Will It Go Round In Circles?

Will it go round in circles?

I’ve got a song, ain’t got no moral
Let the bad guy win every once in a while

Billy Preston, 1973

The college football world does go round in circles and Southeastern Conference teams keep flying high like Billy’s bird up in the sky (click that Preston link for a nice video clip).

Tonight, for the sixth straight time, a squad from the SEC will claim the BCS championship when LSU and Alabama battle in a rematch of their November 5th defensive struggle (won 9-6 in overtime by LSU). Take your pick on the bad guy that’s going to win this one.

Will it be the little Nictator?

Nick Saban is already the only coach to win BCS titles at two different schools (and actually I can’t think of any other coach to win national championships at two schools even in the pre-BCS period … maybe it happened when the helmets were leather). Intense, loud, controlling, Saban reigns over Alabama football with an aura unmatched since Paul “Bear” Bryant tilted goalposts in Tuscaloosa.

Like him or not, most fans and analysts consider Saban at the very top rung of the college coaching ladder, if not perched atop it alone.

If Saban is not your villain, how about LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson?

As sports fans our memories are often short when it comes to the shortcomings of the Saturday heroes, but remember that Jefferson narrowly avoided felony prosecution for his role in a fight outside a Baton Rouge bar back in the summer. With Jefferson suspended, fellow senior Jarrett Lee filled in and played extremely well … until the Tigers’ trip to Tuscaloosa in early November. At that point, Jefferson reemerged and showed just enough fight on the field to give LSU a boost (primarily with his option runs) in the overtime win.

Non-SEC fans probably consider both teams the bad guys.

Mike Gundy felt his Oklahoma State team deserved the slot opposite LSU, and Big 12 fans probably agree. Big Ten fans chafe under the annual New Year’s Day whippings the boys from the South lay on them. The Pac-12 thought Oregon or Stanford had a real shot at the title this year after the Ducks came close against Auburn last go round, but had to settle for counting all the money the league pulled in from placing two teams in BCS bowls. The Big East posts a strong bowl record most years (including winning lower-tiered bowls against the SEC) but lacks a top-flight flagship program. The ACC … well, it’s basketball season so their fans are now relevant.

So, which team will fly high tonight?

LSU comes into the game with a great deal of confidence. Georgia shut them out and shut them down for half of the SEC title game, but the Tigers never wavered and then blew out the Dogs once special teams turned the game. Punter Brad Wing and returner Tyrann Mathieu (the Honey Badger) are true weapons. The LSU offense also boasts a deep backfield, so keeping fresh running backs in the game will not be an issue. If they can pound the Tide by holding on to the ball that depth could be a factor. I do not see LSU throwing the ball effectively unless they lull the Tide to sleep and hit a deep ball. While Jefferson had some impact with the option, I would expect Saban and Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to shut that down.

Alabama actually dominated most of the first game between these teams and lost primarily because of missed field goals. Trent Richardson should be the best offensive player on the field (Mathieu keeps me from calling him the best overall player in the game), but I’m not real sold on Eddie Lacy or any depth behind him. QB A.J. McCarron does not impress me, but if Richardson can get some movement up front, play-action passes might be available.

My concern with the Tide is the program has developed a tendency to play tight too often. It happened last year against Auburn and it happened as the game wore on against LSU this year. All that yelling and hollering from strength coaches and Saban and from whoever is fine as far as it goes, and it keeps the team motivated, but Alabama needs to loosen up.

There’s a sports psychology/motor learning term called “flow” or optimal arousal level. It holds that players need to be excited to reach maximum performance or flow, but getting too excited diminishes performance. The Tide tends to be a bit too high-energy at times in my opinion.

These are the two best teams in the nation and they’ll play what LSU coach Les Miles called “big boy” football tonight.

The BCS championship will go round in circles, but only one SEC team will fly high like a bird up in the sky.

LSU 23-21.

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