Sunday, January 8, 2012

National Championship Preview- #1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama

by John Huffstetler

Monday Jan. 8th 8:30 PM EST- LSU (13-0) (+2) vs. Alabama (11-1) O/U 40- While some critics believed Oklahoma St. belonged in this title game, the BCS National Championship undoubtedly matches the top two teams in the country. LSU was clearly the best team in the nation this regular season as the only undefeated team in the country while playing the 8th toughest schedule in the country. Their spectacular resume includes an OT road win against this #2 Alabama squad, a neutral site thrashing of #5 Oregon (probably the 3rd best team in the nation), a road beat-down of Orange Bowl winner West Virginia, a home thrashing of #7 Arkansas, and a 2nd half slaughter of #18 Georgia in the SEC title game. Before playing this final game, LSU already deserves the title. Unfortunately for them, to secure the title, they must once again beat a formidable Alabama squad.

While Alabama had a fine season, their schedule pales in comparison to LSU's. Their most impressive and only legitimate non-conference win came on the road against a suspiciously mediocre Penn St. squad. In conference, they avoided by far the two strongest teams from the East in South Carolina and Georgia, but did manage to easily beat solid Arkansas, Miss St., and Auburn squads. Although the results from the regular season don't compare to LSU's, Alabama is stronger from a YPP perspective, ranking 1st in defensive YPP, a yard better than everyone else in the nation (LSU 2nd), and 10th in offensive YPP (LSU 36th).

So why then did LSU have such a clearly better regular season if they are the weaker team statistically on offense and defense? Intangibly, LSU is as strong as any team in the country. They rank 14th in the nation in turnovers forced with their ball-hawking defense and they are #1 in the nation in giveaways, turning the ball over just 0.6 times per game. They also have possibly the best special teams of the 21st century. Punter Brad Wing lead the NCAA in net punting yards per kick at 41.61, and kicker Drew Alleman lead the nation in field goal conversion percentage at 94.12%. Further, they possess a formidable return specialist (and true Heisman trophy winner) in Tyrann Mathieu.

- The same edges in special teams, turnover margins, and QB experience exist for LSU from the 1st match-up. The only difference now is the game is neutral site (but in LSU's home state) as opposed to at Alabama. The balance of the universe depends on LSU winning the national championship. They have earned the title and they will get the win they deserve. Score- LSU 23-17.

Gambling Perspective- Play LSU +2
. It's an outrage that they are an underdog in this game. The only logical reason for this is Alabama's strength from a YPP perspective, but LSU played the tougher schedule and richly deserves financial support in this game. Slight lean over 40. Everyone expects a low-scoring affair like the first game, but these two defenses are terrific at setting up their offenses on a short field for easy points.

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