There are games of the decade, games of the century and perhaps games of the millennium, but based on the hype around the Alabama-LSU game, it could be the first (and only) "Game of the Eon." I am not saying the hype is not warranted, but won't we all be disappointed if the game does not live up to the hype?
So this is the proverbial Irresistible Force meeting an Immovable Object game. Vegas thinks that LSU is a little bit movable since they are giving them 4 or 4.5 points in Tuscaloosa. Having a regular season SEC game featuring #1 vs #2 is unprecedented (I believe I saw this somewhere.) That both teams have looked so demonstrably better than the rest of the field of college football is unquestionably unprecedented. Interestingly, #1 LSU is the underdog to #2 Alabama. Bama is at home, so that tilts things there way a little. However, LSU has played a tougher schedule and made it look easy, which illustrates their worthiness of the current top spot in the polls. Both teams are at least two touchdowns better than any other team in college football right now. I think this is why the game has received so much hype and why many believe this is the de facto National Championship Game. In that case, all are well-advised to not miss this one. And... you can watch it without all those Tostitos commercials.
My favorite part of this game is the contrast between the two teams and their head coaches. Alabama and Nick Saban seem completely machine-like in their methodical, relentless and consistent approach to the game. In my work, I spend a fair amount of time in Chinese factories where there is a constant cacophony of machine presses and stamping presses pounding sheet metal into various shapes with tireless efficiency and precision. This is Alabama. They are a Chinese sheet-metal stamping program. Not too fancy. Not too flashy. Just non-stop production with an endless supply of raw material and personnel.
I have also spent a lot of time in the artisan village of Tonala, Mexico where skilled craftsmen using their hands and rudimentary tools produce beautiful, creative, one-of-a-kind objects of art. These Mexican craftsmen take great pride in their work but they also love to have a good time drinking, singing, whistling at girls and shooting off fireworks for no apparent reason. You know what is coming next... LSU and Les Miles are a Tonala arts and crafts program. They work to create something beautiful and unique and they are willing to accept flaws in the final product so long as it is true to the artist's vision.
So what happens when the machinists square off with the artists? To invoke another analogy, it is like Terminator against Sarah or John Connor. I think the biggest distinction is how emotion plays a bigger role for LSU than it does for Alabama. Playing on emotion can work for you or against you where as playing with a mechanical, laser-like focus typically allows you to ride out the waves of emotional ups and downs and maintain course. Obviously, I am generalizing, as I understand that both teams will have an element of mechanical focus and emotional surges during the game. But on the whole, I think it is plain to see some dividing characteristics between these two teams and their head coaches as I have pointed out above. So what does it all mean?
I believe that on paper, Alabama has a stronger team with solid fundamentals, depth and experience. But, the margin is thin enough that LSU can win the game in Tuscaloosa if they channel their emotions into sound execution on key plays during the game. From a position-by-position analysis, Alabama has the better offensive line and top tailback but LSU has more running back depth and has the more seasoned quarterback. While Jarrett Lee has met his struggles early in his career, he has had a great senior season and gives LSU an edge in experience and in the vertical passing game.On the other hand, Trent Richardson is the best running back in college football and will soon be the best running back in the NFL. LSU has a great defensive line, but if they don't corral Richardson at the line of scrimmage, the LBs and DBs will bounce off of him like pinballs.
One X-factor in this game is LSU's playmaker Tyran Matthieu who has shown the ability to frequently be in position to wreak havoc and create turnovers. He is much more dangerous in passing situations, so Alabama can neutralize him by running the ball with authority for four quarters.
Alabama's receivers are not going to strike too much fear in the LSU defense, but the LSU receivers have been less than consistent in big games the last couple of years, So one of these two receiving corps will have to step up and make a difference.
Kicking game, turnovers, special teams, untimely penalties, blah blah blah... There really is no way for me to predict the outcome of this game. Vegas likes Bama. My nephew is at Bama, so I want him to enjoy a huge win Saturday night. I am not sure it will happen. I am not sure it won't. I hope that all of us fans without a Dawg in the fight are treated to a great game that lives up to the hype. A final score of 24-21 or 21-20 would be fantastic. A clash of two styles, both effective and punishing, culminating with an undisputed #1 team in the Eon... that is what we are looking for. Meanwhile, on the other channel, Go Hawgs!
Update: After sleeping on this post, I woke with this feeling... This game will be similar to the Alabama-Auburn game last year in the sense that LSU is the emotional team like Auburn was last year and Alabama is, well, Alabama. I am a slight LSU lean on a neutral field but the Bama home field seems to even it back up. Saban has a coaching edge in preparation, teaching, system, process, etc, etc, but Lesticles has that big ole hat and can sometimes pull a rabbit or fake field goal out of it in big games.
My prediction... Go Hawgs!