Not sure if you heard, but Alabama and LSU are playing this week. It’s not quite the “Game of the Century” that it was last November, but once again the SEC West title is likely on the line as well as a potential spot in the BCS Championship Game.
Last Nov .5 they met in Tuscaloosa with both unbeaten and LSU at No. 1 and Bama at No. 2. The game was predictably ugly if you are a fan of offense, won 9-6 in overtime by LSU. The Tide missed four field goals in the game, including to start OT. Neither team managed 300 yards of offense, and it was the second-lowest scoring game ever between the nation’s top-ranked teams. Alabama hasn’t lost since.
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Unfortunately to many outside the SEC, the two managed to meet again for the National Championship. This time there was all of one touchdown, as the Tide kicked five field goals and won 21-0 for their second crown in three years. It was the first shutout in a BCS Championship Game and LSU managed 92 total yards, five first downs and ran only four plays on Alabama's side of the field, never past the 40.
The two finished the season atop the polls and began 2012 that way in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. However, LSU was dropped one spot to No. 3 after star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was booted from the team. When the Tigers lost 14-6 at Florida on Oct. 6, their BCS hopes were in a bit of jeopardy, but wins over ranked South Carolina and Texas A&M have LSU back up to No. 5 in the BCS Standings. A win here would mean the Tigers would control their own destiny in the SEC West, but they would likely need two of Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon to lose once to return to the national title game. As much as fans don’t want to hear this, a Tide close loss again could set up a similar scenario to 2011: Alabama doesn’t even play in its own conference title game but could slip into the BCS title game through the back door.
Alabama at LSU Betting Storylines
Once again, if you like offense it’s probably wise to look away – but for sure when LSU has the ball. Alabama leads the nation in the four major defensive categories (total, passing, rushing and scoring) and hasn’t allowed more than 14 points this season. But the Tide also have a pretty good offense behind QB A.J. McCarron. He leads the nation in passer rating, will set the season-single school record for TD passes and hasn’t thrown an interception in a school-record 262 attempts. The Tide are No. 11 nationally in scoring offense (40.6 points per game) and have scored at least 30 points in all eight games so far, setting a school record to open a season. Neither Alabama’s offense nor defense has taken the field this year yet while trailing.
LSU’s defense is almost as good, ranking No. 9 in scoring (14.6) and No. 3 in total (245.9 yards per game). Where the Tigers don’t match up with Alabama is at quarterback. Zach Mettenberger was hyped as a terrific pure passer, a big upgrade over Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson from last season. But Mettenberger is averaging just 177 yards passing per game, ninth in the SEC, and has thrown for more than 200 yards only twice. Overall he has completed 112-of-198 passes for 1,419 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
Mettenberger can’t afford to turn the ball over here as the Tide have a 125-3 scoring advantage off turnovers and rank No. 2 in the country in turnover margin at plus-2.13 per game. LSU must run the ball as it is 31-2 under Les Miles when a running back reaches the 100-yard mark in a game. Freshman Jeremy Hill has emerged as the featured back, topping 100 yards in the past two weeks with three touchdowns (at least a 47-yard scoring run in both games).
What is on LSU’s side is the best home-field advantage in college football. The Tigers have won a national-best 22 straight at home, last losing in 2009 to top-ranked Florida. In addition, LSU is 36-1 in Saturday night games in Tiger Stadium under Miles. The place will be a zoo.
Alabama at LSU Betting Odds and Trends
On 5Dimes, the Tide are 9.5-point favorites (-350 on moneyline) and the total is 41.5. Alabama is 5-3 ATS this season and 4-3-1 “over/under”. LSU is 3-5 ATS and 3-4 O/U.
Alabama is 6-0 ATS in its past six road games vs. a team with a winning home record. It is 6-1 ATS in its past seven SEC games. LSU is 5-2 ATS in its past seven after a bye. Tigers are 1-4 ATS in past five SEC games. The over is 4-1 in Alabama’s past five road games. The under is 5-1 in LSU’s past six after a win. The favorite has covered in seven of the past 10 meetings.
Here’s a great prop on 5Dimes -- What will Lee Corso’s pick on ESPN “GameDay” be: Alabama (-750) or LSU (+450).
College Football Predictions: Alabama at LSU Picks
This is like the seventh game of the World Series in that Nick Saban and Miles are 3-3 vs. each other. The Tide are pretty much a lock to reach the SEC title game if they win here as it’s their final road game of the season. Yeah, the Iron Bowl is a heated rivalry, but have you seen how bad Auburn is? LSU, meanwhile, closes at home vs. Mississippi State and Ole Miss and then at Arkansas (the latter could be tricky). It would favored in all three.
This will be decided most likely on if the Tigers can hold Alabama to 13 points or less as I don’t see LSU getting more than 14 barring defensive or special teams touchdowns. The good news is that the Tigers have the nation’s best defensive line. The bad is that the Tide probably have the best offensive line. It should be another low-scoring slugfest so definitely take the under. It wouldn’t surprise me at all were LSU to win, but I do like the Tigers to at worst cover. And I believe Corso plays to the crowd and dons a Tigers head (or brings a live Tiger onto the set).
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