Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/6/12


You wouldn’t think this LSU-Alabama matchup in the BCS Championship Game was a rematch that so many folks were against. Floods of Crimson Tide and Tigers fans have already descended upon New Orleans in anticipation of Monday’s game at 7:30 p.m. CST. On Friday, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu introduced the art of cutting and eating a king cake to LSU and Alabama officials during a Kings Day feast to kick off the 2012 Mardi Gras season. There are so many parties and receptions going on, including a “Prequel,” another one titled “Red Clay,” a day party by the “Soul Tigers” and a “Welcome to New Orleans” party. Actually, this sounds like a party lineup for the Super Bowl and NBA All-Star Weekend.
 
Arguably, this encounter between LSU (13-0, 8-0 SEC), a team making its third BCS title appearance and Alabama (11-1, 7-1), a team making its second, is a game that is exceeding the hype that never was. So what was that about not wanting to see another Les Miles-Nick Saban faceoff?
 
“There's no other place we wanted to play,” Miles said in a January 4 press conference. “I promise you that at the very beginning of this year really as early as when our team voted to accept the Oregon game and play Oregon early in the year, they really pointed at this game.”
 
Forget about the defensive blah earlier this season. Surely fans aren’t turned off from the fact LSU has won seven of the last meetings against the Crimson Tide, including the last two against Saban. Will the third time be the charm for the Miles’ predecessor or will Miles give Saban a metaphorical three-and-out?
 
How could you not want to see Tyrann Mathieu play in front of his home crowd at the Mercedes Benz Superdome, just a little more than three miles down the road from his alma mater, St. Augustine High School, in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward. It was there he honed his honey-badgering skills to take what he wanted with 35 tackles, five interceptions and a sack in his senior year to become the nation’s premier college cornerback and ultimately, a pretty nice punt returner for the Tigers.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BALL: SPECIAL TEAMS
That’s why special teams will be so important for both of these teams. If Alabama should kick to Mathieu, they’d better hope he catches it from behind the Tigers’ own 20-yard line, because field position is going to be crucial every time LSU gets an opportunity to run four downs. As a returner, the sophomore has two touchdowns and ranks second in the SEC with a 16.2-yard punt return average. Against Georgia in the 2011 SEC Championship, he was named the game’s MVP after he returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown, finished with 119 return yards. How Alabama will keep Mathieu at bay is a question that pops up more often than the beignets from hot oil at Café Du Monde.
 
How ‘Bama’s kickers will respond is another question. Had Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley made the four of six missed field goal attempts (each miss was 44 yards or more), this rematch talk probably would be moot. Georgia might have been touching down in the Crescent City or even Oklahoma State (imagine that). But that statistic is slightly misleading because Foster made a 46-yarder against the Tigers in that game. Since that 9-6 loss to the Tigers, Alabama has made four field goals inside their opponents’ red zone and missed once (a 24-7 win over Mississippi State). Alabama focused on special teams during its practice Saturday.
 
“We have been looking for a day to go out to work on that and today was the perfect day to do that,” said Saban in a presser after practice. “We were able to work on all aspects of the kicking game and spend about twice as much time on all phases of the kicking game, so it worked out very well that we could go outside and try to get some of that done.”
 
ALABAMA'S OFFENSE (OR LACK THEREOF)
Alabama’s Trent Richardson did not exactly have a bad game against LSU, but it could have been better, of course. The SEC rushing leader (1,583 yards) rushed for 89 yards against the Tigers – a game where four Tide players accounted for only 96 total rushing yards.
 
"Hopefully our defensive line will get some penetration,” said LSU safety Eric Reid. “That way, he won't make it to the second level. If we can stop him in the backfield that would be great.”
 
That means A.J. Carron, Eddie Lacy and Marquis Maze will have to do better. If the Tigers’ defense has its way, the three won’t get any more than the seven total yards they got in the last meeting. Mathieu, along with Reid, Ryan Baker and Sam Montgomery, led the defense with 25 tackles, one forced fumble, two sacks for a loss of six yards and INT.
 
MATHIEU IS THE KEY (AGAIN)
That’s where Matheiu comes into play again. His ability to seek and destroy as the leader of LSU’s secondary has spawned a nickname that has provoked national recognition and fear in the hearts of opponent’s receiving corps. He’s ranked first in the nation with fumble recoveries (5-for-39 yards) and third in forced fumbles (6). He has 70 tackles, 53 which are unassisted, along with two interceptions. 
 
Mathieu may lead the defensive helm, but without execution from an effective offense, the Tigers haven’t got a chance against the nation’s best defense. The Jordan Jefferson-Jarett Lee combination have passed 2,082 yards this season, less than half of the 4,879 total offense yards LSU garnered in its 13 games, earned primarily by Michael Ford and Spencer Ware, who both have over 700 yards rushing this season.
 
 
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

The Rams might be fun again

Players with most to prove heading into NBA season

CC Sabathia not worried about booze-fueled celebrations

Bill Belichick defers Aaron Hernandez CTE, lawsuit questions

Brady claims sunburn can be avoided by drinking a lot of water

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Knicks expect Carmelo Anthony to open camp with team

Irving was late to meeting with Stevens after car broke down

Ezekiel Elliott: Cowboys don’t play for ‘the talking heads’

Todd Gurley says Rams believe they can win Super Bowl

Seven players who stood out in Rams' thrilling win over 49ers

Rams WRs Sammy Watkins, Tavon Austin evaluated for concussions

WNBA Finals preview: Lynx look for revenge against Sparks

The 'Chris Sale joins an elite club' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: The home runs just keep on coming

Building on the NFL's positive changes beyond 2017

NFL Week 3 predictions

The 'MLB is as powerful as ever' quiz

After a decade in the WNBA, MVP Sylvia Fowles is ready for the spotlight

College football 2017 Week 4 predictions

10 teams that can unseat the Warriors in 2018

NFL Referee Hotline: Mike McCarthy is sick of these calls

The 'Kevin Durant has mad (Twitter) handles' quiz

Baseball's most underwhelming teams of 2017

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

WNBA Finals preview: Lynx look for revenge against Sparks

Three Up, Three Down: The home runs just keep on coming

The 'Chris Sale joins an elite club' quiz

Building on the NFL's positive changes beyond 2017

NFL Week 3 predictions

After a decade in the WNBA, MVP Sylvia Fowles is ready for the spotlight

The 'MLB is as powerful as ever' quiz

10 teams that can unseat the Warriors in 2018

College football 2017 Week 4 predictions

NFL Referee Hotline: Mike McCarthy is sick of these calls

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker