Posted: 11/3/2011 2:39:11 AM
In the sea of opinions out there on tv and the internet, I’m not sure anyone really cares about mine, but I’ll give it to you anyhow.
I love how both fan bases are so confident their team will win. That’s exactly how it should be. The garbage-talking before the game is half the fun.
I have been posting about this game on Blankets since January when I did a fairly detailed preview of both Alabama and LSU. I said back then that Alabama and LSU would be the best two teams in college football. I said this game would pretty much be the “Game of the Year,” and that it would decide the SEC & national championship. I reiterated that in my Alabama pre-season write-up. Thus, the magnitude of this game has not taken me by surprise in the least. I’ve also been consistent in saying that I think with this game being played at Bryant-Denny Stadium, you have to give the edge to the Crimson Tide here.
I will not delve into statistics because stats are like bikinis; what they reveal is interesting, but what they conceal is vital. Once you jump into the stats rabbit hole, you can never get out. It provokes endless and pointless debates about how this team has faced better defenses and that team has face better offenses yada, yada, yada. I think we all know that the stats are very even across the board coming into this game, so I don’t think the stats are very probative in analyzing this matchup. I think the most misleading stat I’ve seen thus far is that LSU ranks 117th in the nation in red zone offense. Honestly, if you are betting Alabama off of that stat, you deserve to pay off your bookie.
There is so much I could write about this game, but I’ll try to keep it relatively short, by focusing on what I see are the three biggest differences between these two teams - the QBs, the defensive front 7s and coaching.
I’ve read and heard many times over the past two weeks how Alabama and LSU are pretty much mirror images of one other. That is not really the case. While it is true that both teams have a smash-mouth, establish-the-run type of mentality on offense, the defenses are quite different. One is a quick penetrating defense (LSU), and the other focuses on eating up blockers and gap control (Alabama). I have said several times that the matchup between Alabama’s offense and LSU’s defense reminds me very much of the Alabama/Texas national championship game. The make-up of LSU’s defense is very, very similar to that Texas defense.
The heart and soul of both offenses is the offensive line. Both are talented, experienced and deep. Both offenses attack you with a power running game. LSU features Spencer Ware who loves to mix it up between the tackles. . Michael Ford comes in to spell Ware. He is also is also a big back but is a little bit more explosive, and more of a home run threat. LSU also features FB James Stampley. This guy won’t get many carries, but he is a road-grader. OC Greg Studrawa likes to use him like as a sledgehammer by pounding on opposing defenses until they break.
Alabama, of course, features the strongest and most powerful RB in college football in Trent Richardson. When OC Jim McElwain is giving him a blow, Alabama will bring in another bruiser in Eddie Lacy. Alabama’s third backfield bruiser is Jalston Fowler who could also see a few touches. The three of them do a great job of breaking the will of opposing defenses by relentlessly pounding on them.
Defensively the biggest difference I see is that one defense is built from the ground up to stop the run, especially power running teams like LSU. Saban’s entire defensive philosophy is centered around stopping the run, and he specifically recruits players for that purpose. First and foremost, to play for Saban you must be physical in the run game regardless of what position you play.
All defenses want to stop the run, and LSU’s defense is no exception. They just approach it in a different manner. LSU features a small but very fast and athletic front 7 with elite pass rushers coming off the edge. They try to disrupt the running and passing games by getting penetration.
Because Alabama (3-4) and LSU (4-3) run different defensive schemes, a player-by-player comparison of the front 7s is really apples and oranges. Therefore, to give you an idea of how these two front 7s measure up, I will compare the size of both to the NFL average for each defensive scheme.
Avg NFL DL
4-3 Defense - 6-3, 291 (LSU - 6-5, 274)
3-4 Defense - 6-4, 307 (Bama - 6-3, 305)
Avg NFL LB
4-3 Defense - 6-2, 244 (LSU - 6-1, 218)
3-4 Defense - 6-2, 252 (Bama - 6-3, 253)
Avg NFL Front 7
4-3 Defense - 6-3, 271 (LSU - 6-3, 250)
3-4 Defense - 6-3, 276 (Bama - 6-3, 275)
I have said many times, Alabama’s defense is the closest thing to a NFL defense you will find in college football in terms of size, scheme, talent and coaching. From the comparison of the measurables above you can see that what I’m talking about. The measurables of Alabama’s defense is a virtual mirror image of a NFL 3-4 defense. Conversely, you can also see that LSU’s defense is a good 20 lbs lighter than a typical NFL 4-3 defense. See also:
The Defense That Went to Fat Camp
*** Continued ***