Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 10:07 AM
Care to see LSU-Alabama Part III ... didn't think so!
Hey, no slight to ‘Bama Nation but we believe two LSU-Alabama games in one football season turned out to be more than enough even though the critics will claim the Crimson Tide - now holders of an amazing nine national championships since 1936 (more than anyone else out there!) - received a "second chance" at besting the Bayou Bengals.
At least Alabama took advantage of that "second chance" with Monday Night's resounding 21-0 win against an LSU team that was helpless on offense (see four total plays in Tide territory for the night) and fatigued on defense by the time the fourth quarter rolled around on yet another game between these teams in which FGs were the order of the day.
Okay, so it's Alabama that had kicked off five field goals prior to that break-open-the-game 34-yard scoring run by RB Trent Richardson with 4:36 remaining in this lopsided contest and there's more than a few questions that must be posed here:
Why didn't LSU head coach Les Miles ever bench ineffective QB Jordan Jefferson (see 53 yards passing and 14 carries for 15 yards rushing) at any point in this title tilt? Maybe it was those seven INTs thrown by reserve QB Jarrett Lee in his two prior games against ‘Bama but you sure got the sense that the Tigers needed a jump start and maybe the insertion of Lee for one series in the second half would have helped
Secondly, why did LSU's heretofore solid offensive line look so slow against an Alabama defense that rarely blitzed and generally relied on the front four (and it's many backups along the D-line) to make noise here? Maybe the LSU gang should have ditched that silly option play - ever think that Alabama's defense knew every time RB Michael Ford stepped on the field he was the pitch man recipient? - and gone "up top" a few times even though Jefferson rarely had adequate time to set-and-throw
Finally, why didn't other SEC teams "go after" LSU's superstar CB Tyrann Mathieu more just like ‘Bama did as fearless Tide quarterback AJ McCarron (thanks in large part to a brilliant offensive game plan by offensive coordinator and soon-to-be Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain) made it a point to throw against the "Honey Badger" and they made him a vulnerable target on a handful of McCarron's 23 completions for 234 yards? Plus, toss into the mix the fact that Alabama P Cody Madell only allowed Mathieu to return one of his three punts (for one yard, no less) and so LSU never could get jump-started that way with its Heisman Trophy finalist.
Hey, hats off to Alabama head coach Nick Saban - now clearly the numero uno coach in the sport with two BCS crowns in the past three years and three of these titles since 2003 (one with LSU, of course) - but a big shame-on-you to both LSU for not having any offensive imagination and to the BCS creators who gave us a game few folks wanted to see in the first place.
And based purely on "entertainment value" we don't wish to be seeing another one of these things for the next 10 months ... got it?
Now, here is a look at the last 6 BCS Championship Games - won all by SEC teams, of course:
|2011||Alabama||- 2½||LSU||Alabama wins 21-0|
|2010||Oregon||- 1½||Auburn||Auburn wins 22-19|
|2009||Alabama||- 4||Texas||Alabama wins 37-21|
|2008||Florida||- 5||Oklahoma||Florida wins 24-14|
|2007||LSU||- 3½||Ohio State||LSU wins 38-24|
|2006||Ohio State||- 7½||Florida||Florida wins 41-14|
COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S GAME-BY-GAME BOWL CHART
|12-17||New Mexico Bowl||Temple||- 7||Wyoming||Temple 37-15|
