ANALYSIS: #1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama

A closer look at Saturday's battle for the 2011 SEC Championship between the top-ranked Tigers (13-0) and No. 2 Crimson Tide (11-1) at the Superdome.

No. 1 LSU (13-0) vs. No.2 Alabama (11-1)

7:30 p.m. at the Superdome/New Orleans

WDGL-FM 98.1; XM 84; Sirius 84/ESPN

 

Series record: Alabama leads 45-25-5 but the Tigers have won the last two games, including an epic 9-6 overtime victory on Nov. 5 in the first matchup of the Nos. 1 and 2 teams. Five of the last seven games have been decided by a touchdown or less.

 

LSU

 

Jordan Jefferson

In the spotlight: QB Jordan Jefferson (6-5, 223, Sr.)

 

Season stats: 50-83-1 passing for 684 yards and 6 TDs; 61-248 rushing, 3 TDs

 

The most difficult season of Jefferson’s career arrives at the crescendo in his final game with a chance for him to etch his place in Tigers history in his hometown by guiding them to a national championship. Jefferson is the key as much for what LSU doesn’t need him to do as for what he has to do. The Tigers’ offense is more versatile with him at the controls, but also lacks the consistent deep passing threat Jarrett Lee provided. To balance that out, Jefferson has to be able to make something happen when a play breaks down – his scrambling skills have to be an asset. More than anything else, Jefferson doesn’t have to try and be Superman against arguably the best defense he’s ever started against. He simply has to avoid mistakes, especially turnovers, help the Tigers move the chains and contribute drive-sustaining plays when he can.

 

Injuries: LG Josh Dworaczyk (knee) out for season

 

Schedule (13-0, 8-0 SEC)

Sept. 3 LSU 40, #3 Oregon 27

Sept. 10 LSU 49, Northwestern State 3

Sept. 15 LSU 19, #25 Mississippi State 6

Sept. 24 LSU 47, at #16 West Virginia 21

Oct. 1 LSU 35, Kentucky 7

Oct. 8 LSU 41, #17 Florida 11

Oct. 15 LSU 38, Tennessee 7

Oct. 22 LSU 45, #19 Auburn 10

Nov. 5 LSU 9, #2Alabama 6 (OT)

Nov. 12 LSU 42, Western Kentucky 9

Nov. 19 LSU 52, Ole Miss 3

Nov. 25 LSU 41, #3Arkansas 17

Dec. 3 LSU 42, #12 Georgia 10

 

Alabama

 

Trent Richardson

In the spotlight: RB Trent Richardson (5-11, 224, Jr.)

 

Season stats: Led the SEC with 1,583 rushing yards and 20 TDs on the ground. Also caught 27 passes (tied for second on the team) for 327 yards and 3 TDs.

 

Depending on who you ask, Richardson either had a very solid game against LSU in the first meeting or struggled to find any room to run. While that may open to interpretation, what isn’t is the fact that Alabama’s best chance to succeed against the Tigers’ defense is to get their star back going early to set up a lot of other offensive options. Alabama did that in November, both on the ground and on short swing passes as he racked up 114 yards in the first half, 61 on three catches. If he can be that productive or more so in this matchup, it should open up the Tide passing game and create some different opportunities for an attack that figures to be a little looser than the first game. Should LSU find a way to slow Richardson down and force quarterback A.J. McCarron to throw on the Tigers’ terms that would have a major ripple effect for both teams.

 

Injuries/suspensions: S Mark Barron (ribs) probable, CB DeQuan Menzie (hamstring) probable, CB Dee Milliner (hamstring) probable, WR Darius Hanks (ankle) probable, OT Barrett Jones (ankle) probable

 

Schedule (11-1, 7-1 SEC)

Sept. 3 Alabama 48, Kent State 7

Sept. 10 Alabama 27, #23 Penn State 11

Sept. 17 Alabama 41, North Texas 0

Sept. 24 Alabama 38, #14 Arkansas 14

Oct. 1 Alabama 38, #12 Florida 10

Oct. 8 Alabama 34, Vanderbilt 0

Oct. 15 Alabama 52, Ole Miss 7

Oct. 22 Alabama 37, Tennessee 6

Nov. 5 #1 LSU 9, Alabama 6 (OT)

Nov. 12 Alabama 24, Mississippi State 7

Nov. 19 Alabama 45, Georgia Southern 21

Nov. 26 Alabama 42, Auburn 14

 

Three keys to the game

 

1. Turn the emotions loose: After five weeks of buildup and analyzation, the LSU players – especially the in-state contingent – have to come out and turn their pent-up emotions into positive energy. No reason to be tight in this game and no reason not to take a deep breath and turn it loose. Tigers coach Les Miles is one of the best motivators in the college game today and he’ll have plenty to say to his team before they take the field. If they can match his emotional fervor and use it as fuel, that bodes well against an Alabama team that has seemed uptight at times this week.

 

2. Be prepared to stay patient: The first game was a perfect lesson and possibly a blueprint for how methodical these teams are because they are so evenly matched and both anchored by suffocating defenses. With field position again so vital for field-goal opportunities or simply to control the clock, it’s important the Tigers don’t get too anxious when they have the ball and cognizant of Alabama trying to hit on big plays to change the tempo of what figures to be another slugfest. Living for the next down or the next series could be the difference between keeping the game close or falling into a come-from-behind situation.

 

3. Don’t change a thing: LSU got to this point by following a very familiar and comfortable recipe with sticky defense, an offense doing what it can to produce points and special teams that have dominated. Regardless of how good Alabama is at what, there’s no reason for the Tigers to stray from the path they’ve followed to the best regular season in program history. LSU has proven to be comfortable in its own skin despite a wave of potential distractions and that’s generated the kind of chemistry and cohesiveness that got the Tigers this far. If they can produce the kind of performance they did for 13 games, they’ll have a tremendous chance to complete the journey.

 

Predictions

RANDY ROSETTA: Could we be in for another grind-it-out battle, this time for a national crown? Probably so, but there also figures to be a little more offensive success with both teams able to follow a blueprint from the first meeting, which should equate to better execution. Moving the ball will still be a major chore, though, and field position will again will a premium. That means special teams figure to have a huge role, including the kickers and that edge is a huge one in the Tigers’ favor. Both teams will reach the end zone, but the kickers will again shine – more for the purple-and-gold to secure a third BCS crown in nine seasons. … LSU 23, Alabama 16

 

SHEA DIXON: The debate of LSU vs. Alabama will be settled with sa rematch of this seasons game of the century. Look for another defensive slugfest, but not a night where the scoreboard moves in 3-point increments. Instead, expect both teams to come out of the locker room looking to gain a quick edge – perhaps even with something tricky on special teams, like a fake punt or reverse in the return game. A little less feeling each other out and more hitting each other with the big play. Both teams are talented, but in the end look for depth to win out. The Tigers didn’t appear as worn down as the Tide after four quarters and overtime in Tuscaloosa, and with everyone healthy, LSU will be firing at full strength for this one. In the end, a field goal by Drew Alleman will separate a pair of touchdowns by each team. LSU 17, Alabama 14


EMILY VILLERE: The Tigers have faced adversity all season, so it's only fitting they have to play Alabama for a second time to get the crystal ball back in Baton Rouge. Once again, the LSU defense will rise to the occasion paired with a nice performance by the running game that will reach the end zone this time. New Orleans is the Tigers’ city and home away from home stadium so look for a win. … LSU 24, Alabama 17


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