The Alabama Crimson Tide could be considered the luckiest team in college football history. They lost to the No. 1 team in the nation LSU on Nov. 5 in a close game that went to OT and never hit double digits, as it simply was a 9-6 game.
When they lost to LSU, people thought 'Bama would drop a little, but not too far since it was the No. 1 team and was close. People's expectations came to pass, as they only slipped to No. 3 and after losses by top 10 teams such as Oklahoma State that happened late, they ended up in the National Title game.
Some people will claim blasphemy that Alabama got in to face off against a team they already lost to early on. But, things happen. So, Alabama is now in the NC game. But, the question everyone is asking is: Can they actually win?
If they did, the entire BCS would probably seem like a shame and push us ever closer to potential "plus one" type of situations.
But, that's only IF Alabama can win. So, this could be one reason to cheer for Alabama if you aren't in favor of the BCS. For those people, welcome, the rest of us hate it, too.
My opinion is that Alabama can actually win this game. They controlled the first game with LSU, but lost due to special team mistakes such as four missed field goals. I highly doubt Alabama will leave 12 points off the board this time. But it won't be just about special teams. Here are 7 keys to Alabama's potential victory over the Tigers of LSU.
Unless you've never heard of the Alabama Crimson Tide before, you know this team is usually good on defense. Even in the seasons they just sucked, that 'Bama D wasn't the worst part of the team. Actually, just about every year for the last decade, Alabama has had a good defense or the top defense in not only the SEC Conference but entire nation.
People talk about how LSU has such a good defense, but statistically, Alabama tops just about every category.
They top the entire nation in points scored against. They only allow 8.8 points a game, which is one of the best standings ever. They are doing it against great offenses, so it's not as if they aren't working for the ranking.
I think that ranking alone is what stands out in this game. If Alabama can keep LSU's scoring low, their offense will be able to score eventually.
Guys like Mark Barron, Dont'a Hightower, Dre Kirkpatrick, Courtney Upshaw, just to name a few, will play a major role.
Some analysts have called this defense one of the best in the last 50 years and scouts claim that this defense has about 10 NFL first to third round picks—this year.
That said, you know the D from Alabama will play a massive role in this game and they are a major key to victory.
If there is one guy to keep your eyes on this January in the BCS National Title game, it's Eddie Lacey. People talk all the time about Trent Richardson's great season. And while TR has had a terrific season, Lacey has been pretty darn successful as a No. 2 guy.
Lacey has 631 yards this season and seven TDs on just 84 carries. Oh, and by the way, he's a true sophomore. People from Alabama believe Lacey will have a Richardson like season next year, but for now, we see one heck of a super sophomore play alongside the ripper Trent Richardson.
At 6-foot-1, 220 lbs, Lacey is a bruiser that simply loves to hurt you and literally finds people he can hit, similar to Richardson. Alabama is known to have running backs who simply love contact, Lacey happens to be one of them.
I would be keeping an eye on everyone in this backfield, especially Lacey. When he comes in, he's basically a Richardson doppelganger. Which means the pace won't dial down, and the smash-mouth play will continue.
A man who is known to have a terrific balance between speed and power, Lacey will be someone LSU won't love. Meaning LSU's defense better be conditioned, if not, they will get run all over.
Some may ask: Well, you already covered the Alabama defense as a whole, why Mark Barron talk?
Well, while the entire defense plays a major part in the Tide winning against LSU, I'd say Mark Barron has a big say so in this win.
Barron for those who don't know is the one who calls the plays out there: the audibles and everything on the field. He talks with Saban and is the man prepared to handle certain situations.
In fact, against Auburn last year Barron was famous for missing a play on a wide out who caught a big TD pass from Cam Newton that eventually helped secure the Tigers win over the Tide. Had that play of been contested by Barron, I don't know if Auburn wins.
Barron was hurt during that play and some of the game. But Saban kept him in due to the fact that he was the only one who could call plays out there during the game. Without Barron healthy and playing well, the Tide do not have a defensive leader and will crumble.
If LSU were to find a way to pick on Barron and force him to tire, they would be able to control the Tide defense psychologically as Barron wouldn't be as killer as he normally is. And what if he gets hurt? Then it could be another Auburn/Alabama ending.
But keep in mind, Barron is very healthy this year and a big bruiser. So, try and pick on him and I guarantee he'll make you pay. He has two INTs this season and 61 tackles. He is not afraid to hit you or pick the QB off.
So, some teams have tried to see if they can take Barron out of the game mentally, which would effect the whole defense. Few have been able to do such a thing, and if Barron is hurt in any way during the game, I'm not sure if the Tide D is as effective as they normally would be.
Alabama QB AJ McCarron played relatively well in his first matchup with LSU. He had 199 yards passing, but did have an interception.
McCarron has been great this year in his first season as the Alabama QB. A lot of people felt he'd be a weakness this year for the Tide, but surprisingly he has been nothing but productive in his first season as starter.
AJ has 2,400 yards passing with 16 TD passes. He does have five INTs on the year, but most of them weren't in game-threatening situations.
