Blog Entry

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 27: Special teams edge?

Posted on: October 27, 2011 5:07 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 5:34 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen

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

DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 9, or the number worn by Jordan Jefferson. Jarrett Lee obviously isn't going anywhere as the Tiger starter, but could Jefferson see even more time than usual as the designated change-of-pace? The senior has ranged from effective-to-excellent in his two meetings with the Tide, going 10-of-17 for 6.7 yards-an-attempt (above-average numbers by the Tide's defensive standards) and a touchdown in 2009 and a sterling 10-of-13 for 10.8 an attempt with another TD last season. Lee isn't the same quarterback he was when squaring off with the Tide in 2008 and 2009, but still, the difference in the two signal-callers is staggering; in three career meetings vs. Alabama Lee has completed just 41 percent of his passes for 5.7 yards an attempt with a hideous 1-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Something for Les Miles to think about?

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Who has the advantage on special teams? And how much of an impact will special teams play have?

To answer the second question first: a tremendous impact, most likely, particularly where LSU's offense is concerned. As we've mentioned multiple times before, what's special about the Bayou Bengal attack -- ranked 78th in the FBS in total offense -- isn't its explosiveness (though with Rueben Randle, it can be explosive) or its ability to grind out long drives (though with Spencer Ware, it can grind out long drives). What is special is its ruthless efficiency in converting its scoring opportunities into maximum points, as the Tigers' 97 percent scoring rate (second-best in the FBS) and 79 percent touchdown rate (third-best) on their red zone possessions illustrates.

But to get those opportunities, LSU sometimes needs the help of its special teams. And as they always have under Miles, those special teams have offered their help in a big way, to the tune of the 15th-best unit in the country per Phil Steele's rankings. Even casual fans can likely pinpoint a handful of Tiger special teams plays that have had game-turning consequences: Tyrann Mathieu's forced fumble and TD return in punt coverage vs. Oregon, Morris Claiborne's 99-yard return for touchdown against West Virginia, punter Brad Wing's infamous shoulda-been touchdown on a fake vs. Florida.

But to anyone who remembers only those plays and decides that special teams is a guaranteed win for the Tigers, Marquis Maze would like to have a word with you:

In many areas, the two special teams units' are in a statistical dead heat. In kickoff returns, Alabama ranks 34th in the FBS, LSU (despite Claiborne's return) 37th. Kickoff return yardage allowed, LSU ranks 32nd, Alabama 34th. Neither team has hit a field goal longer than 50 yards yet this season (in three total tries), but both teams are money inside of 50: LSU's Drew Alleman is 10-of-11, Alabama's Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster 12-of-14.

All of which is to say it's the punting game where the special teams battle is likely to be decided. Thanks to a huge year from Wing and a punt coverage team allowing less than a yard in returns per game, the Tigers rank sixth in the nation at just over 41 net yards per punt--a huge leg up on the Tide's 36-yard average and 71st ranking. But the Tigers may not have the return unit to take advantage of that generosity -- their 8-yard average ranks 63rd -- while Maze and the 18th-ranked Tide punt return could put a big dent in that glittering LSU net punting average.

The bottom line? Special teams are going to play a massive role in swinging the outcome--but despite giving the Tigers the slightest of edges based on Wing's ability to neutralize Maze and Miles's propensity for the successful fake, it's too close to call which team gets that swing.

THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: If you're surprised to hear that tickets for what's arguably be the biggest regular season game in SEC history have become extraordinarily expensive, you are surprised very easily. But that they're going for more three times the highest recorded value for an SEC championship game -- $5,000 to $1,500 on Stubhub, according to RapidReporter Glenn Guilbeau -- is a pretty effective testimonial to demand all the same.

Despite Alabama's reputation as being every bit LSU's equals when it comes to grinding opponents to dust in the rushing game, the Birmingham News found that the Tigers have been substantially more committed to the run this season, throwing on first down half as often as the Tide and running on a full two-thirds of all downs as oppose to the Tide's 58 percent.

To hear Miles tell it, though, those statistics may not mean as much as they'd seem to mean come game time:
“With an extra week to prepare, we go through a self [evaluation], and whatever statistics or tendencies that we have, we try very significantly to break them,” Miles said. “It becomes an open week issue for me and those coordinators to make sure that there’s some change that reflects our standard play but also reflects what would allow us to change up what would be a very strong tendency ... we’ll play more against LSU in this open week more than we’ll play against Alabama.”
More good injury news for LSU: center P.J. Lonergan is officially a go, and the renewed health of veteran backup T-Bob Hebert means the Tiger line is the healthiest it's been since the start of the season.

VIDEO BREAK: Didn't get enough discussion of the possibility of an LSU-Alabama title game rematch in yesterday's Daily? Then check out's Dennis Dodd answering that looming question on the CBS Sports Network's Tony Barnhart Show:

THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA: If you ever doubt that the Crimson Tide have taken on the personaliy of their coach, try hearing a Tide player talk about an upcoming game sometime. A player like, say, linebacker Nico Johnson, when asked about the building hype on campus:
“I got asked about it by a teacher, but I try to avoid the question,” Johnson said. “If you get overwhelmed, get too emotional, or think about it all the time, bad things happen.”
We don't think Nick Saban could have said it any better himself. And speaking of Saban, both he and his Nov. 5 coaching counterpart have been named to the 20-member Bryant Award watch list, given annually to the nation's college football Coach of the Year.