|Idaho Potato Bowl||Ohio||+ 1||Utah State||Ohio 24-23|
|New Orleans Bowl||UL-Lafayette||+ 5½||San Diego State||UL-Lafayette 32-30|
|12-20||Beef ‘O'Brady Bowl||Marshall||+ 4||Fla. International||Marshall 20-10|
|12-21||Poinsettia Bowl||TCU||- 10||Louisiana Tech||TCU 31-24|
|12-22||Las Vegas Bowl||Boise State||- 14½||Arizona State||Boise State 56-24|
|12-24||Hawaii Bowl||Southern Miss||- 7½||Nevada||Southern Miss 24-17|
|12-26||Independence Bowl||Missouri||- 4½||North Carolina||Missouri 41-24|
|12-27||Little Caesars Bowl||Purdue||- 1½||Western Michigan||Purdue 37-32|
|Belk Bowl||N.C. State||- 1||Louisville||N.C. State 31-24|
|12-28||Military Bowl||Toledo||- 3½||Air Force||Toledo 42-41|
|Holiday Bowl||Texas||- 3||California||Texas 21-10|
|12-29||Champs Sports Bowl||Florida State||- 3||Notre Dame||Florida State 18-14|
|Alamo Bowl||Baylor||- 9½||Washington||Baylor 67-56|
|12-30||Armed Forces Bowl||BYU||+ 1||Tulsa||BYU 24-21|
|Pinstripe Bowl||Rutgers||+ 1||Iowa State||Rutgers 27-13|
|Music City Bowl||Miss State||- 6½||Wake Forest||Miss State 23-17|
|Insight Bowl||Oklahoma||- 13½||Iowa||Oklahoma 31-14|
|12-31||Meineke Car Care Bowl||Texas A&M||- 9½||Northwestern||Texas A&M 33-22|
|Sun Bowl||Utah||+ 2||Georgia Tech (ot)||Utah 30-27|
|Fight Hunger Bowl||Illinois||- 3||UCLA||Illinois 20-14|
|Liberty Bowl||Cincinnati||+ 1||Vanderbilt||Cincinnati 31-24|
|Chick Fil-A Bowl||Auburn||- 3||Virginia||Auburn 43-24|
|1-2||Ticket City Bowl||Houston||- 6½||Penn State||Houston 30-14|
|Outback Bowl||Michigan State||+ 2½||Georgia (3ot)||Michigan State 33-30|
|Capital One Bowl||South Carolina||- 3||Nebraska||South Carolina 30-13|
|Gator Bowl||Florida||- 2½||Ohio State||Florida 24-17|
|Rose Bowl||Oregon||- 4½||Wisconsin||Oregon 45-38|
|Fiesta Bowl||Oklahoma State||- 4½||Stanford (ot)||Oklahoma State 41-38|
|1-3||Sugar Bowl||Michigan||- 3||Virginia Tech (ot)||Michigan 23-20|
|1-4||Orange Bowl||West Virginia||+ 3||Clemson||West Virginia 70-33|
|1-6||Cotton Bowl||Arkansas||- 8½||Kansas State||Arkansas 29-16|
|1-7||Compass Bowl||SMU||+ 4||Pittsburgh||SMU 28-6|
|1-8||GoDaddy.Com Bowl||Northern Illinois||+ 1||Arkansas State||Northern Illinois 38-20|
|1-9||BCS Championship Game||Alabama||-2½||LSU||Alabama 21-0|
Note that College Football Bowl Betting Favorites finished 18-16-1 ATS (against the spread) for a .529 winning rate while Bowl "over" players went a composite 16-19 versus the vig (a .457 rate) and that has to floor you considering West Virginia's 70-33 Orange Bowl win and Baylor's 67-56 triumph in the Alamo Bowl ... didn't it only seem as if most of the bowl games went "over"? Hmmm.
Now, here's the conference-by-conference look at how leagues finished spreadwise in the 35 bowl games:
COLLEGE BASKETBALL'S MID-WEEK UPDATE
Okay, so we've crowned the Alabama Crimson Tide as this year's College Football kings - and so who has got serious designs on winning it all in the College Hoops world come March/April?
On Wednesday night both #1 Syracuse (17-0) and #2 Kentucky (15-1) go on the road in conference play and here's what is ahead for both:
The top-ranked Orange head into the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for an espn2 tilt against Villanova -- and Jim Boeheim's crew may have to do a better job of hanging onto a lead after nearly blowing a 23-point first half lead against Marquette. Note that Syracuse's 73-66 non-cover win as 10 ½-point home favorites included a rare rotten shooting game as the ‘Cuse connected on just 24-of-61 FG tries (that's 39.3 percent) and so look for Boeheim to emphasize more fast breaks here and let's see if reserve G Dion Waiters (7 assists in 28 minutes) can be an energizer type for the nation's #1 squad.
