(Photo by Steve Franz)
If the college football world needs anymore proof on what conference is best in America, it need look no further than tonight’s match up between Alabama and LSU. For the first time in Bowl Championship Series (BCS) history two teams from the same conference will play in the national title game. This will also mark the sixth consecutive time a SEC team will win the national title game, a tough reality for other conferences. Since the inception of the BCS only one team hasn’t won their conference and played in the championship game, the 2003 Oklahoma Sooners, who’s mere appearance in the title game was outrageously controversial. Alabama will become the second team to accomplish that feat, but their appearance is a little less scrutinized. Why? Because they are hands down second best team in the nation and here’s why:
–Both Alabama and LSU lead the nation in total defense. Bama is number one on the list, holding opponents to a staggering 191.3 yards/game. LSU was second giving up 252.1 yards/game.
-This will be the second time these team match up this year. LSU won the first one 9-6 in overtime. In the 9-6 loss, Alabama became the only team this season to not give up a touchdown to the Tigers, a team that averaged 38.5 points/game on the year.
-Alabama has 5 All-Americans on their team (Richardson, Jones, Hightower, Barron, Upshaw). Three of the five are on the first team.
-Nick Saban might be the best college football coach in the nation and if he closes the deal tonight he will have three national championships, putting him in some elite company.
There is no question that Alabama deserves to be in this game, but there is a reason LSU is still undefeated. The Tigers are the most talented team in the nation, which is why I think they will ultimately come out on top. Kentucky fans got an up close and personal view of LSU when our Wildcats traveled to Death Valley earlier this season. There dominance was evident then but let’s examine the Tigers a little closer:
–The Tigers might have the best defensive backfield I have ever seen. Every player that starts there will eventually play on Sundays, and play at a high level. There are led by cornerbacks Morris Claiborne (46 tackles, 6 ints) and Heisman-finalist Tyrann Mathieu (70 tackles, 2 ints), who both have some return ability as well. Think about this… last year current Arizona Cardinal, Patrick Peterson was in this secondary. Peterson, Claiborne, and Mathieu are all going to be top 5 picks in the NFL draft and without Peterson the secondary is playing better this year. Wow.
-LSU also has some talent at the front of their defense. Hurried quarterback throws are what helps this secondary be great and defensive ends Barkevious Mingo (8 sacks) and Sam Montgomery (9 sacks) are playing at an extremely high clip this season. In LSU’s base 4-3 defense a pass rush has to be generated for it to be successful and these guys know how to get to the quarterback.
-What goes better with a stifling defense than a great, power running game? LSU goes four deep at the running back position with Blue, Ford, Hillard, and Ware. None of the four backs have scored less than 7 touchdowns this season, and their quarterback Jordan Jefferson joins the party with three rushing touchdowns of his own. To stop the Tigers you have to stop their backs and no one has done it so far this season.
This should be a great game. Both LSU and Bama deserve to be playing tonight and the team that wins it is going to have to be playing flawless football to pull out the victory. Does Alabama avenge their only loss of the season and send the BCS into utter chaos? I’m going to say no. I think LSU pulls this game out, 17-13.
Who comes out on top tonight? Roll Tide or Geaux Tigers?