'Bama-LSU Part II -- Ifs and Buts Candy and Nuts

Remember that magical season Alabama had in 2009 when the defense did everything to dominate, the offense did enough to win, and the special teams made just enough plays to keep the season perfect?

Yeah, well, I'm scared LSU is doing its best to reenact Alabama's 2009.  There's really only one team that can prevent LSU getting their first perfect season in school history and it's not Oklahoma State or the Green Bay Packers.

[caption id="attachment_388" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Big game, eh?"][/caption]

Want a hint? Check your local listings for January 9th, 2012 on ESPN.  Alabama had ample opportunity to win the first game in Tuscaloosa, but LSU's got the win, 9-6, in overtime.

Although it was only a three-point loss, will LSU be in Alabama's head during this one-month layoff?  The 'Tide now sits where LSU was before the November matchup. LSU had to listen to media member after media member glorify the 'Tide for two weeks. Now the shoe's on the other foot.

Alabama gets to sit back and listen to how unstoppable LSU is and how dominant they will be for the next 10 years.  Alabama couldn't be touched five weeks ago, yet LSU wins by one field goal in overtime and they are the team that just can't lose.

What if 'Bama tight end Michael Williams is the one who hands the ball to the official at the LSU 1-yard line rather than LSU safety Eric Reid at the conclusion of the biggest play of the year?

What if Cade Foster hits just one of those 50-yard field goals?

Here's the problem with the last two what-ifs -- LSU had to make plays to cause the bad Alabam fortune.  When Alabama would threaten inside the LSU 30-yard line, LSU would load the box and make a play in the backfield.  Thus, a 40-yard field goal quickly becomes a 52-yard attempt.

You're at the wrong 'Bama fan blog site if you are looking for "we could ofs if we had ofs." I'm all for the rematch because the BCS aims to match up the two best teams.  Alabama and LSU are the two best teams in college football.  However, LSU won the first game. They made the plays that mattered most when it mattered most.

With that being said, Alabama should be considered national champion if they win on January 9th for the same reason.  Alabama's win could come when it mattered most.  It takes nothing away from LSU's first win. They won on the road in a classic game. But no more should be taken from an Alabama victory on January 9th than should be taken away from LSU's win on November 5th.  LSU's win proved they were the best at that time. Alabama's win would prove they are the BCS Champions.  It is -- might be -- what it is.

How does Alabama win this time around? Do they really need to stray far away from what they did in the first game?  The answer is a resounding yes because they'll score six points again if they try to repeat the first game.

What will Alabama need to do the same and what will they need to do different to win? Let's look at some "could ofs" and "should dos" that will place the big ol' heavy crystal ball in St. Nick's hands at the end of the night.

Special Teams

Extra points and kick off coverage are key.  Field goals?  Forget field goals.  It could be way too much to ask in a game with such dominating defenses, but what if Alabama can put the ball in the end zone?  Duh. Why didn't Saban think of this the first time?  So, yeah, easier said than done.

So what if Alabama does score two touchdowns?  Or three, even?  Will it matter?  The kickoff coverage has gone from great to horrendous in a span of three weeks. The achilles heal of the 'Tide has been kickoff coverage -- even in 2009 -- but they seemed to have corrected the problem until the last three weeks of the regular season.  With the blasting hits from freshman Vinnie Sunseri and Trey Depriest, things seemed better.  Not now.

Any Alabama touchdown will be rendered useless if they go on to allow LSU to score or flip field position on the ensuing kickoff.  Here's a deadly combination -- Alabama's inopportune lapses of awfulness on kickoff coverage and LSU's opportune game-changers. Morris Claiborne's kickoff return for a touchdown killed all Mountaineer momentum in the LSU-West Virginia game in September.  Do I have to mention Tyrann Mathieu's ridiculous punt returns against Arkansas and Georgia that completely turned the game in LSU's favor?  No?  Good.

'Bama receiver Marquis Maze has the ability to take a punt return to the house, but there's a better chance Maze will successfully return a defective Big Mac to Hardee's and get a full refund before he gets an opportunity to return a punt from LSU's Brad Wing.

Brad Wing's 73-yard punt in the first matchup just now landed.  That punt may have been as important as any kick return or punt return by Mathieu.  Alabama had LSU backed up in their own end zone and Wing's punt rocket launch put the Tigers back in control of field position.  He punted from his own end zone and Alabama's offense started at their own 18-yard line.  Why is he not carrying the Heisman Trophy? Maze alleges the ball hit the CBS action-camera wire.  So it travelled 73 yards AND it hit the wire? So if it had not hit the wire, the ball would have hit that fraternity dude who was crying after the game. LSU and 'Bama fans can certainly agree on one thing -- that poor guy should punch himself in the tear duct.

