A Special Six-Pack: Sub-Plots for LSU-Alabama

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A game this special is too big to share space with others. Therefore, the preemptively dubbed “Game of the Century” gets its own Saturday Six-Pack induction.

1. The Bell Tolls for the Ghost of Bear Bryant

Bryant Denny Stadium bears the monikers of an iconic location on the University of Alabama campus, and an (the?) iconic coach. Every team that enters this venue has the aura of the scores of great Crimson Tide squads looming over it, including LSU on Saturday.

Over 100,000 rabid Tide fans will hoot, holler, cheer and jeer. Jarrett Lee’s calls at the line of scrimmage will have to come from non-verbal forms of communication. Relaying messages takes on particular difficult. And the home team feeds off that. Alabama thrives on it.

2. Coaching Clash

Gamesmanship. When teams are as evenly matched as these two, gamesmanship becomes especially critical. A team’s preparation only goes so far. What tricks are up the coaches’ sleeves, or tucked beneath the ball cap in Les Miles’ case? The difference could be which coach has that extra something his team has worked on ready to unveil Saturday. Miles has a track record more suggestive of trying something new. The conservative Saban is more wont to rely on the tried and true methods that have served the Tide well thus far.

Meanwhile, Miles is in a game beneath the game. Saban has remained synonymous with LSU far beyond his tenure. A victory in Saban’s house, with a spot in the BCS Championship game presumably at stake would finally put Miles’ stamp on the LSU program, unequivocally.

3. Terminate or Be Terminated

Trent Richardson, dubbed Terminator 3 on this particular blog, has the ability to dishearten opposing defenses. His unique combination of speed and power is the top weapon in the Alabama offense, and with No. 2 back Eddie Lacy questionable, Richardson becomes that much more important.

The LSU defense is among the nation’s very best, particularly at the line where athleticism, speed and power join to form a formidable front four. The Tigers already handled one of the nation’s best backs, but Oregon’s LaMichael James is a completely different style rusher than Richardson. Gang tackles are important for the Tiger defense, but if it takes two, three, four Tigers to bring down Richardson on eight-to-12-yard rushes, than the Tide move the chains and nickel-and-dime their way to points.

4. Double Vision

Les Miles’ use of both Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson at quarterback has been successful thus far. It’s worth noting that in the Tigers’ last championship run, Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux shared snaps. The Lee-Jefferson dynamic does differ from Flynn-Perrilloux in that Lee and Jefferson bring too very different styles. Flynn and Perrilloux were both traditional pocket passers — Jefferson can be used as a rusher, and has been effectively thus far. He’s burly and strong, tough to tackle on goal line sets but with the ability to go long when defenses presume rush is coming.

Having to scheme for two distinct styles poses Alabama’s vaunted defense a challenge. Did defensive coordinator Kirby Smart focus more on Lee? How much was devoted to preparing for Jefferson? That wild card forces a coach to budget his time differently, which goes into that factor of gamesmanship.

5. Who’s Running Who?

Both the Tide and Tigers have effective rushing attacks. Both rush defenses are among the nation’s best. Presumably, the winner will be the team that can more effectively establish its run. LSU having so many options from which to attack might give the Tigers an edge, but Alabama has the clear best overall rusher in Richardson. The first cracks in either defense will tell the story.

6. Rematch?

Not since Michigan-Ohio State in 2006 has a rematch been so heavily suggested for a regular season match come BCS title time. While there’s still a lot of football between now and the second Monday in January, a rematch seems like a far-fetched concept.

First, Oklahoma State, Stanford and potentially Boise State would all need to lose. Then, the case against one-loss Oklahoma or Oregon would have to be solidified. Should LSU lose, the Tigers trump UO from their Week 1 match-up. But if the Tigers win, then win out, the Ducks presumably take precedent over the Tide for a rematch considering UO faced LSU earlier in the season, with the Tigers having had months to prepare, and on a neutral field.

It also bears noting that the loser will not be a conference champion. Every team to ever play in the BCS Championship won its conference title, and the only positive prevailing argument for the Bowl Championship Series is it typically crowns the best overall team. If Saturday’s loser gets a BCS rematch and wins, can a team that didn’t win its conference really be called national champion? Such is the chief argument against tournaments like March Madness, and a rematch would invalidate the “season = playoff” argument of the BCS.

Saturday is a playoff atmosphere. Win, and you’re probably in. Lose, and you’re out.