Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, January 9, 2012 at 10:43 AM
It's all come down to this. We've made it through a month of bowl games that felt more like parade than a prelude. We've been waiting since the first meeting between LSU and Alabama for this rematch with the knowledge that these two teams were pretty clearly way ahead of the field. No offense Oklahoma State...but if you were really a top two team you would have led at some point during regulation against Stanford! The time is now. The best most dominant and physically intimidating teams in the country go to battle with everything on the line.
Let's see what our key indicator stats have to say...
BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (New Orleans, LA)
ALABAMA (11-1) VS. LSU (13-0)
Vegas Line: Alabama by 1.5, total of 40
Market Moves: Support has slowly but surely been coming in for Alabama since the earliest lines went up. The first openers either had LSU -1 or pick-em. Bit by bit...that has snuck up to Alabama -1.5 or -2 in the ensuing days. That's not overwhelming support by any means since we're not near a critical number. But, considering that LSU won the first meeting on the road, it does suggest meaningful money. It's not like bettors are avoiding LSU like the plague. Maybe it's best to say that LSU is getting plenty of support, but Alabama is getting more. This is going to be a heavily bet game. The total has settled in at 40 as we write this...with any forays down to 39.5 or up to 40.5 getting back back to the 40. Weather won't be an issue indoors. So, any dramatic game day movement will probably be the result of public money or last second news about a practice injury.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Jeff Sagarin's pre-bowl numbers at USA Today had these teams close to even, both having played very tough schedules in the SEC. Alabama also faced Penn State outside the league, while LSU played both Oregon and West Virginia outside of Baton Rouge. Given the bowl results for those three teams, you might want to give LSU a slight nod rather than calling this a wash. We'll keep that in mind as we run through the rest of the numbers.
Alabama: 31st (72nd passing, 15th rushing)
LSU: 73rd (105th passing, 17th rushing)
Big edge to Alabama here, and one that won't get erased no matter what bonuses you give LSU for schedule strength. Both teams are great at running the ball. They just dominate the point of attack and bully people. LSU can't seem to make anything happen in the air on purpose. Every so often a big play connects. That's randomness rather than quality. Clear edge the Tide on this side of the ball. You'll see in a moment though that an edge in total yardage in the first meeting wasn't enough to put Alabama over the top at home.
Alabama: 1st (1st passing, 1st rushing)
LSU: 2nd (9th passing, 3rd rushing)
Very tough to see, or even imagine many differences here if you've watched these teams play a lot of games on TV. These defenses are just incredible. They attack. They hurt people. They don't let you even think about doing what you're trying to do. If you're a fan of defenses, it's been pure artwork. We're going to call it a wash. As you watch the game...be sure you spend some time marveling at the defensive athletes on both teams. In the first game, there were more "wow" moments on this side of the ball.
Before outlining expectations, we wanted to briefly review what happened the last time these teams met. You probably remember that the game went Overtime because neither offense could find the end zone. You may have forgotten some of the internal storylines though. Let's take a look.
LSU 9, ALABAMA 6 (in overtime)
Total Yardage: LSU 239, Alabama 275
Rushing yardage: LSU 148, Alabama 96
Passing Stats: LSU 9-17-2-91, Alabama 16-29-2-199
Third Downs: LSU 27%, Alabama 38%
Turnovers: LSU 2, Alabama 2
Missed Field Goals: LSU 0, Alabama 4
Alabama did a much better job of giving themselves scoring opportunities in a field position battle...yet they couldn't convert all of their field goal opportunities. Did you remember that Alabama failed on three field goal tries in the first quarter? Alabama would go 2 for 6 on the day, while LSU was a perfect 3-3.
So, a hockey final score of 3-2 on converted field goals turns into 9-6 on a football scoreboard. But, if you place more weight on "opportunities," then Alabama suddenly wins 5-2 in regulation and 6-3 counting overtime. Alabama was the team creating more scoring opportunities (thanks partly to a better conversion rate on third downs). If they've solved their kicking issues, they might be able to turn that into a victory this time around.
Let's also note that:
Alabama had more total yardage, but LSU had more rushing yardage. Typically, fate smiles on teams who win the ground battle.
Both teams suffered two turnovers. And, with these powerhouse defenses, turnovers are likely to be that common again. This time they may not split out evenly.
Both defenses were great at defending their side of the field. So...whether you get near the red zone on the ground or in the air may not matter much because nobody's going anywhere once they get inside the 30-yard line!
That game was played at Alabama, while Monday's return engagement will be on a neutral field in LSU's home state. If Alabama's yardage edge was simply a reflection of home field advantage and nothing else...then their yardage edge disappears Monday.
ADDING IT ALL UP: That first meeting was back on November 5th. That's more than two months ago on the calendar, but really only a month in football terms. Alabama's only played three games since then. A lot can change in two months...but not really much usually changes in that short a turnaround on the scale of football action. The best expectation is for a very similar game. Neither team found a superstar quarterback. Neither team had its entire defense suspended for academic reasons. It's likely to be a field position battle. Any sort of one-sided edge would most likely come from cheap points off turnovers or special teams returns rather than "found" production.
Here at JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK, we know that EVERYONE wants to win the championship game so they can end the college season on a high note. Our sources on site have been reporting in daily. They've had a busy sports month in New Orleans! Our computer programmers have been running simulations since the matchup was confirmed about a month ago. Our statheads have crunched all the numbers. Our Wise Guy connections in Las Vegas and offshore have been on top of every half-point move, letting us know which syndicates were betting and why. Kickoff is now just hours away. IT'S TIME TO WIN!
You can purchase our BCS BOMBSHELL right here at the website with your credit card. Or, you can call 1-800-323-4453 if you prefer talking to a live human. Be sure to ask about basketball when you call. Tonight we're looking at West Virginia-Connecticut on ESPN2 for a possible Big East BONUS play for clients. You know that the end of college football means it's time to start preparing for March Madness! And, the NBA is off to a whirlwind start that has Vegas oddsmakers reeling. There have been good surprises...there have been bad surprises...and every surprise catches oddsmakers with their points down!
For the moment, the focus is on football. Months of regular season play and weeks of bowls has all led up to this. Monday Night, college football crowns its champion. WHEN CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE ON THE LINE, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!