underestimated strength proved quite a match to Alabama smash-mouth strength both on defense and in their running game.
The offseason programs these teams run, coupled with the kind of talent they bring in year in and year out, are something every football team in America would love to have, especially their defenses. Any coaching staff would love to take their pick of Alabama's smash-mouth football style or LSU's finesse speed style, which is stronger than many give it credit for.
These two clashing powers just made the case for the SEC even more prominent after this game. Both of these teams have sent us a clear message that the SEC West is perhaps the best division in all of college football. Their stout defenses, enormous talent and coaching staffs have presented an amazing case for all of college football to ponder.
In the West, you have two SEC Teams that will likely be playing in BCS bowls. The West's third-place team, the Arkansas Razorbacks, have only one loss and are in third place simply because of one loss they suffered earlier in the season.
The SEC West has been the story of the SEC and the attention of the BCS for several years now and has become the home of the BCS national championship for the past three to four years now, and it looks to stay there, unless the new incumbent can upset the power that is known as the SEC West.
All in all, it would be LSU that proved victorious, shocking all of Crimson Tide Nation in their own home stadium. LSU head coach Les Miles proved once again that he dominates at night, losing very few games at night his entire career as the head coach.
Again, while defenses proved to be the difference maker for both of these teams, the difference proved to be special teams and the play of LSU's secondary, picking off Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron twice and stalling against any possible touchdown drives by the Crimson Tide and showcased great coverage and ball skills against these Crimson Tide receivers.
Meanwhile, LSU's special teams play proved crucial in the win, blocking one field goal and their kicker making his last three field goal attempts to put the Tigers ahead, with the last of the field goals coming in overtime. The LSU Tigers are in full control of their own destiny on their path to college football's biggest stage—the BCS national championship.