Sunday, January 8, 2012

PS Bowl-A-Thon 2011: The 2012 BCS Championship Game - All SEC All The Time

How many times do you think we'll see these ads from Allstate, your sponsor for the game?

Although, honestly, your humble correspondent preferred these ads from former 24 U.S. President Dennis Haysbert:

The Where and When:
Allstate BCS National Championship Game, New Orleans, LA. Monday, January 9th, 8:30 ET. ESPN/ESPN3/ESPN3D

The Who:
Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1 SEC) vs. LSU Tigers (13-0, 8-0 SEC)

The Why:
The top two ranked teams as determined by the BCS formula (which incorporates both human and computer polls) square off to determine who walks away with this year’s national championship. And, as your humble correspondent has been saying all year, and this matchup proves, this year’s game features two teams from far and away the best conference in the land, the SEC.

What Smartypants Accounting Guy Would Tell You:
At this point, I’m not sure there isn’t much that most people doesn’t know about these teams. LSU’s defense surrenders 10.5 points per game, second only in the country to Alabama’s 8.8 ppg allowed. Alabama scores 36 points per game (17th), which is just a touch less than LSU at 38.5 points per game (12th). LSU rushes for 215 yards per game, Alabama 220, Alabama’s defense surrenders 191 yards per game (first) while LSU gives up 252 (second), both teams went undefeated on the road, and Alabama’s lone home loss, a 9-6 defensive struggle decided in OT, came in November at the hands of these very Tigers.

As was the case in the first game, one big question will be how the special teams for the Tide and Tigers perform. Specifically, in their first matchup, Alabama missed four field goals, including a 52 yarder in OT. Not only were those misses costly in terms of not putting points on the board, but had Alabama coach Nick Saban chosen to play field position and punt the ball, one can only wonder if eventually the Tide could have converted a short field into a touchdown. Sadly, there are now (at least) two certainties in life…one, we’ll never know the outcome had Saban chosen to punt, and two, how differently Rocky V would be perceived had the filmmakers used the alternate ending under consideration (where Rocky dies in the climactic fight, at the hands of Tommy Gunn).

In addition to questions surrounding Alabama’s kicking game (will they shake off the memories of the misses versus LSU or will that nightmare resurface when they see the Tigers again?),  is whether or not LSU cornerback Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu will make a splash with a punt return, similar to how his punt returns in the SEC title game against Georgia turned the momentum in the Tigers favor.

A final consideration for this game is determining the impact of the quarterback play. With both teams sporting dominant running attacks (primarily Spencer Ware for LSU and Trent Richardson for Alabama) the play of the quarterbacks will certainly be a key. Specifically for LSU, will J “Just A Misdemeanor” Jefferson be able to exploit the Alabama defense on the edge, as Georgia Southern was able to do when it racked up 302 yards on the ground? And, will AJ McCarron, who started the season platooning with Phillip Sims, but has since grabbed the starting spot and improved throughout the year be able to effectively utilize the Tide’s play action passing attack to hit tight end Brad Smelley in the passing game?

Pool Prognosticators Pattern:
Both teams play in the greatest conference in the country so that’s a wash. Nick Saban has coached both teams so that’s also a wash. In other areas, Louisiana is well below the national average in terms of education, but Alabama is too. Louisiana had to deal with the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, but Alabama endured deadly tornadoes, both states have really warm weather, country legend Hank Williams is from Alabama but his son Hank Williams Jr. is from Louisiana, modern day crooner Harry Connick Jr. is from Louisiana but former crooner Nat King Cole is from Alabama, list goes on and on. No wonder the first game was so close and expectations are that the second game will be equally as close…for every point there is an equal counterpart. Let’s just move on.

Vegas Edge:
When the lines were first published for this game LSU was favored by one, but since then has moved to Alabama giving anywhere from 1.5 to 2. Obviously, the money has been flowing in on Alabama to take care of business. For the season, Alabama was 8-4 ATS while LSU was 10-3 ATS, which isn’t surprising since it really just further indicates that both teams took care of business all season. The Over/(Under) on the game is only 40 which seems microscopic given some the shootouts this bowl season, but in the first matchup these two went to OT and still only garnered a grand total of 15 points. So, if you’re betting on the Over/(Under) the question is whether or not there is reason to believe these two will find enough offense in the rematch to essentially put up three times as many points as when they met back in November.

Sweatpants Verdict:
After writing about a bunch of minor league bowl matchups featuring teams from inferior conferences (I’d say which conferences but they are all inferior to the SEC) it’s good to be back “home” writing about teams that actually know how to play the game, and play it well. Between Russell Wilson’s inability to spike the ball, Stanford’s kicker missing two field goals and North Carolina deciding they didn’t want to play in a bowl game (even though they appeared in one) it’s a relief that we’re closing the season with the two best teams in the nation dueling it out for the title. Not only does this game give Alabama a chance at redemption, but, much like the Crimson Tide, it gives your humble correspondent a chance to redeem his only regular season misfire. And loyal readers, that’s really all you can ask for (unless you’re Breezy, in which case you’re also hoping for a girlfriend you don’t have to pay by the hour). With that, let’s get to verdict…

Although these are two evenly matched teams and will be more of a “home” game for LSU since it’s in New Orleans, I just can’t pick against Nick Saban, especially when he’s had extra time to prepare. Although I certainly anticipate both defenses will show up and do what they do. I think Saban and Defense Coordinator Kirby Smart force a key turnover which AJ McCarron, Trent Richardson, and the Tide offense turn into the deciding score. I’m going low scoring, and I’m rolling with Tide, 17-7.

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