Stats Indicate Alabama Vs. LSU Is Close

Alabama’s Nick Saban is regarded as the best coach in college football, and he’s also the chief proponent of “The Process,” the directive that each player must concentrate on doing his job, not on the scoreboard.

No one can deny the results of this anti-results-oriented mindset. In his ninth year as coach at Alabama, Nick Saban has been an extraordinary winner. Nevertheless, scoreboards are on display in every football stadium, including Bryant-Denny in Tuscaloosa where the Crimson Tide will host LSU Saturday night.

Bama, 7-1 overall and 4-1 in Southeastern Conference games and ranked fourth in the inaugural College Football Playoff 2015 poll, and LSU, 7-0, 4-0, and ranked second in the CFP poll, kick off at 7 p.m. CST Saturday. CBS will televise the game.

Most expect this to be a very close game, and an examination of the statistics of both teams leads to such a conclusion. Saban’s admonition notwithstanding, the games are decided by points. LSU is second in the SEC in scoring, 38.9 points per game, and eighth in scoring defense, 22.6 points per game. That’s an average margin of 16.3. Alabama is fifth in the league in scoring, 33.5 ppg, and third in scoring defense, allowing 16.4. That’s a winning margin of 17.1.

Even this late in the year, three-fourths of the way through regular season play, statistics are not conclusive owing to inequities in schedules and other factors. Still, it is likely more can be gleaned from this larger body of work.

Both Alabama and LSU start with the goal of being able to run the football and being able to stop the run. The Tigers lead the SEC in rushing offense by almost 100 yards per game, piling up 309.1 yards per game in the running game. Bama is fifth at 188.5. Defensively, the Tide is first in the league, allowing 78.5 rushing yards per game, and the Tigers are second, giving up 93.7.

Alabama is seventh in the conference in passing offense, 233.4 yards per game, and the Tigers are last in the league, 156.9. In pass defense, Bama is fifth, giving up 197.2 yards per outing, and LSU is ninth, allowing 222.1. The Tigers are fourth in passing efficiency and ninth in passing defense efficiency, while the Tide is seventh in pass efficiency and first in pass defense efficiency.

LSU is second in the SEC in total offense, 466 yards per game, and Bama is seventh, 421.9. The Tide is first in total defense, allowing 275.8 yards per game, LSU fourth, giving up 315.9.

Unlike most SEC opponents this year, LSU does not have a statistical advantage in the kicking game with the Tigers dead last in both punting and kickoff coverage, 11th in kickoff returns, and seventh in punt returns.

LSU has been much better than Alabama in converting third down plays into first downs or touchdowns, 36-81 for 44.4 per cent, third in the league. Bama is 38-113 for 33.6 per cent, 12th in the SEC. On defense, the Tide is fourth in the league, allowing 41-131 for 31.3 per cent, the Tigers eighth, giving up 33-96 for 34.4 per cent.

LSU is second in the league in turnover margin at plus 7. The Tigers have 9 takeaways (2 fumble recoveries, 7 interceptions) and only 2 turnovers (both lost fumbles). Alabama is fourth in the league at plus 3 with 17 takeaways (12 interceptions, 5 fumble recoveries) and 14 turnovers (5 lost fumbles, 9 passes intercepted).

The Tigers lead the league in Red Zone (inside the 20-yard line) performance. LSU has scored on 28-31 opportunities (21 touchdowns, 7-7 field goals) for 90.3 per cent. Alabama is fifth on 30-35 success (21 TDs, 9-11 field goals). Both teams are statistically low in Red Zone defense, but that’s because neither defense gives opponents many opportunities inside the 20. Bama is 11th, giving up 15 scores (9 TDs, 6-8 FGs) in 18 opportunities and LSU is last, allowing 16 scores (14 TDs, 2-3 FGs) in 17 opportunities.

Both teams have been penalty-prone. Bama is 12th in the league, flagged 54 times for 487 yards, 60.9 yards per game, and LSU is last, 52 penalties for 444 yards, 63.4 yards per game.

Saban has said he is not concerned about sacks, only about the defense “affecting the quarterback.” From where we sit, it appears that a sack has quite an effect on the quarterback. Bama leads the league in sacks, 27 for 161 yards, while LSU is fifth, 18 for 122 yards. The Tigers are second in the league in giving up sacks, only 8 for 67 yards, while Bama is fifth, giving up 13 for 95 yards.

Alabama leads the league in time of possession, 33:21 per game, while LSU is fifth, 32:16.

Alabama safety Eddie Jackson is the league’s individual leader in interceptions with 5 for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns. LSU tailback Leonard Fournette, of course, is the leader in rushing and in scoring. He averages 193,1 yards per game rushing with Bama’s Derrick Henry a distant second at 130.5. In scoring, Fournette averages 12.9 points per game with Henry second at 10.5 and they rank one-two in touchdowns, Fournette 15, Henry 14.

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