Undefeated LSU stayed on course to reach the BCS title game by
beating Alabama in overtime in early November, the Tigers’ only
close victory of the year.
Turns out the Crimson Tide wanted a rematch.
They’ll get it Monday night at the Superdome, where top-ranked
LSU and No. 2 Alabama will meet for the national championship in a
showdown that guarantees a sixth consecutive BCS title for the
The Tigers (13-0) proved to be the dominant team in college
football this season, using their versatile offense and
overpowering defense to roll over opponents – except for one. That
would be the Tide, who hosted LSU on Nov. 5 in a No. 1 vs. No. 2
matchup of teams that have each captured a BCS title during the
SEC’s five-year reign.
Containing a Tigers team that ended up averaging 38.5 points –
12th in the FBS – Alabama took a 6-3 lead in the third quarter. The
Tide couldn’t hold on, however, as LSU tied it early in the fourth
and won 9-6 in OT on Drew Alleman’s third field goal in a game in
which no touchdowns were scored.
The loss appeared to put an end to Alabama’s hopes of a second
national championship in three years, but the Tide (11-1) had other
ideas. Bouncing back from that defeat with three lopsided
victories, they edged Oklahoma State by a .0086 margin in the BCS
standings before earning the chance for revenge in New Orleans.
While some argued the 11-1 Cowboys deserved the trip to the
Superdome, this matchup seems appropriate considering Alabama was
the only team not to lose to LSU by at least 13 points.
“This could be a totally different type of game,” said Tide
coach Nick Saban, who led LSU to a Sugar Bowl win at the Superdome
after the 2003 season for a share of the national title. ”There’s
so many good players on both sides of the ball for both teams.
”There’s so much opportunity for this game to play out
completely different and have a completely different flavor than
the first game.”
Other than Alabama, LSU outscored opponents 491-131. The Tide’s
defense – ranked first in the country at 191.3 yards per game,
ahead of second-place LSU at 252.1 – will again face the challenge
of shutting down the Tigers’ offense.
This time, it will be for another championship. Alabama captured
the 2009 BCS title, while LSU is seeking its first since the 2007
”This team loves the big stage,” said Tigers coach Les Miles,
the AP coach of the year.
LSU quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee split time and
combined for nearly 2,000 passing yards and 20 TDs while capably
directing a ground attack that averaged 215.2 yards – 17th in the
Jefferson, expected to start this game, was suspended four games
for his role in a bar brawl in August. He ended up rushing for 248
yards, making him one of five Tigers with at least that many. LSU
was led by Michael Ford (755) and Spencer Ware (700).
If Alabama succeeds in containing LSU’s offense for a second
time, the final score of this game could be similar to the first
matchup. The Tigers are the first school with two first-team
All-American cornerbacks in Tyrann Mathieu and Morris
Mathieu’s performance made him a Heisman Trophy finalist after
he emerged as perhaps the most dynamic all-around player in the
country. He had two interceptions and forced six fumbles for an LSU
team that led the country in turnover margin at 1.69 per game.
The sophomore was even more spectacular as a punt returner,
tying for the FBS lead with 16.2 yards per return. That was due in
large part to game-changing performances in the last two contests –
he had three returns for 115 yards and a 92-yard touchdown in a
41-17 win over Arkansas on Nov. 25, and brought four punts back for
119 yards and a 62-yard score in a 42-10 victory over then-No. 12
Georgia in the conference title game Dec. 3.
Those efforts made his one-game suspension in October for
failing a drug test – teammates Ware and Tharold Simon were also
suspended – seem like the distant past.
“I think (only) we can stop us,” said Mathieu, who also has 1
1/2 sacks. “I think we made a lot of bad decisions, personal
mistakes, but we corrected it. We never gave up on each other.
“As everything was going on, I definitely think we grew closer.
We started to believe in our coaches more. We started to definitely
come closer within the locker room. So I think the leaders
definitely started to stand up, and hats off to our leaders.”
Claiborne brought back an interception 45 yards for a TD against
the Bulldogs, one of his six picks on the season, and also returned
an INT 33 yards versus Alabama. The junior led the nation in
interception return yards with 173.
The two cornerbacks benefit from a powerful LSU pass rush that
recorded 37 sacks, led by ends Sam Montgomery (9.0) and Barkevious
LSU’s size and depth on defense played a major role in wearing
down opponents. The Tigers outscored opponents by a stunning 267-61
after halftime, including 35-0 against Georgia.
The Tigers limited Heisman Trophy finalist and Doak Walker Award
winner Trent Richardson to 89 yards rushing Nov. 5, but they could
have their hands full as Richardson ran for 505 yards in the last
three games – 203 against Auburn – as Alabama outscored those
The junior was sixth in the country with 1,583 rushing yards and
fifth with 20 TDs on the ground. He also had three touchdown
receptions and 327 yards receiving.
“We have great respect for that Alabama team,” Miles said. “I
can see that it certainly was a great game against them at their
place, and we certainly respect that outing and that team and we
learned that they’re very capable.”
LSU may need its defense to be at its best – and perhaps get a
few more big plays from Mathieu – as it tries to earn a second win
against the vaunted Tide defense. Alabama is led by Courtney
Upshaw, who had 8 1/2 sacks and 17 tackles for loss, and fellow
linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who recorded a team-leading 81 tackles
– 9 1/2 for loss – and three sacks.
Upshaw and Hightower were among six Alabama All-Americans, and
the Tide led the country with four first-teamers.
”We would trade all our awards for a national championship,”
said offensive tackle Barrett Jones, the Outland Trophy winner and
one of the first-teamers.
Along with getting production from Richardson and their ground
game, the Tide may need at least a solid performance from
quarterback A.J. McCarron. The junior went 16 of 28 for 199 yards
in the first meeting with LSU, getting sacked twice and intercepted
Alabama leads 45-25-5 in a rivalry that dates to 1895. The last
five matchups have been decided by nine or fewer points.