English: Stats gave sneak peek of LSU’s fate

Published 10:09 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2012

By Jim English

This football season has not been a good one for the analysts. The ol’ crystal ball has definitely failed them lately.

First it was Cam Newton. Then it was Tim Tebow.

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Now it’s LSU……..and Les Miles……..and the Honey Badger.

For the last 40-plus days, we’ve been hearing from the experts all the reasons why LSU should just be handed the BCS crown without even playing the championship game. They had beaten seven ranked opponents, including #3 twice and #2 Alabama. Along the way, they had beaten the eventual Pac-12 and Big East Champs.

And even though they were outplayed by Alabama when they met in November in virtually every aspect of the game (except one of Alabama two kickers), somehow LSU was “clearly” the best team in the country. Many even suggested that if, by some miraculous occurrence, Alabama should win the BCS Championship game, the AP voters should still vote LSU #1 in the final poll.

Where’s the logic in that? By that logic, Villanova should give back their 1985 basketball trophy. Georgetown was “clearly” the more powerful team.

We should never have heard of James “Buster” Douglas, because they should have just mailed Mike Tyson the belt without him having to go through the trouble of taping up his fists.

What would sports history be without Jim Valvano’s N.C. State team, Joe Namath’s Jets, the ‘69 Mets, or the Miracle On Ice?

That is the great thing about sports. Stats are nice, records are great, but you still have to play the game. In fact, wasn’t that the whole point of the BCS system to begin with – to pit the two best teams in the country against each other to decide it on the field?

If we had not had the rematch Monday night, we might still think that nobody was capable of keeping up with LSU. We might agree with an article published last week naming the 2011 LSU Tigers as the 4th greatest college football team of all time (based on the assumption that they would beat Alabama in the rematch).

But because we did get to see the rematch, we saw that it was Alabama’s defense – not LSU’s – that is far and away the best in the land. In fact, I never thought I would ever see another defense be as dominant in a national championship game as the ‘92 Alabama squad that completely humiliated top-ranked Miami and in effect ruined Heisman trophy winning QB Geno Torretta’s career. But Monday night’s performance gave me cause to reconsider.

LSU scored the fewest points ever scored (0) and had the fewest first downs (5) ever in a BCS Championship. They also had the second fewest total yards (92) in BCS history.

But the most stunning stats of all: LSU never crossed the 50 yardline until the 4th quarter, and they did it only once; and exactly one of every four offensive plays the Tigers ran went BACKWARD!!

In the final analysis, I have to give Lou Holtz credit for noticing one very telling number that should have clued us all in to what LSU was in for. Despite averaging 35 points per game, LSU’s offense is ranked 86th in the nation (by comparison, Alabama is 31st and Troy is 65th). Logic dictates that for LSU to score that many points, they have relied all year long on the mistakes of their opponents.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, they found in Alabama one of the most disciplined teams in the nation. A.J. McCarron has been a prototype Saban-style QB – a smart decision-maker who is efficient and takes care of the ball. Likewise, the runners and receivers rarely fumble. And to top it all off, Alabama has been the 3rd least penalized team in the country.

All that adds up to an LSU offense who has not been very good at all, trying to move the ball against quite possibly one of the best defenses to ever play the game. Add that to an underestimated Alabama offense (2nd in the SEC and 1st in rushing) and a solid but over-hyped defense, and you have the makings of exactly what we saw Monday night.