Meanwhile, John Calipari's UK Wildcats venture into Auburn riding a nifty seven-game SU (straight-up) winning streak and let's see if the home underdog Tigers can cool off Kentucky's Terrence Jones who drained his first eight shots en route to a 20-point game in Kentucky's 79-64 non-cover win against 20-point pup South Carolina last Saturday. One key for the ‘Cats here: They allowed 16 offensive rebounds in that SEC opener and that figure must drop or else.
THE NFL'S WILD CARD WEEKEND - HERE'S TO THE WINNERS AND A SNEAK PEEK AT WHAT LIES STRAIGHT AHEAD …
OUR COLLEGE HOOP NOTEBOOK
Say this about the NFL's Wild Card Weekend winners - they sure did it with style as the Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants and Denver Broncos won their games by a composite score of 129-to-63 as all four home teams moved on to this Saturday/Sunday action and now we'll see how they fare when placed on the road - what, can it really be that bad?
Here's the NFL Wild Card game-by-game look from a pointspread standpoint and note all home teams for this past weekend's games are in CAPS:
|1-7||NEW ORLEANS||-10½||Detroit||SAINTS, 45-28|
|1-8||NY GIANTS||-3||Atlanta||GIANTS 24-2|
Now, here's to the NFL Wild Card Round winners …
HOUSTON (11-6) - No doubt the single-biggest play of the Texans' wear-‘em-down 31-10 win/cover against 4 ½-point road underdog Cincinnati last Saturday was that late first-half "pick six" by rookie defensive end J.J. Watt (heck, it happened so fast we couldn't tell he had intercepted the QB Andy Dalton rifle-job pass) but what really stuck out in the aftermath of that win was the fact Houston averaged a haughty 5.4 yards a carry en route to a 188-yard rushing game.
Okay, so that rushing figure was a tad bloated based on RB Arian Foster's 42-yard touchdown run against lukewarm (at best) resistance by Bengals' LBs/DBs late in the game but note Houston rushed it 35 times here and probably would like that to be the blueprint this Sunday in Baltimore - chew up some yards and chew up the clock and hope the TD-plus underdog Texans are still standing with a shot at the "W" in the game's waning moments.
Now, can Houston win this Sunday with rookie QB T.J. Yates completing only 11 passes?
Hmmm, probably not but note the "clean card" by Yates who didn't throw any INTs against the Bengals (although Marvin Lewis' guys had their opportunities for thefts) and remember that the Texans did not commit a single turnover in this win against a Cincy team that could have changed the complexion of this one with just one big play by its defense (see missed INT try by DB Chris Crocker who had a brutally bad game).
NEW ORLEANS (14-3) - The "Who Dat" nation wound up unbeaten at home this year and the cherry on top was last Saturday's electric 45-28 win/cover against 10½-point pup Detroit but no doubt that there were plenty of things to get Sean Payton's club a tad worried while looking ahead to Saturday's clash at NFC #2 seed San Francisco.
First off, the Saints' defense surrendered touchdown drives that covered 80, 87, 80 and 79 yards plus toss into the mix the fact that QB Drew Brees (466 yards passing and three TD flings) did take some mean shots by the Lions' defensive front in the first half and should have been picked at least three times yet the Motown defense dropped a slew of balls - non wonder fiery head coach Jim Schwartz was so darn cranky in the post-game press conference!
Now, the Saints must pack their bags for this trip to San Francisco and Fox analyst Terry Bradshaw made a very cogent point in Sunday's action: Bradshaw said the Saints must be leery of playing on a "bad field" this Saturday at Candlestick Park as it sure does tend to get muddy in this place come January - just what might slow down this fast-break N'Orleans offense.
