Orange Bowl

BCS National Championship preview

 
(not rated)

Chris Low, ESPN.com

NEW ORLEANS -- It’s finally here.

No. 1 LSU (13-0) versus No. 2 Alabama (11-1) for the second time, this time for the BCS national championship on Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Here’s a preview:

WHO TO WATCH: LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson. In a lot of ways, Jefferson was the difference in the first game. Jarrett Lee threw a pair of interceptions and was ineffective, and Jefferson came off the bench and gave the Tigers’ offense a lift with his ability to run the option. It’s been Jefferson’s offense ever since, although Alabama will undoubtedly be a lot more prepared to defend the option in this game. That means Jefferson will need to make some plays in the passing game if the Tigers are going to have a chance to move the ball against the Crimson Tide’s defense. He’s been erratic throwing the ball this season, but had one of the best passing games of his career last season against Alabama when he finished 10-of-13 for 141 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers would love to get that kind of performance out of him Monday night, especially if he can take care of the ball.

WHAT TO WATCH: Big plays. The two defenses are so strong that neither team is going to make a living by going on long scoring drives, which means quick strikes will be at a premium, on both offense and special teams. Rueben Randle is LSU’s best big-play threat. He caught eight touchdown passes and averaged 18.1 yards per catch, but caught only two passes for 19 yards in the first game. Alabama junior running back Trent Richardson is also a big play waiting to happen. His longest gain in the first game was a 39-yard catch. Both teams are capable of changing the scoreboard in a hurry on special teams. Alabama’s Marquis Maze returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown against Arkansas. He was first in the SEC in kickoff return average and third in punt return average. LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu returned two punts for touchdowns this season, while Morris Claiborne returned a kickoff for a touchdown. A long scoring play in this game will be like scoring two touchdowns.

WHY TO WATCH: It’s college football history and SEC history being made at the same time. There’s never been a rematch in the BCS National Championship Game, and two teams from the same conference have never met for the title. Until now. Moreover, the winner of this game asserts itself as the SEC’s kingpin. It would be two national titles in five years for LSU and two national titles in three years for Alabama. And if you like defense, it may be a while before we see two more talented defenses on the same field than Monday night. As many as 17 of the 22 starters on defense have a chance to be drafted. Alabama is ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense, and LSU is ranked No. 2 nationally in total defense. The Crimson Tide haven’t given up more than 14 points in a game on defense all season, while the Tigers’ defense has gone nine straight games without allowing more than 11 points. If LSU can prevail, it would have to go down as one of the greatest seasons in SEC history when you consider that the Tigers would have beaten nine nationally ranked teams, four top 5 teams and Alabama twice.

 

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