Orange Bowl

Game of the Week: Week 10

 
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The stakes are always high when the Crimson Tide and Tigers square off.
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Ryan Trapp | Staff Writer
OrangeBowl.org

For the third time in the last year, Alabama and LSU take the field in a battle of college football heavyweights. The Tigers edged out the Crimson Tide 9-6 during the 2011 regular season, but it was Alabama who got the last laugh with a dominating 21-0 victory over LSU in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game. The two teams meet Saturday for a rubber match that showcases two of college football’s elite defenses, where the battle (like so many others waged in the SEC) will be won and lost in the trenches in this week’s Orange Bowl Game of the Week.

Alabama has been in a class of its own this season: an undefeated 8-0 record, number one in the nation in scoring defense, number one in the conference in rushing defense, pass defense and pass efficiency defense. Their offense scores over 40 points a game behind a dominant ground game featuring the dynamic duo of T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy (1,245 yards, 14 touchdowns combined), and the offensive leadership of quarterback A.J. McCarron, who leads the nation in passer efficiency and is one of just two FBS quarterbacks without an interception thrown this season. They’ve rolled through opponents behind an intimidating offensive front that features two first round picks in guard Chance Warmack and center Barrett Jones. Guard Anthony Steen could go in the first round of the 2014 draft, while tackles D.J. Fluker and Cyrus Kouandjio round out was is arguably the best offensive line in the nation. However, Warmack and company will have one of the best-rounded defensive fronts to contest with all night.

Have one first round pick in the trenches who can single-handedly disrupt an offense, and you’ve found something special. Have two and you’ll have a unit that will not only keep you in games, but win them. Have three, and you can count your defense among the best in the nation. That’s exactly what Les Miles has in his Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and Bennie Logan, all of who are likely to hear their name called on day one of the 2013 NFL Draft. All three can control the game from the line of scrimmage, funneling run games straight into the arms of players like linebacker Kevin Minter and safety Eric Reid. On offense, LSU sports one of football’s strongest rushing attacks. Behind Kenny Hilliard, Michael Ford and Jeremy Hill, the Tigers backfield has found the endzone 20 times this season. Zach Mettenberger hasn’t quite lives up to the lofty expectations he carried with him into the season, completing under 60 percent of his passes while managing just seven touchdowns to four interceptions. Still, the junior has managed to lead LSU in back-to-back over tough SEC schools while showing flashes of his very high ceiling.

Both schools epitomize what football fans know and love about the SEC; tough, gritty teams who pride themselves on defense and running the ball. However, it could be the men under center who sway the outcome of this contest. McCarron’s efficiency and leadership has thrown him into the Heisman race as a legitimate contender, while the LSU faithful still believe that Mettenberger has a chance to evolve into an elite quarterback. Could this be a coming out party for the Georgia-transfer? Or will McCarron continue to orchestrate the Crimson Tide’s offense to yet another victory with deadly proficiency? Either way, the looming battle in the bayou will undoubtedly be one worth watching.

 

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