BCS national championship capsule: LSU vs. Alabama

January 8, 2012

BCS national championship

Who: No. 1 Louisiana State vs. No. 2 Alabama.

When: 8:30 p.m.

Where:Superdome, New Orleans.

TV: ESPN.

Radio: WWXT (92.7 FM), WWXX (94.3 FM), WTEM (980 AM).

Tigers have options: Alabama’s defense ranks first nationally in every major statistical category. It has given up an average of 8.8 points per game and 3.4 yards per play. Two of the headliners are ball-hawking linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower. All that said, the Crimson Tide faces a unique challenge with LSU’s offense because of the option element. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who replaced struggling Jarrett Lee in the first meeting between the schools, had some success with running the option in the Tigers’ victory over Alabama. LSU has a number of running backs who could contribute, including Michael Ford and Spencer Ware. “We’ve just got a lot of threats,” Jefferson said. Earlier this season, another opponent, Georgia Southern, racked up 302 rushing yards against Alabama with an option-oriented attack.

Honey Badger leads the way: LSU’s defense is outstanding because of its depth and star power on the defensive line and in the secondary. It became the first school to feature two first-team all-American cornerbacks in Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne, both of whom can change the complexion of a game with a single play. LSU’s defense, namely the safeties, can home in a little more on stuffing the run because Alabama doesn’t appear to have a game-breaking wide receiver. What’s more, quarterback A.J. McCarron struggled to make some reads and missed some open receivers in the 9-6 overtime loss Nov. 5. Despite the focus on containing Alabama running back Trent Richardson, the Heisman Trophy finalist still rushed for 89 yards in that game.

Special teams are key: One special teams play could determine the outcome. LSU has arguably the nation’s best punter in Brad Wing. LSU place kicker Drew Alleman kicked three field goals in the first meeting. Alabama’s Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley combined to miss four field goals in that game. Mathieu is tied for first nationally with 16.2 yards per punt return. He had a 92-yard return for a score against Arkansas and a 62-yard touchdown return against Georgia.

— Eric Prisbell

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