Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bad system or not, we have a deserving champion

The BCS is about to be pulled off the respirator. The strange amalgam of profit motive, computer dweebiness and institutional corruption has one more year before it goes in the ground.


But don't for a second think that the flaws in the system overshadow the verdict delivered on the field Monday night.

Alabama won its second championship in three years by routing LSU, a 21-0 sleeper hold that did little for TV ratings, but put this team and coach Nick Saban in the record books. AP voters who had threatened a revolt to bring about a split championship largely fell into line. The Tide's domination gave them little choice.

And yet the Occupy BCS critics, though in far fewer numbers, were back waving their signs this morning, choosing once again to concentrate on the flaws of a system rather than the superiority of a particular team in college football's winner-takes-all stage.

Alabama was that good. In November, the Tide exposed the one flaw in LSU's arsenal -- the lack of a balanced offense. This time they fully exploited it. When LSU couldn't run, quarterback Jordan Jefferson had no hope of consistently throwing the ball down the field. It would have taken a big play -- Alabama's extraordinary defense gave the Tigers no air to breathe -- or a transformational mistake -- unlike November, the Tide was not in a giving mood -- for the tide, so to speak, to change.

Next season, Alabama and LSU will contend for the last BCS title. Alabama will lose key players across what might be the best college defense of all time. LSU needs to find a quarterback. If it does, the Tigers will be awfully hard to beat.

But so will Alabama, and Arkansas, and Florida and Georgia, and Texas A&M on the road, and on and on and on. It's the SEC, after all. Big Boy stuff. And whatever the new system, that's not likely to change.


Alabama 21, LSU 0: The morning after

Truth be told, once the game settled into a rhythm -- you know, field goal for Alabama, 3 and out for LSU -- I started flipping back and forth between the game and "The Andromeda Strain," where an entire town is wiped out except for a crying baby and an old drunk who likes his Sterno. Kinda like Baton Rouge this morning.

Funny thing ... way back in September I picked LSU to win the SEC but not the national championship. Right and right, though I didn't quite figure on it playing out like this.

FYI, the image above is from the movie, though it could double as 'Bama's defensive playbook. -- R. Trentham Roberts

Monday, January 9, 2012

LSU-Alabama for the title: Who ya got?

Fellow SEC fans, let's start off by congratulating ourselves on six straight national championships. Back pats and hearty handshakes all around. Now then... who's it going to be?

Here's our picks. Stick yours down in the comments. It's gonna be a great night.

R. Trentham Roberts: LSU has more firepower now than they did in the first go-round. I figure 3 players will have better numbers this time: Jordan Jefferson (if only because he'll be playing the whole game), Ruben Randle and Kenny Hilliard. Can't say the same for Alabama -- Trent Richardson should go for over 100, but he already had 89 rushing and 80 receiving the first time. AJ McCarron, Marquis Maze? About the same. So make it ... LSU 23, Alabama 13.

Peter St. Onge: Alabama 17, LSU 14: The only consolation I get out of this is that Nick Saban will likely coach his way into another NFL job. 

Mike Gordon: Given that most wars have been fought and won in the time that has elapsed since either team played, it's tough to predict whether LSU or Alabama will play up to form. But for the sake of this exercise, let's assume they do.

Let's give LSU its edge in special teams. Let's stipulate that both defenses make it awfully hard to string two good plays together much less an 80-yard drive. Let's also agree that as great as Trent Richardson is, he will be largely negated by the deepest stable of running backs in college football today.

So here's where that leaves us: the quarterbacks. Jordan Jefferson didn't have to do much the first time around except be better than error-prone Jarrett Lee. A.J. McCarron threw a key second half interception and failed to find several receivers running uncovered in LSU's secondary. He has to play better. If he does, Alabama wins. The same goes for Jefferson. If he can run and throw against the Alabama defense, LSU will be very hard to beat.

My guess? McCarron makes a few more plays. That means that in this fight between two perfectly matched teams, Alabama will score a few more points. Tide, 24-20.

Tommy Tomlinson: LSU has a higher ceiling in this game, but it also has a lower floor. It's easy to imagine Jordan Jefferson imploding (and Jarrett Lee imploding right behind him) in a way that A.J. McCarron probably won't. It wouldn't shock me to see Bama run away with the title on the shoulder of a pick-six or two.

But... I wonder if, as good as this LSU team is, we're not still underestimating it. They played seven teams that are probably going to end up in the final top 25. Setting aside Alabama for a second, here's the list:

Beat Oregon (top 5) by 13

Beat Arkansas (top 10) by 24

Beat West Virginia (top 20) by 26
Beat Georgia (top 20) by 32
Beat Florida (top 25) by 30
Beat Auburn (top 25) by 35

That's six wins, over top competition, by an average of 27 points, plus that Bama.

Alabama beat Arkansas, Florida and Auburn by similar scores, and the Tide also beat Penn State by 16 (although Penn State might not finish in the top 25). That's a strong resume. But LSU, because of the teams they've beaten, has put together one of the great seasons in college football history.

I love this Alabama team. Most years, they'd win the national title. This isn't most years. LSU, 21-10.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tuesday morning readings

* From The New York Times, a breakdown of Nick Saban's and Les Miles' salaries. (Make sure you check the graphics). Click here.

* Least forgiving headline of the day, from al.com: "Georgia rolls over and plays dead in Outback Bowl." Click here.

* From the Orlando Sentinel, coverage of South Carolina's school-record 11th win in the Capital One Bowl. Click here.

* From ESPN's Big Ten Blog, game wrap-ups and impressions of Monday's 1-4 league showing. Click here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 conference schedule is out

And here it is. It all starts Aug. 30 with South Carolina and Vanderbilt. 'Bama and Florida both get Missouri and Texas A&M. Enjoy.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bowl games are upon us

The fun starts Friday for SEC fans. Below is the list, and to the right is the LSU-Bama poll.

-- Dec. 30: Music City Bowl, Mississippi State vs. Wake Forest

-- Dec. 31: Liberty Bowl, Vanderbilt vs. Cincinnati
-- Dec. 31: Chick-fil-A Bowl, Auburn vs. Virginia
-- Jan. 2: Capital One Bowl, South Carolina vs. Nebraska
-- Jan. 2: Outback Bowl, Georgia vs. Michigan State
-- Jan. 2: Gator Bowl, Florida vs. Ohio State
-- Jan. 6: Cotton Bowl, Arkansas vs. Kansas State
-- Jan. 9: BCS championship game, LSU vs. Alabama

Correction: Obviously spoke a little too soon. The fun started Monday for fans of soon-to-be-SEC Missouri. Texas A&M, meanwhile, plays Northwestern on New Year's Eve.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Early look at 2012

New teams. New schedule. But what to make of the teams?

Jess Nicholas of Tidefans.com offers these predictions on the 2012 SEC season.

Trending upward: LSU, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi State and Vandy. Trending down: Arkansas, South Carolina, Auburn, Tennessee and, gulp, Alabama.

The Newbies? Nicholas puts Missouri and Texas A&M among the down arrows. As Dean Wormer might have put it, That's no way to start life in a new conference, son.

Read more of Nicholas' thoughts, ratcheer.