It's hard to preview the national title game because these teams are just so familiar with one another, as our the fans. You know almost as much about the Tide as their fans do. We also know how these two teams match up, as we've already seen that game.
So, in order to look forward, let's look back. It's become a common refrain that Alabama outplayed LSU back in November, that they won the game everywhere but the scoreboard. When your lobbying for a mulligan so you can play for a national title, I really don't mind the storyline. You're reduced to begging to get a shot in the title game, and Alabama begged better than anyone else. They created a convincing storyline, and it's not like LSU fans don't have experience with that ("undefeated in regulation" ring a bell?)
The problem is, I think Alabama honestly believes the manure they are shoveling. It's not problem when it's part of your media campaign, but if Alabama thinks they actually were the better team in the first meeting, only to be screwed by a few missed kicks, well, that's the kind of delusion that will cost you. Hell, this is what RBR had to say right after the game:
In the end, with all due respect to LSU, this game was defined more by the things we did not do. Bill Walsh does not need to be resurrected to perform this postmortem: In a game of such two evenly matched teams, you simply cannot miss four kicks and have two critical turnovers and win. The fact that we had more first downs, more total yards, and won the time of possession battle are merely random data points in the face of such mistakes. The defense did everything humanly possible and it was ultimately just a wasted performance.
With all due respect to Alabama, I hope to God they honestly believe this. Because if they just think they need to cut down on turnovers and tighten up the kicking game, and they are good, well, they are in for surprise. That's a recipe for certain defeat. Mainly because, if you look back at that first meeting, Alabama wasn' t the better team.
Sure, Alabama committed two critical turnovers. So did LSU. LSU's two turnovers both led to Alabama field goal attempts, one of them converted. LSU gave away free points the same way Alabama did, and the final turnover ledger in the game was net zero.
However, the missed field goals showed the real problem with Alabama's game. Bama missed two field goals in regulation from distances of 44 and 50. Additionally, LSU blocked a 49 yarder. In OT, Alabama missed a 52-yard field goal. These were not chip shots. In fact, Alabama only straight up missed one kick from inside 50 yards, and that was still a 44-yarder.
Alabama only made one trip to the red zone all game. One. Alabama got the ball to the 19 for a first down and with three downs, managed all of two yards. Alabama never got further than LSU's 17 yard line, never once calling a play from inside the ten. LSU would call five such plays on their next drive.
Sure, Alabama did gain more yards on the game: 295-239. However, that advantage was almost entirely due to their first quarter edge, when Alabama took a 124-35 edge. Over the rest of the game, LSU actually held the yardage advantage, 204-171. Make their asses quit indeed.
And that's the big takeaway from the game. Did anyone watch the fourth quarter and overtime? LSU's line was dominating Alabama's late in the game. The Tide started to move backwards, and LSU got stronger as the game went on. A lot of that has to do with LSU's incredible depth.
Here's the crazy thing, LSU has gotten better since then. Lonergan has taken over the center position. Mathieu was playing his worst football of the season then. Kenny Hilliard has emerged as another option in the backfield. Jordan Jefferson had only taken a handful of snaps to that point.
Neither team is going to win based on what they did in their last meeting. But LSU has hard repeatedly that they were lucky to win, and they have worked to become a better team. Alabama has spent the last two months convincing everybody that they should have won. If they honestly believe that, they are not going to win the title game.
They need to do something different. Because what they did the last time didn't work, and it wasn't a fluke. Ding the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Well, we all know the definition for that.