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Blog Entry

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 31: Better front seven?

Posted on: October 31, 2011 6:17 pm
 
Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.




DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 5, or years in a row (counting 2011) in which both the Tigers and Tide have entered this matchup ranked. The average AP ranking for the two teams in that span? Alabama 5.6, LSU 8. But the Tide were the last of the pair to come into the game outside the polls; they weren't ranked for the Nov. 11, 2006 matchup.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: These are two of the best run defenses in college football. But is one front seven better than the other?

When we say "of the best," let's stipulate that we're maybe selling Alabama short here. Among the many statistics in which the Tide defense leads the nation are rush defense, yards per-carry allowed, and rushing touchdowns allowed ... but particularly interesting is that the Tide is well ahead of the pack in each category, ranking 28 yards per-game, .48 yards per-rush, and 2 touchdowns ahead of the No. 2 team in all three.

Which is why it's something of a surprise to say that LSU appears to have a clear head-to-head edge on the defensive line. It's true that 1. the Tide run a 3-4 instead of the Tigers' 4-3 and 2. thus don't ask their linemen to make plays as much as occupy blockers and let the linebackers behind them make plays, so the comparison's not entirely valid. Nose tackle Josh Chapman's value to the Tide is never going to be measured in tackles and sacks.

Still, it's surprising to see just how little statistical production the Tide is getting from their defensive line in the wake of Marcel Dareus's departure. Only one Tide lineman, backup DT Nick Gentry, has more than a single sack and the line as a whole is averaging less than one per-game. Though Jesse Williams, Ed Stinson and Gentry all have 3.5 tackles-for-loss or more, only 19.5 of the Tide's 61 TFLs (32 percent) come from linemen.

Contrast that with LSU, where four different linemen -- ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery and tackles Michael Brockers and Bennie Logan -- have as many or more TFLs as Stinsons' line-leading 5 at Alabama. Mingo, Montgomery and Logan have already combined for more than half of the Tigers' 19 sacks on the season, with Mingo in particular coming on a true terror in recent weeks. If the game comes down to one line or the other making a game-changing play, you'd be forced to bet on LSU.

But when weighing up the front sevens as a whole, we're still forced to give the edge to the Tide, because their advantage at linebacker is outright lopsided. Again, it's not an apples-to-apples comparison since LSU only uses 3 LBs in their base set and the Tide 4, but it's still bizarre to look at the Tigers' list of top tacklers and see just two linebackers in the top 11. Senior Ryan Baker and sophomore Kevin Minter have been productive, and you can't knock the linebacking unit of the nation's No. 3 rush defense too hard. But it seems that gaudy ranking has more to do the hyper-aggressive LSU secondary, and forget about LSU's LBs making a play in the backfield; Baker's two TFLs lead the unit.

Meanwhile, the Tide have a pair of legitimate All-Americans in Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, plus Nico Johnson, Jerrell Harris (pictured above) and several other veterans and blue-chips even if C.J. Mosley can't go. Add that bunch to a line that -- while not as spectacular as the Tigers' -- is expertly coached and does its job to perfection, and you get the best front seven in college football. LSU's is awful, awful good, maybe the second-best, but we still think Alabama's causes more problems for LSU's offense than vice versa.

THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA: If you're a Tide fan looking for an encouraging trend before Saturday, you could do much, much worse than this tidbit from the Birmingham News's Jon Solomon:
Ten years have passed since Saban lost in consecutive years to the same coach in college. Ever since Steve Spurrier pounded Saban's LSU teams 41-9 in 2000 and 44-15 in 2001, Saban has won 12 straight rematch games ... Saban has a 13-1 record as an SEC coach in rematch games against opponents he lost to the previous season. In those 14 initial defeats, Saban lost by an average of 14.4 points; in those 14 rematches the next year, he won by an average of 14.7 points.
Solomon points out that good records in these kinds of games aren't unusual; Spurrier went 13-5-1 in "rematch" opportunities at Florida, and Bob Stoops is currently 11-3 at Oklahoma. But neither of those records are quite what Saban's is, and the swing in points -- from two TDs down to two TDs up -- suggests that these are games Saban does take a little seriously than most.

