Here we go again... No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama clash for the second time this season in the BCS Championship Game and familiarity breeds "hopefully offense," says Kirk Herbstreit, who will call tonight's game (8:30/7:30c, ESPN).
Both teams "were a little bit cautious," Herbstreit says, when they met on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., with LSU winning 9-6 in overtime without a single touchdown between them. "I think you'll see the defenses will still carry the day," but with so much time to prepare, "The game is going to be decided by big plays."
LSU's Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu, a cornerback better known as "the Honey Badger," is the "X factor in the whole game," Herbstreit says. "It's almost like he has a sixth sense, whether it's deflecting a pass or knocking the ball loose and getting a key fumble." For Alabama, Herbstreit says the quarterback is the key. "Can AJ McCarron show the moxie and the mental toughness to sit in that pocket and deliver accurate throws when he knows that defense is pinning their ears coming after him?"
Alabama did move the ball downfield in the previous match-up, but Herbstreit says the Crimson Tide's focus has to be on finishing drives. "If you look from the LSU 35 and in, Alabama didn't do anything and [Heisman Trophy finalist] Trent Richardson didn't do anything, so I think he's very determined to be able to have a big night."
No matter what happens, this game between Southeastern Conference powerhouses is one "we'll be talking about for 10 or 15 or 20 years," Herbstreit says. "You put two SEC schools in that stadium, when both are playing for bragging rights — in the South they all want to win the Sugar Bowl and now you throw the national championship on top of it — I'm telling you, I don't know if we've ever seen anything like it. The last thing you want to do is come out all fired up and you win the first seven minutes of the game, and you think you're up 10-0, but it's a looong way to go."
Consider the SEC title game in early December, where Georgia led the Bengal Tigers 10-0 before getting blown out 42-10. "Teams have been able to play with LSU for a half," Herbstreit says, "and they think, 'Boy, we got 'em this time.' They get so excited, but what they don't understand is LSU doesn't blink. They're like a heavyweight boxer that just sits there and you think you got them and they just keep coming and coming and there's nothing you can do. It'll be interesting to see if Alabama can go the long haul with them, because nobody else has."
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