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Keys to the BCS National Championship

 
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BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Alabama Keys

 

A look at three keys for Alabama in Monday night’s Allstate BCS National Championship Game:

1. Finish drives: Alabama moved the football in the first game, but hurt itself with penalties, negative-yardage plays and turnovers from the 30-yard line on in. Give LSU’s defense credit for some of that, but the Crimson Tide also have to make sure they’re doing the little things right to finish drives. They can’t repeatedly misfire on first down every time they move close to the red zone. And even if their drives don’t end in touchdowns, they need to give their kickers a better chance with 30- and 35-yard field goals as opposed to 45- and 50-yarders.

2. Play even in special teams: Nobody in Alabama’s camp is conceding the special-teams battle to LSU, but the Tigers kick and punt the ball better, not to mention cover punts and kickoffs better. What Alabama can’t have happen is a critical breakdown in the kicking game, or more precisely, to get pummeled in the kicking game the way the Crimson Tide did the last time these two teams met. Alabama doesn’t necessarily have to win the special-teams battle to win the game, but the Crimson Tide could sure help themselves by making a few plays in special teams and playing the Tigers to a draw. Return specialist Marquis Maze could be huge in this game.

3. Force Jefferson to throw: As much time as Alabama has had to prepare for this game, it would be a major surprise if LSU has as much success running the option as it did the last time. The Crimson Tide will do everything they can to put this game on Jordan Jefferson’s right arm (instead of his legs) and make him throw. They don’t think Jefferson can beat them throwing the ball from the pocket. In particular, Alabama wants to get Jefferson in a steady dose of third-and-long situations, which is where this defense is most lethal.

BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: LSU Keys

Edward Aschoff, ESPN.com

Here are three keys for No. 1 LSU (13-0, 8-0) in Monday night's Allstate BCS National Championship Game against No. 2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1):

Jordan Jefferson's play: You never quite know which Jefferson will show up in games. Will it be the one who stumbled through the first half of the SEC championship game against Georgia? Or, as he did against Arkansas, will it be the one who threw for 208 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 48 yards and another score? Jefferson has that Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde quality. Alabama's players lauded Jefferson's running ability and referred to him as the Tigers' X-factor on offense. While he can hurt teams with his feet, he can also scare his team with his passing decisions. He isn't a top-notch thrower, so keeping him comfortable will be key and it will also be important to make him effective in the option game.

Put pressure on AJ McCarron: You know Alabama's offense will go through running back Trent Richardson, but Alabama is going to look to stretch the field with its young quarterback. McCarron was flustered for most of the night when these two teams met back in November. He'll already be in a pretty hostile environment inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, so making him uncomfortable in the pocket will really benefit LSU's defense. McCarron has the skill to make some plays against the Tigers' defense, but this is still his first year as Alabama's starter and this is the biggest game he's ever been in. Mistakes will occur if he loses the mental game.

Continue to pound the ball on the ground: LSU made its mark on offense by wearing down defenses with its running game. What made the Tigers so successful in this area was their ability to throw out multiple backs at a time. Spencer Ware entered the year as the starter, but LSU got solid production out of three other running backs and now have a new leading rusher in Michael Ford and have found the back of the future in Kenny Hilliard. LSU was one of just two FBS schools to rush for more than 100 yards on Alabama's top-ranked rushing defense this season after churning out 148 yards on the ground in November.

 

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