As up-tempo, point-a-minute offenses continue to proliferate, the hallmarks of Louisiana State and Alabama, the two teams that will meet Monday for the BCS national title, are esteemed defenses so acclaimed that they seek permanent places in recent college football history.
Instead of a back-and-forth shootout, the game promises to feature at least four quarters of textbook tackling in a black-and-blue battle for every inch of field position. And because of how their regular season matchup unfolded — a 9-6 overtime LSU victory on Nov. 5 — players can’t even guarantee that there will be a single offensive touchdown.
“The games you have been watching, you are not going to get that here,” said Alabama running back Trent Richardson. “You are going to get a slugfest, a man-up game, and see who is the best man on the field come Monday.”
The game at the Superdome is unlikely to serve as a highlight reel for an offensive player like Richardson, a Heisman Trophy finalist. And there are no electrifying wide receivers like Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon or West Virginia’s Tavon Austin. If both defenses battle to a virtual stalemate, the game’s most important player could well be a 6-foot-3, 184-pound Australian named Brad Wing, LSU’s accomplished punter.
LSU running back Michael Ford said those high-scoring games do not necessarily reflect the true essence of football games because “we go through the trenches. I think people get tired of seeing all those points on the board. They want to see a hard-fought game.”
The losing team in three of four BCS games this year scored no fewer than 33 points. In contrast, the regular season LSU-Alabama game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., produced no touchdowns and four missed field goals.
In West Virginia’s 70-33 victory in the Orange Bowl, Clemson allowed the Mountaineers to score nine offensive touchdowns. Alabama’s defense has allowed nine touchdowns total in 12 games.
“People, I am sure, enjoyed watching West Virginia put up 70 points in a game,” Alabama center William Vlachos said. “I know I was entertained by it. But when you look at the core of football, you look at blocking, you look at tackling, you look at rushing the ball, great defense, special teams play. That [first meeting] incorporated it all at a very high level. For a true football fan, I think they really enjoyed that game.”
The defenses have dominated like few others in recent college football history.
Alabama is allowing just 8.8 points per game, which would be the stingiest scoring defense since 1988 (Auburn). Quarterbacks completed just 48.3 percent of their passes against the Crimson Tide defense. It gives up just 3.4 yards per play. And just 23.3 percent of the 676 plays opponents have run on the defense went for more than five yards.