Alabama uses dominating second half to turn away LSU's hopes of an upset
While the Tigers entered the game with two losses, nobody can deny Les Miles' success against Nick Saban and Alabama, especially at Bryant-Denny Stadium. LSU nearly ended any chance Alabama would have at a BCS title game last year, before the Crimson Tide escaped Baton Rouge with a comeback win in the final minute.
After watching the Alabama defense get dismantled by Johnny Manziel earlier this season, there were those who thought Tigers' Quarterback Zach Mettenberger would present problems for the Bama secondary. Mettenberger, who gashed the Crimson Tide defense in the second half last season, had a reverse of fortune this time around.
Mettenberger threw for 174 yards and one TD in the first half; at times making it look easy with his stud receivers against an Alabama defense that had little answer for the first 30 minutes.
Had it not been for two critical turnovers in the first half, LSU would've taken a lead into the intermission against the top ranked Crimson Tide.
What adjustments would Nick Saban make to deter Mettenberger from leading the Tigers to an upset?
The message became clear--win the battle at the line of scrimmage, and Alabama did just that in the second half. Alabama imposed its will on both sides of the ball in a dominating final 30 minutes. The Crimson Tide outscored the Tigers 21-3 in route to a 38-17 win.
The turning point in the game came after LSU tied the score at 17-17 on their opening drive of the third quarter. Alabama faced a likely punting situation at their own 41 with a 4th and 2.
However, Saban opted to run a brilliant fake punt that resulted in a first down, and the drive would produce a touchdown that gave Alabama a 24-17 lead.
LSU could not recover, as Alabama would score two more touchdowns, featuring a ground game reminiscent of Stanford's punishing attack on Oregon Thursday night. The combo backfield of TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake ran with little resistance, courtesy an offensive line that manhandled LSU defenders at the line of scrimmage.
The Alabama defense nearly forced multiple turnovers in the second half, but still created havoc for Mettenberger, who had the proverbial deer-in-the headlights expression. Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart confused Mettenberger with an array of blitzing schemes.
Just when you thought you had the answers, Saban creates new questions. There is no question Alabama is lacking the secondary it had in prior years; yet Saban seems to find a way to rally the troops and maximize the talent of his roster.
And let's not forget AJ McCarron, who quietly threw for three touchdown passes in the win Saturday Night. Talk about the Rodney Dangerfield of College Football. It seems every name is mentioned for the Heisman but McCarron's. While the Heisman Trophy would be nice to add to his already three National Championships, I'm sure he would settle for a fourth National Championship as a consolation prize.
Just a thought for those who despise Saban and Alabama. Anyone notice that Alabama had a bye week prior to its games against Texas A&M and LSU? And they happen to play Chattanooga prior to playing Auburn, which can be considered another bye.
The scary thought is Alabama is improving on its so-called weaknesses. The offensive line, while not as physical as last year's line, is slowly becoming a strength once again. And for the first time since, I dont know, possibly forever, Alabama has its best receiving unit I recall seeing.
So while the defense may be a question mark at times, who can stop this diverse offense? Good luck to future opponents who will try.