Not that he'd ever admit such a thing, of course; at his Monday press conference Saban said he "loses sleep over every game, even the ones we win ... I don't know that there's any motivation from last year. There's lessons to be learned when you play year in and year out."

And he may be right on the motivation part in this particular case--once you've reached the kind of stakes that accompany Saturday's game, revenge is pretty far down the list of potential rewards. But we're betting all the same Saban studied the film of last year's loss a little bit harder than he would have if the Tide have won.

The other highlight of Saban's presser, which fell on his 60th birthday: his reveal that the players had given him a signed jersey with the number 60 on it. "I can't wear this, I'm a skill position guy," he said, proving that Les Miles won't have all the good one-liners this week.



THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: Most coaches would treat a question about a potential rematch between the Tide and Tigers for the national championship with a curt "I'm just focused on the game this week." Miles is of course not most coaches, and told reporters Monday he would be A-OK the opportunity to play the Tide again.

"If in some way the guy that finishes left of the championship in the SEC can demonstrate statistically what kind of team he has, I'm for the SEC," Miles said. "I look forward to playing any and all."

Could he get his hypothetical post-loss wish? We'll stand by our earlier evaluation that it's highly unlikely (even after Clemson's loss), but that hasn't kept down the chatter; almost five years after CBS Sports' Gary Danielson and Lloyd Carr disagreed over whether Michigan should get a second shot at Ohio State, their comments to the Times-Picayune show they're still disagreeing over the issue of a rematch.

But back to Miles, who dropped a number of gems in today's comments. A sampling:
"The contact that takes place when our defense is on the field is very sincere and requires a ball carrier to hold onto the ball. That piece is the characteristic of a great defense."

"I saw the move [Trent Richardson] did against Ole Miss. That would have thrown my hip out its joint."

On whether he and Saban have friendly "correspondence":  "Correspondence would imply letters. I don't know that we send a lot of letters back and forth."

"How wonderful it is in college football that you have two quality teams that represent two great institutions that will take their best effort to the field to decide something that is difficult, clean and pure as a contest. How wonderful it is for the region to be able to look and enjoy the time of celebration of hard work and team values. The school wins, the team wins and the state wins. It is a beautiful time. I am very fortunate to have such a great institution to represent and I look forward to a great afternoon and great evening in college football."
Miles also said that his roster was entirely suspension-free, a rare (and news-worthy) occasion for the Tigers this year. But who wants to bother with nuts-and-bolts reporting when we discuss "how wonderful it is for the region to be able to look and enjoy the time of celebration of hard work and team values." We've said it before, we'll say it again: never change, Les.

Comments

Since: Oct 24, 2011
Posted on: November 1, 2011 8:59 am
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 31: Better front seven?

Run wild, not hardly. LSU depth and speed pull away in the fourth quarter. LSU by 10 plus.



Since: Dec 2, 2007
Posted on: November 1, 2011 4:50 am
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 31: Better front seven?

Could he get his hypothetical post-loss wish? We'll stand by that it's highly unlikely (even after Clemson's loss), but that hasn't kept down the chatter; almost five years after CBS Sports' Gary Danielson and Lloyd Carr disagreed over whether Michigan should get a second shot at Ohio State, over the issue of a rematch.
This is just ridiculous--there will NOT be a rematch for the championship and it doesn't matter who else loses how many games between now and then. The BCS has clearly set the precedence that they will taylor the system however they deem necessary to ensure that that doesn't happen: Michigan in 2006 and Texas in 2008. If they even attempted to make it happen this year the entire BCS would be done--goodbye and good riddance to bad rubbish in my opinion--but it won't happen.

Regardless of past history between LSU and Bama, this will be a great game and I am certainly looking forward to it--I hope Bama wins, but it is by no means assured--but regardless of who wins, I will NOT be interested in a rematch. It's done and that's all there is to it: the BCS has made it clear that if you don't win your conference, you won't be #1 or #2 in the final BCS polls and that is all there is to it.



