published Friday, November 4th, 2011

Bama-LSU showdown matches mighty defenses

Alabama defensive backs Robert Lester (37), Dee Milliner (28), and Will Lowery  (29) celebrate after intercepting an Arkansas pass in a September game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MICHAEL WOODS
Alabama defensive backs Robert Lester (37), Dee Milliner (28), and Will Lowery (29) celebrate after intercepting an Arkansas pass in a September game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MICHAEL WOODS

While the predictions concerning Saturday night's college football clash between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama continue to vary, there is one aspect to this game in which everyone can agree.

A Wild West shootout is highly unlikely.

"It's definitely going to come down to who's going to break whose will," Alabama junior linebacker Dont'a Hightower said, "whether we're going to break the will of LSU's offense or they're going to break the will of our offense. It's definitely going to be a good game, and it's definitely going to be a game of defense."

No doubt, the matchup inside the matchup at Bryant-Denny Stadium is which defense can reign supreme.

Alabama is No. 1 nationally in total defense (allowing 180.5 yards a game), rushing defense (44.9), scoring defense (6.9 points per game) and first downs allowed (9.9). LSU is No. 4 in total defense (251.4), No. 3 in rushing defense (76.6), No. 3 in scoring defense (11.5) and No. 5 in first downs allowed (14.5), and the Tigers faced two top-15 offenses with nonconference conquests of Oregon and West Virginia.

Each team has 61 tackles for loss this season.

"I think both teams are certainly proud of their defenses," LSU coach Les Miles said. "Both teams have very talented players there, and I think it's going to be a challenge to the offenses to mount consistent drives against either of those defenses. I think it's going to be a great matchup.

"Our guys are looking forward to it, and I think their guys are as well."

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban was asked this week to discuss differences in the two defenses and said there are not many. Alabama's unit is coordinated by Kirby Smart, while LSU's is headed by John Chavis, who formerly guided Tennessee's defense and is facing Alabama for a 23rd consecutive year.

"They play a 4-3 when they're in a base defense and we play a 3-4, but they're going to stop the run," Saban said. "They do a good job of pressuring and playing eight-man fronts. They'll cover you man-to-man if they need to. They do a good job of playing nickel and dime.

"Some of their dime stuff is odd in nature, just like some of what we do is, and they've got good players that play in these specialty positions that do a really good job of executing for them."

Though Alabama has produced some huge defensive plays this season -- the interception returns for touchdowns by DeQuan Menzie against Arkansas and Courtney Upshaw against Florida quickly come to mind -- Saban believes LSU has been more impressive in that area. The Tigers have racked up 18 turnovers and committed just three for a net gain of nearly two (1.88) turnovers a game.

Alabama has collected 14 turnovers and committed eight, with half of the eight occurring on interceptions in the opening rout of Kent State.

"This is one of the things that you have to say is a phenomenal statistic for them," Saban said. "Their turnover ratio is off the charts, in terms of their defense and their ball-hawking style of play."

The fact the Crimson Tide have allowed just 25 points all season after the first quarter isn't a bad stat, either.

That both teams have stout defenses is no secret, nor is the fact both offenses will try to establish the run. Alabama tailbacks Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy are combining for 190 yards a game, while LSU's tandem of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford combine for 128 yards a game.

The Tigers also have a run element when quarterback Jordan Jefferson comes in for Jarrett Lee.

"They're going to try and do everything they can to stop us on offense," Richardson said, "so I've got to put a chip on my shoulder and make sure that as an offensive unit we can run between the tackles and can keep driving on these boys as much as we can."

Said LSU linebacker Ryan Baker: "We have played a lot of spread teams this year. This is pretty much our first time playing a downhill running team. We are looking forward to it."

So are those not even associated with the game.

"This one is going to be won up front, and that's the matchup I will enjoy watching," said first-year Florida coach Will Muschamp, whose Gators have lost to both teams by at least four touchdowns. "Neither team can get in a one-dimensional game against the defensive front they're going to face."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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Redlegs11 said...

Wonder what the difference in defensive stats would be if you traded Oregon and West Virginia, both really good offenses, for Penn State, North Texas and Kent State? Statistically Bama has the better defense but in realtity....well....I guess we will find out Saturday night.

November 4, 2011 at 9:32 a.m.
chatter10 said...

No need to look at out of conference opponents...Look at the common opponents of the two teams...that would be Tennessee and Florida....still tight race but Bama wins in T-town

November 4, 2011 at 3:42 p.m.
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