By Mitch Light
We’ve all seen the game by now. Some have called it a classic. Others say it was disappointing due to a lack of offense. We can all agree, however, that there were some serious athletes on the field Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.
LSU won the game, 9–6 in overtime, but one game isn’t a large enough sample size to determine which team is better. The Tigers are ranked No. 1, and obviously deserve the top spot, but if these two teams played 10 times on a neutral field, my guess is that each team would win five games.
Predictably, there has been a ton of commentary on the game and whether or not we will see a rematch in the national title game. Here are a few things that I’ve heard that just don’t add up.
The offenses aren’t any good.
My response: Alabama and LSU struggled on offense on Saturday night because they were playing each other. Keep in mind that both teams are averaging just a shade under 40 points in all games not involving the two best defenses in the nation. Alabama scored 27 points in Week 2 at Penn State — the most any team has scored on the Nittany Lions this season. The Tide also scored 38 points on Arkansas and Florida, 52 against Ole Miss, 37 against Tennessee and 34 against Vanderbilt. LSU has been equally as potent, scoring 35 points or more in all but two games this season — 19 in Week 3 against Mississippi State and nine vs. Alabama. I wouldn’t put these teams in the same class as Oregon, Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, but both Alabama and LSU are very good on offense, and the numbers back it up.
Jarrett Lee is a bad quarterback
My response: Lee had a bad first half against a ferocious defense and wasn’t given the opportunity to atone for his mistakes. Through the first eight games of his senior season Lee was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation. He was fortunate to play with a tremendous supporting case, but there is no denying that Lee was playing very well — good enough to lead the SEC in passing efficiency and quarterback a team to an 8–0 start. Simply not playing well against Alabama doesn’t make you a bad quarterback. Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, a legitimate NFL prospect and the triggerman of a top-10 passing attack, struggled in a 38–14 loss to the Tide in September. Is Wilson a bad quarterback? Didn’t think so. Neither is Lee.
Alabama’s special teams were a disaster
My response: Alabama missed four field goals, but most people seem to forget that all four kicks were from 44 yards or longer, including two from 50-plus yards. Sure, it would be nice if Alabama had a kicker capable of hitting from long range, but it wasn’t a special teams disaster, as many have indicated. The staff rolled the dice and attempted several long kicks, and it didn’t work out in most instances, though Alabama did make one from 46 yards. The Tide performed well in other areas on special teams, netting 39.5 yards on two punts and averaging 24.5 yards on two kickoff returns.
Other thoughts from the Game of the Century:
• It is amazing that Alabama only punted two times in a game in which it scored only six points.
• Was it a catch or an interception? After watching the replay a dozen times, I still can’t tell if Michael Williams or Eric Reid caught the ball. If I had to say, I would go with Williams, but the officials ruled that Reid intercepted the pass, and there wasn’t enough on replay to overturn the call.
• Morris Claiborne is a better cornerback than Tyrann Mathieu — he just doesn’t have a cool nickname or recover as many fumbles.
• Michael Ford is really good. Ford was the talk of the spring two years ago, but he only carried the ball 45 times for 244 yards as a redshirt freshman. Spencer Ware has received the bulk of the work in 2011, but Ford has been far more productive on a per-carry basis, averaging 5.7 per rush compared to 3.8 for Ware. My guess is that we are about to see more of Ford.
Around the SEC
• Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews has caught 15 passes for 321 yards the past two weeks, against Arkansas and Florida. In the first seven games, he caught a total of eight for 117 yards. Matthews leads the league in yards per catch at 19.0.
• Over the last three seasons, South Carolina has allowed an average of 39.3 points to Arkansas. In all other regular-season SEC games, the Gamecocks have allowed an average of 19.0 points.
• Auburn’s Michael Dyer leads the SEC with five rushes of 40 yards or more.
• Florida’s John Brantley isn’t regarded as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks, but he does lead the league in one key stat — yards per attempt (8.5).
• AJ McCarron has converted 35 of his 71 passing attempts on third down into first downs, the highest percentage (.492) in the SEC.
• The top four teams in the SEC West (LSU, Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn) are a combined 8–0 vs. the SEC East. Mississippi State and Ole Miss are a combined 1–5.
• South Carolina has scored a touchdown on 21 of 28 trips inside the Red Zone, for an SEC-best 75 percent success rate. Interestingly, none of the Gamecocks’ 28 trips have ended with a field goal. They are the onlyteam in the nation without a field goal off of a Red Zone trip.