Since: Dec 2, 2007
Posted on: November 1, 2011 4:49 am
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 31: Better front seven?

Could he get his hypothetical post-loss wish? We'll stand by that it's highly unlikely (even after Clemson's loss), but that hasn't kept down the chatter; almost five years after CBS Sports' Gary Danielson and Lloyd Carr disagreed over whether Michigan should get a second shot at Ohio State, over the issue of a rematch.
This is just ridiculous--there will NOT be a rematch for the championship and it doesn't matter who else loses how many games between now and then.  The BCS has clearly set the precedence that they will taylor the system however they deem necessary to ensure that that doesn't happen:  Michigan in 2006 and Texas in 2008.  If they even attempted to make it happen this year the entire BCS would be done--goodbye and good riddance to bad rubbish in my opinion--but it won't happen.

Regardless of past history between LSU and Bama, this will be a great game and I am certainly looking forward to it--I hope Bama wins, but it is by no means assured--but regardless of who wins, I will NOT be interested in a rematch.  It's done and that's all there is to it:  the BCS has made it clear that if you don't win your conference, you won't be #1 or #2 in the final BCS polls and that is all there is to it.






Since: Nov 1, 2011
Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:36 am
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 31: Better front seven?

What a ridiculous comment. LSU fans were upset with Miles becaue, all things aside, 2 years in a row we either lost or almost games due to our incompetence at running the 2 minute drill from a coaching standpoint. Most LSU fans don't realize that Miles wasn't necessarily the one to blame for this, it was the O.C., but miles is a loyal guy and wouldn't get rid of him....luckily he's gone this year and it seems like he brought those problems with him.

It's crazy that a Bama fan of all people would generalize LSU fans, knowing what that bama fan did to the oaks at Auburn. It's not even a contest about how ridiculous it gets in your state--in Louisiana we have a lot more to think about than college football. Look, I didn't bring up stereotyping fans, you brought up, so deal with the fact that you live in a glass house.

I think you're upset because even without Saban our team is a force to be reckoned with in west every year. It's just like how I think Ole Miss fans are just swell, we show up in Oxford, they expect to lose, oh man, what great sports. We're not Ole Miss anymore. There are more Louisiana players in the NFL per capita than any of the 50 states, so as long as that remains so, we'll keep leveraging that advantage. We're here to stay, get used to it, and stop being so sore about the fact that probably almost any given year you could lose to either LSU or Auburn.

And as far as calling our team cocky, that definitely applies to our defense. They'll go to any stadium in this country and HAPPILY hear your boos and your silly chants because they feed off that--knowing that when you're offense gets shut down, and your lineman are tired of being smacked in the face and your WRs are frustrated because they can't catch a pass, the silence that will ensue will be that much sweeter. The defense will be relentless and once you think we're getting tired, we'll put in the backups (see Anthony Johnson) just so they can have some fun too.

Good luck keeping those 3 fat boys up front hydrated against the 4 headed monster. 



Since: Nov 1, 2011
Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:45 am
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 31: Better front seven?

It's funny how I heard many of LSU fans screaming about mediocrity and firing Les Miles untill the Alabama game last year. Horrible fans since Saban left. A lot of other sec teams fans used to love to go to games in red stick but now a lot of people including myself have said they would never go back and definitely not take there kids. Hopefully they will behave after the loss Sat. LSU is to cocky Bama's D will be up to the challenge the hype will not get to the them and Trent Richardson and the unknown receivers will run wild. Bama by 11.



Since: Dec 7, 2007
Posted on: October 31, 2011 11:59 pm
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 31: Better front seven?

I freaking love Les Miles. The man is an awesome head coach and a true leader of young men. I'm even happier that the people  at U of M dont have as high opinion of him as we do in Baton Rouge. We'll take our grass eating Les Miles and a dominant football program every time.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com