More than a month after the SEC Championship and more than two months after their first meeting in Tuscaloosa, the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson tide finally contest their rematch. To many, it's a rematch they never wanted to see. To many others, putting these two teams in the BCS National Championship game was the only fair way to go about things. If LSU wins, they will be a clear and unanimous national champion, likely heralded as one of the best teams in college football history. If Alabama wins, we've got a bit of a mess on our hands.
But let's put that aside for the time being. Before we get into the "if Alabama wins" mess and the possibility of a split National Championship, there's football to cover. After all, that can't happen unless Alabama wins what most expect to be a very even football game. They will be facing a player who was only used more sparingly in the first matchup than he will be used on Monday night, quarterback Jordan Jefferson. Alabama Crimson Tide blog Roll Bama Roll is concerned about his playmaking ability and what the Alabama defense will do to stop him.
Finding a way to stop the option attack led by Jordan Jefferson and his overall mobility could be the biggest priority, and the additional focus that was undoubtedly placed on doing that in game preparation will certainly be beneficial to Alabama. Even so, it's still a difficult thing to defend, and even if defended relatively well -- as it was on November 5th -- it can (and likely would) nevertheless have the impact of taking Alabama out of its aggressive blitz packages and limiting situations where 'Bama forces an opposing offense behind the chains on second and third downs. By keeping Alabama in a more conservative base defense and having to defend against convertible down-and-distance situations, LSU can limit the dynamic of the 'Bama defense with only a moderate degree of success in the option game.
LSU Tigers blog And The Valley Shook expects to see much more of Jefferson than Jarrett Lee, and anticipates that Alabama will do everything in their power to force him to make throws while inside the pocket.
While I doubt Jefferson's presence changes Nick Saban and Kirby Smart's defensive gameplan too much, his strengths and weaknesses contrast with Lee's. With Lee, the Tigers have a more accurate short-range passer who is at his best when he can get the ball out quickly, but struggles in the face of a pass-rush. With Jefferson, the play-action deep game and motion passes like bootlegs work a little better, but the ball will come out slower and leave the offense more vulnerable to sacks. As such, whereas Bama sought to pressure the heck out of Lee in the first-go round, with Jefferson back there look for them to try and stop the run with just the front seven, keep the safeties back, keep Jefferson in the pocket, make him throw passes against zone coverage.
Now, back to that pesky split title thing. It's highly likely that the winner of this game, even if it is Alabama, will be named as the National Champion by both the coaches and the AP. But, as SEC blog Team Speed Kills points out, the waters could be muddied. The coaches will vote for the winner of Monday's game, but the AP can do whatever they please.
In most sports, there's no way to handle it when there are two championship-worthy teams or when there's a split result. When the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, for example, they were the undisputed champions of the NFL not simply because they won the official championship event -- though there's that -- but also because there was no alternative way to recognize that the Patriots had defeated the Giants in the regular season and had a far better record and an arguably stronger resume.
We don't have that problem in college football. The coaches are contractually obligated to vote for the winner of the BCS National Championship Game, and every voter in that poll absolutely should vote based on the results of the game. But there's no reason for the AP to vote based on that game if they aren't bound by contract.
Yes, there are aspects of this game that have little to do with actual football, but the actual football should be excellent. We highly recommend watching for the actual football and not for the chaos that could possibly ensue afterwards.
LSU vs. Alabama game time, date: 8:00 p.m. ET, Monday, Jan. 9
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
TV channel: ESPN/ESPN3
Game odds: LSU favored by 1 1/2 points
For more on this game, visit Alabama blog Roll Bama Roll, LSU blog And The Valley Shook and SEC blog Team Speed Kills. For more college football, stay tuned to SB Nation’s college football news coverage. And visit our many college football blogs.