bama-lsu bcs championship
The numbers that mattered in Alabama football's 21-0 destruction of LSU in Monday night's BCS Championship game, from LSU's Spike Factor, to Alabama's tight ends, to one final Warlord-and-Koko B. Ware reference.
800: Days since a team had failed to conclude a single drive in their opponent's territory. LSU was beaten at their own game last night: defense, field position and special teams. Alabama's defense swallowed whole anything LSU tried to do offensively (and while the calls for Jarrett Lee to take over for Jordan Jefferson at quarterback were somewhat warranted, the odds of him having more success than Jefferson were minimal), they refused to give LSU any field position to work with (LSU began one drive beyond their 28 and none beyond their 35), and at the very least, they fought LSU to a draw in the special teams department.
As a whole, we saw what happens when special teams is your single biggest advantage. Great special teams units can make an enormous difference in a game, but a) only if your offense and/or defense are keeping their heads above water, and b) not in every game. LSU had one of the most complete special teams units in the country, but even the best aren't going to average 55 yards per punt every game or return a kick/punt for a touchdown. Alabama missed two field goals and an extra point, and LSU's Brad Wing still pinned the Tide inside their 20 four times, but by breaking a lovely early punt return and preventing LSU from doing the same, they negated some of the Tigers' best opportunities for success. And, of course, the one time LSU entered Alabama territory, the Tide just pushed them right back out.
386.7: Average yards per game gained by the LSU offense in games against teams not named Alabama. They averaged a robust 6.0 yards per play and 40.9 points per game. In two games (and an overtime) versus Alabama, they averaged 165.5 yards, 3.2 yards per play, and 4.5 points. I know the storyline from last night was "These offenses are terrible!" and all, and I know that the game featured only one touchdown. I understand how that narrative came about. Still ... one cannot ignore that these two offenses were somewhere between very good and spectacular against most of the other teams they played this year. That's how each offense ranked so highly in the opponent- (and pace-) adjusted advanced stats. Did Jordan Jefferson (and others) play horribly yesterday? Absolutely. But Alabama's defense was responsible for a good portion of that. Their defensive line was even more dominant than LSU's, they knew the Tigers' gameplan better than the Tigers did, and they allowed two plays of more than eight yards (one pass, one run). They were unbelievable. Robert Griffin III and Baylor would have struggled to score on the Tide last night (and they would have given up 45 points to A.J. McCarron and the Tide offense to boot).
34: Length of Trent Richardson's final carry. LSU's run defense was simply awesome for a good portion of the game -- not including Richardson's final carry, he and Eddie Lacy combined to average 3.5 yards per carry over 35 carries -- but they were gassed and beaten at the end, and Richardson was still capable of shifting into fifth gear.
23: Length of LSU's longest drive. Nineteen of those yards came on a pass to Odell Beckham, Jr. The next three plays produced four yards, and LSU punted.
22.7: Percentage of LSU's snaps that went for a loss. EDSBS' Run Home Jack introduced the Spike Factor back in October:
I watched the UK-LSU game in its entirety with one goal: to track how many plays the Wildcats ran on offense where they would have been better off spiking the ball - or, as Fearless Leader termed it, Kentucky's Spike Factor. Please note that I said better off, not equal to, so when Morgan Newton went nearly the entire first half throwing only incomplete passes, a spike wouldn't have necessarily been better. (Less embarrassing, maybe.)
In that LSU-Kentucky game, UK's Spike Factor was a dreadful nine percent. LSU's against Alabama last night? Twenty-three percent. That Alabama racked up 10 tackles for loss wasn't, in and of itself, amazingly impressive. Plenty of teams reach double digits in that regard. Hell, Michigan State reached 17 against Georgia. But the Spartans did so in 71 plays and still allowed 339 yards. All season, I compared Alabama's defense to the Warlord, just calmly bear-hugging you into unconsciousness without even worrying too much about making huge plays or tackles for loss. Last night, they not only treated LSU like Koko B. Ware, but they made some big plays as well, just for fun.
5: Receptions by Alabama tight ends on the Tide's first three drives. Alabama ran 31 first-down plays last night, and they passed on 20 of them. Early on, the gameplan was simple: fake the handoff to Richardson or Lacy, then roll out and quickly dump to either Brad Smelley or Michael Wiliams. It didn't exactly burn LSU for 30 yards at a time, but A.J. McCarron was 5-for-6 for 38 yards to tight ends on the Red Elephants' first three drives. It put LSU defenders on their heels just enough to make them adjust, and when they adjusted, McCarron burned them over the top to receivers like Kevin Norwood (six targets, four catches, 78 yards) or Kenny Bell (two targets, one catch, 26 yards) in single coverage. The Tide did still stall as they got closer to LSU's goal line, but this was a great, and wonderfully-executed, gameplan.
1.3: Average gain on Jordan Jefferson's 21 pass attempts. It was just brutal to watch after a while.