Again from the Birmingham News, one paragraph to sum up the obscene dominance of the Alabama defense at this point in the season:
Alabama has given up six TDs, 55 points, 6.9 points per game, 359 rushing yards, 1.67 yards per carry, two rushing TDs, 44.88 rushing yards per game, 48.1 percent completion rate, 4.5 yards per passing attempt, four passing TDs, 83.68 passing efficiency rating, 1,444 total yards, 3.2 yards per play, 180.5 yards per game (42.4 yards per game better than second-place Michigan State), 21 rushing first downs, 79 first downs and 9.9 first downs per game -- all national lows. Alabama's 47 passes broken up and 56 passes defended are national highs.
If you're counting, that's an FBS-best mark in 19 different statistical categories.


Since: Nov 17, 2008
Posted on: October 28, 2011 8:12 pm

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 27: Special teams edge?

jwk50 - I hear you.  But I'll admit, I have no intention of being objective!  I will call for the Bama win no matter what for this game.  I do happen to believe it's legit of course, but I will admit your take on the QB comparison could be right on.  I'm hoping it's not.  You could also be right about CBs but I just hate the Honey Badger so I'm giving Bama the edge - it's too close to call.

Indeed - good luck to both teams - no injuries! - and the winner will be the National Champ!

Since: Oct 20, 2011
Posted on: October 28, 2011 6:41 pm

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 27: Special teams edge?

I don't judge, I just thought it was funny...easy to be a fan when your team is on top, bandwagon fans irritate me. We (LSU) have our share of them too.

I gave LSU the edge at QB because of the dual threat of Lee/Jefferson.
I really have no argument for our differences at S and the OL
I stick with LSU at CB because of Mathieu and Claiborne. Claiborne is, in my opinion, the best lock down corner in the nation, and Mathieu, well, his ball hawking and playmaking skills could be the difference in the game.

I wish I had had more opportunity to watch Alabama this year. Maybe my opinions would be more objective. Anyway, good luck to both teams next week and let's see what shakes out.

Since: Nov 17, 2008
Posted on: October 28, 2011 6:09 pm

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 27: Special teams edge?

jwk50 - please don't judge all Bama fans by that guy.  I think most Bama fans know at least 2 out of those 3 answers.

Anyway, here's where I think your calculations are wrong:

QB - take your pick
OL - Bama.  Even before Lonergan and Hebert got injured, Bama's O-line was rated higher by most experts.  All I've seen so far this year confirms it
CB - Bama
S - Bama

This is going to be a great game - I concur.  ROLL TIDE

Since: Oct 20, 2011
Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:08 pm

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 27: Special teams edge?

Stopped at the local convenient store earlier today to get my morning Red Bull, I was wearing an LSU cap and tee. There was a man in the store similarly attired in his Alabama gear. He was spouting off about how Alabama would kick the Tiger's a@@. I kept my mouth shut. (He was more than a tad bit larger than me.) Now that I am in the safety of my own home I would like to straighten him out about a few things he said.

Dear Uninformed Alabama Fan,

a) Greg McElroy is not your starting quarterback.
b) The game is not tomorrow.
c) "The Bear" will not be pacing the sideline, he is dead. He will still be dead on November 5th.


Now that that is out of the way. Here is how I see the game break down. I am trying to be as objective as possible.

QB - slight edge LSU
OL - take your pick
RB - Alabama
TE - take your pick
DL - take your pick, maybe a little more depth at LSU
LB - Alabama
S - take your pick
KR/PR - Alabama
K - take your pick

This is going to be a great game.

Since: Oct 28, 2011
Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:03 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Oct 20, 2011
Posted on: October 28, 2011 1:56 pm

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 27: Special teams edge?

How does one get a score of -7 on a post?

Since: Jan 8, 2010
Posted on: October 28, 2011 1:52 pm

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 27: Special teams edge?

LSU is going to need more than a 5 yard advantage in net puntint to beat alabama, which is better in almost every single category on both offense and defense.  The percieved advantage of lsu in turnovers is not really there.  LSU has only 2 more interceptions and 2 more forced fumbles than bama, and as we all know alabama forced a fumble in the florida game that was incorrectly called (which then led to brantley getting put out of commission the next play), so really that is only a 1 fumble advantage. 

Since: Nov 17, 2008
Posted on: October 28, 2011 12:10 pm

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 27: Special teams edge?

Bama's Defense will be the key, but Richardson will get his 100+ and Bama will win it 27-17.  ROLL TIDE!

Since: Oct 20, 2011
Posted on: October 28, 2011 9:16 am

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 27: Special teams edge?

Geaux Tigers 27-24

Since: Oct 27, 2011
Posted on: October 28, 2011 8:55 am

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 27: Special teams edge?

I picked the tigers to win it all at the end of last season, I really did not expect ALA to be this good, but I will stay with my pick Tigers 24 tide 21.

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