Tide Gets Helpful Advice For Rematch

What can Alabama do differently in its rematch with LSU so that the Crimson Tide can win the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 9 in New Orleans? Here's something for starters:

Don't let the game go into overtime. And if it does, win the toss so you can be on defense first.

When Alabama lost to LSU in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5 it was an overtime defeat. Both teams kicked a pair of field goals in regulation. In overtime, Bama missed its fourth field goal of the game and the Tigers made their third in three tries and won 9-6.

That was the only loss in the second-ranked Crimson Tide's 11-1 season. LSU is 13-0 and ranked first in the nation.

Alabama is now 4-7 in overtime games against Southeastern Conference teams. The Crimson Tide is now 4-8 overall in overtime games and has lost seven of its last 10.

And that brings up another thing to change in the rematch. Don't let it come down to Alabama kicking a field goal, unless it happens to be one that is in the range of Jeremy Shelley (about 35 yards) or Cade Foster (about 45 yards).

There's not much at this late date that can be done to make Foster a long-range kickoff man or Cody Mandell a stronger punter. but Bama has good enough athletes that the coverage should be drastically improved. In the Tide's final three games of the season Bama gave up two kickoff returns for touchdowns (against Georgia Southern and Auburn) and another for 68 yards (against Mississippi State) that set up a touchdown. Ironically, in the LSU game the Tide punted just twice and gave up zero return yards and allowed just 49 yards in returns on three kickoffs.

The Alabama defense doesn't need to waste any of the month's preparation time on LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee. Lee was the starter the last time Alabama played LSU. Tigers Coach Les Miles gave Lee the hook early against Bama. Lee got a brief second half chance against the Tide, but when he threw an interception that was returned to inside the LSU four-yard line by Mark Barron, that was it for the game (and pretty much for the season) for Lee.

(Speaking of that interception: the defense needs a memo to not block in the back when you have a sudden change to offense. That interception Barron returned to about the four ended up on the LSU 35 after the penalty and the Tide ended up settling for a field goal.

Otherwise, there's not a lot to change on defense, even though it will be Jordan Jefferson at quarterback for the Tigers. LSU's option was a bit troubling, but nothing like Georgia Southern's. That game, the next to last of the regular season, may pay dividends for the Tide's defense against LSU. For the game, LSU had 148 yards rushing and 91 passing.

It's safe to say that Alabama offensive linemen know they have to do a little better against LSU. Trent Richardson can run as well as any college back in the nation – in fact, he's the best running back in America –, but he can't run if defensive linemen get to him at the same time he gets the football.

Alabama was victimized by interceptions playing against LSU last month. One, thrown by quarterback A.J. McCarron, was returned 33 yards to the Tide 15 and set up LSU's fourth quarter field goal that tied the game 6-6, which would send it into overtime.

The second came on Alabama's next possession and has invited much second-guessing. McCarron completed an 18-yard pass to Marquis Maze and Trent Richardson had run for 24 yards to set the Tide up with a first down at the LSU 28, not too many Richardson runs from reasonable field goal range. But Bama went to its bag of tricks, Maze at wildcat, who tricked no one with his pass for Michael Williams near the goalline. Eric Reid out-wrestled Williams for possession and the interception.

Maze may have been injured. In any event, he was back in punt return a few minutes later and misplayed an LSU punt that went for 73 yards to the Tide 18, flipping field position and ending the scoring.

And speaking of punting, be aware of the whereabouts of LSU's Tyrann Mathieu when the Tigers are punting. He injured Bama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick with a dirty clothesline ambush that, incredibly, was called "holding."

Alabama didn't have its best game against a very good LSU team in Tuscaloosa, and still had a chance to win. If Bama can play well, it could bring home national championship number 14. It's just a matter of changing a few things.

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