For the other side of the coin, here’s what to watch with Alabama.
The Louisiana State University Tigers come into tonight’s BCS national title game as the lone unbeaten team remaining in Division I college football. They won the SEC title, edged Alabama 9-6 in ‘The Game of the Century’ in November and have a the national coach of the year at the helm.
Yet somehow, the top-ranked Tigers are underdogs in tonight’s clash, which it should be noted, will be played in the Superdome.
What do Les Miles and LSU have to do to get a little respect around here? Another victory against the Crimson Tide should do the trick.
Here are five things to watch for the folks who spell ‘Go’ with an ‘eaux’:
Jordan Jefferson and the running game. Jarrett Lee’s poor showing against Alabama landed him on the pine pony and cemented Jefferson as the team’s starter. In the four games since, Jefferson has thrown for 494 yards and four touchdowns with only one interception. He’ll need to make plays with his arm and his feet to make Alabama’s vaunted defense pay for selling out to stop the run. But the Tigers should stick with their bread and butter by pounding the ball with Michael Ford and Spencer Ware until the Crimson Tide stop them.
The Honey Badger. Heisman trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu is the essence of the type of player that made LSU so good this season. He’s fast, he’s athletic and he can turn nothing into a long touchdown run in a split second. Mathieu is a playmaker in every facet of the game and Alabama’s kickers — and quarterback — would be wise to avoid putting the ball in his hands.
Can the Tigers continue to dominate the edges with their speed and force Alabama to beat them between the tackles? Trent Richardson has the strength to run right down your throat and the speed to beat teams in the open field when he gets to the outside. The Crimson Tide found success up the middle against the Tigers the first time around but East-West running plays were a different story. Expect LSU to focus on keeping Alabama runners pinned inside, allowing four and five yards here or there in order to prevent the Tide from springing a big one.
The punter. When analysts mention the need to ‘win the special teams battle,’ they often neglect to mention the punter. But LSU freshman punter Brad Wing just may be his team’s most valuable special teams weapon. On 50 punts this season, the redshirt freshman has a 44.1 yard average, good for No. 18 in the country. But of those 50 punts, 23 have landed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and 11 fell inside the 10. Most impressively, the big-footed Aussie and his cover team have allowed all of six (yes, six!) punt return yards all season. In a game where field position could be everything, Wing could be king.
The Hat. He eats grass. He often looks like he has no clue what’s going on in the fourth quarter of a tight game. He’s a lunatic. For all the past blunders that have and haven’t cost LSU coach Les Miles during his career in Baton Rouge, the guy simply continues to make his doubters scratch their heads and wonder what exactly sits beneath that hat on his head. Today Miles was named the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year for the Football Bowl Subdivision, and if he can pull one more win out of his hat under the bright lights tonight, he will once again validate LSU’s commitment to its quirky coach.
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