Special Teams Advantage -- LSU


Once again, if Alabama does indeed find itself inside LSU's 30-yard line, they need to find a way to move forward or at least stay put.  Anything is better than turning the ball over or moving in reverse as they did on more than one occasion that night.

The offense will appear exponentially better if they can just get close enough to where Jeremy Shelley gets more field goal opportunities than Cade Foster. Not that Cade Foster is as bad as he looked in the LSU game, but if Foster is on the field, it's because the offense could only get to the 30-yard line.  Foster only kicks long field goals.  If he misses a long kick, his only opportunity to make up for it is when the 'Tide expect him to attempt yet another long field goal.

Alabama radio color commentator Phil Savage made a great point during the Georgia Southern game broadcast after another Foster miss from 47 yards -- his only opportunity of the day.  Savage suggested that Foster needs an opportunity to kick an extra point or a chip-shot field goal so he can build his confidence. He never gets to experience kicking a ball through the uprights simply while going through the motions. Every kick requires him to do his best to kick the air out of the ball.  A kicker's psyche is bad enough as it is without that type of pressure.

Is there another position in sports where the majority of the players have such fragile psyches?

Don't be surprised if your fans have no hair left if you rely on your kicker to hit 50-yard field goals during a game and expect to win.

The bold heading of this section reads "Offense," yet here we are talking about the kicker. Each team's defense is so dominant that they even affect a written breakdown of each team's offense.

We've mentioned it already, but it bears mentioning again. Alabama's offense must get inside the LSU 30-yard line if they expect to score.  There's a reason football is considered a game of inches -- or even a few yards. In regulation of the first game, they penetrated the LSU 30 four times.  They missed one field goal, hit two, and threw an interception.

So they crossed the 30-yard line.  Big deal, right?  Wrong.  Alabama crossed the LSU 35 two more times and left with zero points.  A 49-yard Jeremy Shelley field goal was blocked and Cade Foster missed a 50-yard try. When they say it's a game of just a few yards, they mean it's a game of just a few yards.

The difference between the 'Tide being in position to kick field goals from 45 yards and in was literally one to three yards.  All of Alabama's points came from inside the LSU 30, yet they got to the 34 and and 31 and came away with ZERO.  Two or three yards forward and 'Bama wins the game in regulation.

[caption id="attachment_389" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="If this were a jar of Ifs and Buts, Christmas would suck"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_390" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Hey, hey. It's the guy who's mama invented Whiteout."][/caption]

But the holiday season reminds us of a fitting statement -- "If 'ifs' and 'buts' were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas."

I could go ahead and write about the defense, but what can I tell you that we

don't already know other than the fact that Kirby Smart's mother invented Whiteout.  What?  Oh, that was one of The Monkee's mamas?  My bad.

So back to the offense. If Alabama does make it inside the LSU 30-yard line, can they even stay there? The Tigers defense has a way of making the opposition's offense look great between the 30's and making them look like stale French toast once they cross it. Bryant-Denny Stadium needed lots of syrup to cover the staleness on November 5th.

The 'Tide moved backwards on numerous occasions in the game.  There was one that set the tone for the entire evening. After a 20-yard Eddie Lacy run to the LSU 23-yard line on 'Bama's second drive, Alabama committed the eternally sinful illegal substitution penalty.  On 2nd-and-14 from the 27, Eddie Lacy was dropped for a 6-yard loss.  Foster missed from 50 yards out two plays later and after two great drives Alabama had zero points.

Remember the 30-yard line rule I've mentioned no less than 14 times? Had Alabama just stayed at the 23 and never even gained another yard, Jeremy Shelley is kicking a 40-yard field goal. Just don't get pushed backward this one possession and Alabama more than likely gets three points there and maybe enough points for a win.

Offense Advantage -- Alabama, but only if they can finish what they started on November 5th.

There I go with those "could ofs" and "should ofs" and "ifs" I warned you about a few moments ago.  Maybe someone can hand us a few candy and nuts mixed with our ifs and buts. If so, 'Bama fans could have a very Merry Christmas -- or whatever holiday is closest to the actual day of the game.  St. Patrick's day, maybe?

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