This image comes up when you google "Terrence Cody".
Yesterday, we went over how the Nick Saban thing affects LSU fans, and why that relationship is so complicated. "Complicated" is the key word. I don't know a single LSU fan who has pure hatred for Nick Saban. It's not so black and white. Many have a love-hate relationship, and you can imagine which direction the pendulum is swinging this particular week.
Anyway, let's discuss why Alabama has had such a surprising season. Personally, I thought Bama was the 4th best team in the division at the start of the season, behind LSU, Auburn, and Ole Miss. Obviously, that has turned out incorrect, but let's look for things that we missed when looking at them.
- Terrence Cody: (pictured above). I saw, and I think a lot of people saw, a complete lack of returning playmakers on the defensive line. Terrence Cody emerged from nowhere to be a force at nose tackle, occupying blockers to free up the ends and the linebackers, and making plays himself. Terrence Cody is a big reason that Alabama has by far the best rushing defense in the SEC, statistics-wise. While the fact that Alabama plays with a lead a lot helps, the fact also remains that Alabama has the stingiest rushing defense per attempt. Cody has made the whole defense better.
- Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram: Glen Coffee was a pretty ordinary player last year, rushing for 545 total yards at 4.4 yards per carry. Not bad, but not stellar. This year, he's 4th in the SEC in yards per game, and is getting 6.6 yards per carry. Mark Ingram is a true freshman who is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has been a tremendous second banana. They have supplanted Terry Grant, who as a scatback led the Crimson Tide in rushing last season. I didn't think much of Terry Grant, as I thought he disappeared in big games, because his running style was ill-suited to have a lot of success in the SEC. Coffee and Ingram make for a big upgrade. They've also kept Bama from having to pass much, as Bama quarterbacks have attempted 25 fewer passes than LSU's quarterbacks, in one additional game.
- Julio Jones: I think everyone knew about him before the season started, but it's pretty rare that a wide receiver is very good as a true freshman. And while Julio Jones probably won't win any All-SEC awards at the end of the season, he has had a nice year with 33 catches for over 500 yards so far. He's been John Parker Wilson's favorite target. He certainly has a very bright future.
I think that covers the high points. It's certainly not all there is to it.
As for the matchup, there are reasons to like it and reasons not to like it if you're LSU. First, I don't really think Bama is well-positioned to take advantage of our breakdowns in coverage. They don't have the multitude of weapons that Florida and Georgia were able to throw at us, and that more than anything led to serious problems for us. Bama will probably keep us in our base defense a lot, by running the ball.
Our defense, also, is built to stop the power running game. Sure, Knowshon Moreno killed us, but that's really the only time anyone has been able to use that style against us, and Georgia did it with a pass-first mentality that set up the run. Alabama will try a run-first approach, and we are well-suited to be successful against that.
On the other hand, Bama's rushing defense promises to vex us. We run the ball very effectively, and this may be the matchup of the game. If we can average 4 or 5 yards per rush (excluding the outliers), we will probably win the game. If Bama holds us to their average of 2.6 yards per attempt, it will be very very difficult for us. If we're forced to abandon the rush, Alabama has the playmakers on defense to do what Auburn, Florida, Georgia (x2), and Tulane have done to us.
If we can run effectively, and stick to the playaction pass, we could have a really good night on offense. If we can contain the power running game and force Alabama to pass, they may not have the receivers to really take advantage of our weaknesses there.
There are a lot of ifs there, but honestly I think this game will come down to the teams' relative energy levels. Bama has beaten some good teams this year by overwhelming them early with a high energy level. If we can match that, things will be OK for us. If we can't, they could do to us what they did to Clemson and Georgia.
If we can get a lead, it will be interesting to see how Bama responds. They have not had a single game all year in which they've been behind in the second half. It would be interesting to see what would happen in that situation.
Anyway, this was perhaps a disjointed and incomplete analysis. You should blame Little Miss ATVS, who decided to wake up much earlier than usual and be a big distraction.