He has been thrown into the Lion's Den, if you will. But like Daniel in the biblical version of this saying, he has come out of said Den with little to no damage.
McCarron has been sacked 11 times, which is a big issue for him. He cannot be sacked a lot this game, because if he continues to be, I'm not sure if his composure will be loved. AJ is a smaller QB, too, at just 204 lbs. He's very tough for his size and he actually is mobile too. He's no RG3 or anything, but he can escape pressure similar to that of Eli Manning for instance.
To me, AJ has to have a great game against LSU for Alabama to even have a chance. Eventually LSU will figure out ways to stop the run or at least slow it down. So, the only way to keep the honest is to have AJ back there slinging the ball around and actually completing passes with little to no mistakes.
If LSU stops AJ, they'll be able to stop the run and that will mean LSU wins an easy rematch.
I'd think by now it's pretty obvious that the star player from a team has to be a key factor in any win, otherwise you might as well remove the star.
Trent Richardson has played lights out this year, with over 1,500 yards on the ground and 23 total TDs.
I want people to keep something in mind. Seeing all the great backs in Alabama football history, you have a major class of legendary guys, such as Mark Ingram and Shaun Alexander. No one has scored more TDs rushing than Richardson. None.
That is a massive stat when you think about it. He is having probably THE best season of any Alabama back. He didn't win the Heisman, but did win the Doak Walker Award for best running back in the nation over guys like Monte Ball.
If there is anyone who has to play well in the title game, it's "The Ripper" Trent Richardson.
He actually did well last time against LSU, as he had over 160 total yards against them. So, if he can have anything similar or better against them in the Title game, you have a competitive game. If he is shut down, I'm not really liking Bama's chances.
Obviously head coaches play a massive factor in any game, but in this game Nick Saban of the Tide has a major role. Will he be conservative or pull out all the stops?
Across the field from him is "The Mad-Hatter" Les Miles. We know he's going to pull a surprise or two. Maybe eat some grass, who knows?
But one thing is for sure: Saban has to do something different that he did at the beginning of November the last time these two played. It seemed that then, both were playing not to lose instead of playing to win and I feel that is what cost Alabama in the end.
Saban decided to settle so many times or he decided not to do certain offensive moves for fear that LSU's defense would eat the play alive.
To me, Saban has to do something unpredictable on this LSU squad, particularly on offense if the Tide want a puncher's chance to win. I'm not sure how sold I am on Saban's play calling, which is why he normally doesn't call the plays and lets his offensive coordinator Jim McElwain do that.
But Saban has been known to pull a Bill Belichick, if you will, and call plays on offense some despite being more of a defensive mind. Funny enough, Saban is one of the Billy Boy disciples.
Saban is probably the biggest key factor to this game even over the players. Because it's his head coaching that could either cost the Tide their second National Championship in three years. Or, it could be that he helps them win it.
When it comes to returning the ball on the punt and kickoff game, even the defense on both punts and kickoffs, Alabama seems to do relatively well. There has been little to complain about in that department.
But, when we talk about kickers, there is another issue entirely.
In the last meeting with LSU, there was not one, not two, not even three missed field goals. But a whopping four missed. That's exactly 12 points Alabama left on the field, which would have sealed the game by double digits if all were hit.
This is unacceptable for sure. If Alabama has even a chance to win, the kickers from Alabama have to do better.
Cade Foster, the Sophomore who missed seemingly every kick he attempted in the loss to LSU, is the long field goal man. He has made two field goals this year. Some being in the LSU game. Alabama really hasn't had a need for him in most games, as they either score a TD or get close enough for Jeremy Shelley to get the kick.
Basically Foster is the backup kicker, but has a strong leg. So, the Tide use him in certain situations where they would need a bigger leg. Like in the LSU game where they were having to hit field goals over 45 yards.
Shelley is the normal kicker, as the Junior on the team he has seniority over Foster. He is also more experienced and has made 16 field goals this year while making 52 PATs. Which is pretty good numbers for an SEC kicker if you ask me.
He is 80 percent at kicks this year, but his miss against LSU is what he is still known for. He only missed one while Foster missed three kicks. But, even still the fact both missed is killer to both parties.
If Alabama has any chance against LSU, they simply have to make the FGs if they come about. Hands down, this has to be the most important thing for Alabama to sure up before the BCS National Title game
Thanks for reading the slide-show, guys/girls.
I feel this is going to be a close game and have a lot of back and forth. So don't expect either to make it a blowout win. It's obvious that many aren't happy about a rematch, especially when it comes to the SEC who will now have six consecutive National Champions.
But when it comes down to it, the BCS came to the conclusion that Alabama was slightly better than Oklahoma State and deserved it more. You can agree or disagree, but this is the game we will see!
My prediction is that the game will be close like last time which means a tight low score. But, it won't be 9-6.
I think the score will end up being 17-13, Alabama.
But what do you think? Are the Tide out-matched against LSU and don't stand a chance? Or maybe you think there is another key factor to this game. Let me know in the comment section below!