NEW YORK GIANTS (10-7) - Make no mistake about it: The Giants' 24-2 win against 3-point road dog Atlanta featured more Falcons' snafus in short-yardage situations (maybe Atlanta head coach Mike Smith does deserve the rather rough treatment he's getting today from media folks!) but if you wish to center on the positive for NYG than consider the fact the defense allowed Atlanta to convert just 4-of-14 third-down plays to go along with the Birds' dreary 0-for-3 rate on fourth down and that long-lost Giants ground game finally perked up (see 31 carries for 172 yards starring 92 ground yards by RB Brandon Jacobs).
Hey, the Giants' first home playoff win since the 2000 NFC Championship Game triumph over Minnesota won't be remembered for any salsa-dancing in the end zone by WR Victor Cruz (only two catches for 28 yards plus a drop) but give QB Eli Manning (277 yards passing with 3 TDs and 0 INTs) loads of credit for being patient when things were not exactly clicking in the first half when the Jints scored only 7 points.
Manning - who did hook up six times for 115 yards and two scores with glue-fingered WR Hakeem Nicks - probably needs to get both of his dynamic pass-catchers into a groove early in this Sunday's game at Green Bay … the forecast here is the Cruz/Nicks tandem has to get 200 yards receiving and at least two scores. Got it, Eli?
DENVER (9-8) - Who cares about new overtime rules when you're quarterback and star young receiver hook up on an 8-yard scoring play 11 seconds into "bonus time"?
No question that the Broncos' suddenly-dynamic QB Tim Tebow-to-WR Demaryius Thomas pass-catch combo was the talk of the football universe following Denver's 29-23 OT win against 7-point favorite Pittsburgh and it's sure not every day in NFL-land that a quarterback throws for 316 yards and two TDs on just 10 total completions.
Whether or not Broncos team president John Elway "pumped up" Tebow this past week with his "pull the trigger" comment, the fact of the matter is the former Heisman Trophy winner looked comfortable throwing against a Steelers defense that did miss S Ryan Clark more than it thought and don't forget all those D-line injuries to Pittsburgh that took its toll here.
While Tebow gets most of the headlines today, how about a round of applause for a Broncos defense that sacked Pittsburgh's gimpy QB Ben Roethlisberger 5 times for 45 yards? Denver pushed "Big Ben" and friends out of field-goal range late in the fourth-quarter with a critical sack and that will be a key component should the Broncos have serious designs on stealing Saturday night's game at #1 seed New England.
In fact, if Denver can sack Patriots' QB Tom Brady a handful of times this weekend, than things could get really interesting in Foxboro.
COLLEGE HOOPS NOTEBOOK - BAYLOR LOOKS TO STAY PERFECT
So, just how long are the #4 Baylor Bears (15-0, 2-0 Big 12) gonna stay unbeaten?
Scott Drew's club - fresh off last Saturday's 73-60 win/push against 13-point dog Texas Tech - gets its next test come Tuesday night when Baylor plays at frisky #23 Kansas State and the kids from Waco realize every outing now will be a major challenge:
Note that Baylor held the T-Tech Red Raiders under 40 percent shooting from the floor last weekend (19 of 48 FGs for 39.6 percent) and yet the heavy-duty dogs came surging back to make things tight before Pierre Jackson (19 points) and Brady Heslip (16 points) settled things down. Baylor scored on 10 of its 11 possessions early in the second half to get a working margin against Tech and won the board battle 31-to-20 but expect perimeter-oriented Kansas State to pressure Baylor's guards once they get across half court here - Drew's been telling his troops that protecting the ball is paramount and the 14 turnovers against Tech was more than he cared for in that Big 12 clash.
Hey, if Baylor survives the trip into Manhattan, than it's a home game against Oklahoma State this Saturday before a "Big Monday" game in Kansas next Monday … let's see how long Baylor can stay with Syracuse and Murray State among the ranks of the still-unbeaten.
NOTE: Catch our NFL Divisional Playoff Previews later this week plus get all the College Basketball & NBA News/Notes too.