Tide Leads LSU In Most Statistics

One of the most flawed systems of trying to predict a football outcome is the "comparative scores" method. Team "A" defeated Team "B" by 6 points and Team "B" defeated Team "C" by 10 points, therefore when "A" plays "C", "A" should win by 16 points. Try that a few times and see how well it works for you.

Fortunately, no one can be duped by the "comparative scores" process when Alabama hosts LSU in an important Southeastern Conference football game Saturday. Incredibly, the Crimson Tide and Fighting Tigers—members of the same Western Division of the SEC—have not had a common opponent through two-thirds of regular season games.

That doesn't mean we can't look at some comparative numbers. Bama and LSU will decide the issue beginning at 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. CBS will televise the top game in the nation. Alabama is 8-0 overall and ranked third in the nation, while the Tigers are 7-1 and ranked ninth. The Crimson Tide is 5-0 in SEC play and LSU is 4-1. LSU's lone loss was to number one Florida.

Rest assured that Alabama Coach Nick Saban and LSU Coach Les Miles are not spending any time checking out the statistical side of football this year as they prepare their teams. Nevertheless, it's an interesting—if not 100 per cent accurate—exercise.

There is a reason that statistics compiled by the SEC begin with "Scoring Offense" and "Scoring Defense." It is, after all, the score that decides the game. Alabama has a slight advantage in both categories. The Crimson Tide scores 31.8 points per game, which is fourth in the SEC, while LSU scores 26.4, eighth in the league. Bama allows 11.4 points per game, second among SEC teams, and LSU is third, giving up 12.1.

Most coaches consider rushing offense and rushing defense among the most important statistics. Alabama ranks fourth in rushing offense, 217.6 yards per game, and the Tigers are fourth in rushing defense, allowing 114.4. LSU rushes for 141.5 yards per game, 10th in the conference, and Bama leads the league in rushing defensive, giving up only 64.6 yards per game.

The teams are almost even in passing offense and passing defense. The Tide ranks eighth in passing offense, 192.4 yards per game, and LSU ninth, 183.6. Alabama is seventh in pass defense, allowing 176 yards per game, and LSU is ninth, giving up 178.6. (In pass efficiency, LSU is third and Alabama fifth, and in pass efficiency defense the Tide is second and the Tigers fifth.)

Alabama has the advantage in both total offense and total defense. On offense, Bama is fourth, 410 yards per game, and LSU 12th, 325.1. On defense, the Tide is second, allowing 240.6, and the Tigers fourth, giving up 293.

There are a few miscellaneous statistics considered important by coaches.

Turnover margin is an LSU strength. The Tigers lead the league at plus nine. LSU has gained with five fumble recoveries and 11 interceptions while giving up only three fumbles and four interceptions. Bama isn't bad, just two behind the Tigers at plus seven. The Tide, like the Tigers, has also recovered five fumbles and made 11 pass interceptions, but Bama has given up six fumbles and three interceptions.

Third down efficiency on offense and defense is another key statistic. LSU ranks second in the league in converting third down plays into first downs or scores with 42-100, an easy-to-calculate 42 per cent. Bama ranks seventh, 45-117 for 38.5 per cent. Alabama is better at stopping opponents on third down, ranking third by allowing 34-114 for 29.8 per cent. The Tigers are 11th on defense on third downs, permitting 48-124, 38.7 per cent.

Red Zone performance (inside the 20 yard line) is key. Alabama has scored 32-37 opportunities, 86.5 per cent of the time, which is sixth in the SEC. LSU is seventh, 24-29 for 82.8 per cent. Both teams have scored 16 touchdowns. Bama is 16-17 on field goals, LSU 8-9 on three-pointers.

LSU is best in the league in Red Zone defense, holding opponents to 66.7 per cent success (14-21). Bama is third best, holding opponents to 71.4 per cent success (10-14).

Neither team is penalized much. LSU ranks fourth in the league, 43.9 yards per game, Alabama sixth, 52.9 yards per game.

Time of possession can be important, but is not always important. Bama is best in the conference, holding the ball for an average of 32:35. LSU is eighth, 29:11.

Want to try to predict the number of sacks to expect in the game? Alabama ranks first in the league in sacks, making 2.88 per game. LSU ranks 11th in being sacked by that same number, 2.88 per game. LSU doesn't do well on defense, 12th in the conference with just 1.38 sacks per game. Alabama is best in the league in not being sacked, allowing only one per game.

Individual league leaders, all from Alabama, are Mark Ingram in rushing (125.5 yards per game), touchdowns (11), and points per game by touchdowns (8.2); Leigh Tiffin for scoring and kick scoring (10.5 points per game), field goals (20), and field goal percentage (20-23 for 87 per cent); Javier Arenas for punt return average (16.8); and Mark Barron for passees defended (11, seven break-ups and four interceptions) and interceptions.

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