January 8, 2012
BCS final is 'big boy football'
By Rob Longley, QMI Agency
NEW ORLEANS - As a tailback likely headed to the NFL next season, Alabama’s Trent Richardson will soon be part of an offence that actually tries to score.
He has watched much of the bowl season leading up to Monday’s BCS championship game here at the Superdome, where his No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide hopes to hand No. 1 Louisiana State its first loss of the season. And in those games, Richardson has seen an average combined score of close to 75 points, a completely different beast to what we are expecting to see in the title match.
“We don’t play a whole lot of track meets in the SEC,” Richardson said, acknowledging what most expect when the heavyweight Southeastern Conference rivals square off for the second time this season.
Of course, the way LSU and Alabama played on their way to earning the valued date here is an anomaly in the current era of all forms of football.
In the NFL, the teams with the two worst defences in terms of yards allowed — New England and Green Bay — are the top-ranked teams in their respective conferences, as eye-pleasing offensive outbursts rule the league. On Saturday night on the very same field that the Tigers and Tide will slug it out, Drew Brees and the Saints rolled up more than 600 yards of offence in their 45-28 NFC wild-card win over the Detroit Lions.
If the two teams rated the NCAA’s best combine for just the Saints’ output on Monday, it would be a shock.
“I’d expect it to be big boy football,” LSU coach Les Miles said at his final press conference here Sunday morning. “And I’d expect it to be very, very physical and that it would be a game that would be representative of two quality football teams.
In college, the bowl games have ramped it up this year from the 51 average points of a year ago. The craziest was last week’s Orange Bowl when West Virginia beat Clemson 70-33. LSU, for example, has given up just 62 points in the last seven games combined and Alabama 64 in the same span.
The style of football may not be for everyone, but in the tradition of the rich American south, the SEC way is a throwback to a simpler time in the country’s favourite sport.
“I think it’s old-school,” Alabama centre William Vlachos said. “Obviously people, I’m sure, enjoyed watching West Virginia put up 70 points in a game. I’m sure it was entertaining.
“When you look at the core of football, you look at rushing the ball, great defence, I think (the first meeting) incorporated it all at a very high level. Even though there weren’t many points scored, you’re dealing with probably the two best defences in college football. I think the true football fan can enjoy that.”
While not big on scoring, the initial meeting between the two teams was thick with drama. Overbilled as the game of the century, LSU prevailed in that one, winning 9-6 in overtime to finish a game that didn’t have a touchdown. That there is a rematch has been a source of controversy, particularly by supporters from other conferences in the NCAA, that a rematch should not be allowed in the championship game.
Miles didn’t want to get deep into that discussion, other than to acknowledge that the Tide is the toughest team his Tigers have faced all season.
No matter what happens, the powerhouse SEC is guaranteed to win a sixth consecutive national title and the eighth in the 14-year history of the Bowl Championship Series. The Tigers come by their No. 1 ranking honestly, having gone through their undefeated season beating 12 of its 13 opponents by a minimum of 13 points.
The Tide is ranked No. 2 but, despite that, and the fact the game is essentially a home game for the Tigers — a team the entire state of Louisiana claims ownership of — enters the contest as the slight betting favourites. The logic behind the ’Bama supporters who made the point spread move that way, is that a second meeting with a Nick Saban coached team will be more difficult to complete.
“I think that our team learned some things from the first game,” said Saban, who has coached both teams in this contest to national titles. “Sometimes when you have a negative experience, you’re more willing to maybe learn some of the things that can be valuable to you in the future in terms of the execution, the inability to finish in critical times in certain situations in the game.
“So, I look at the first game as more of an opportunity for us to learn and understand some of the things that we’re going to need to do to be able to have a chance to be successful this time.
“I’ve liked the way we’ve prepared. I think we are where we need to be. We’ll never know for sure until we get out there and start playing.”
And after a 45-day layoff to hype it up, the climax of the bowl season can’t start soon enough.
LITTLE LOVE FOR SABAN
Seemingly joyless Nick Saban doesn’t coach football to enhance his personality or popularity.
Good thing, considering the intensity of the enemies with every team he leaves.
He outraged fans in LSU when he bolted for the NFL in 2004 after bringing the Tigers a national championship, their first in 45 years. He outraged fans in Miami when he left the NFL’s Dolphins after one season and the team in a mess. And that he did it to take a job against hated LSU rival Alabama only twisted the knife deeper to the football fanatics of Baton Rouge.
To hear Saban talk about it though, bygones are bygones. He helped build the Tigers into a national force, one that took another title in 2007 under current coach Les Miles and is bidding for a third against Saban’s Tide here on Monday night.
So does Saban spend any time worrying about the littered road in his past?
“I guess when I go back to (his native) West Virginia and I get on the side of the mountain and watch the creek go by, I might think about some of that,” Saban said on Sunday. “I don’t know when that time’s coming, but I hope not too soon.”
Miles has a slight edge over Saban with a 3-2 edge in their current positions but still can’t escape his predecessor’s shadow. Miles wasn’t about to take the bait on Sunday when asked if there would be any extra satisfaction beating the ‘Bama coach.
“I congratulate Coach Saban for being in this game,” Miles said. “I think that this game and the significance of its outcome really transcends personality or style or stuff.
“And I think this is about quality teams playing for a very significant title.”
Saban, meanwhile, is the butt of crude t-shirts and signs whenever he ventures near the state where he went from revered to reviled.
“I have a lot of special memories of my experience here in Louisiana at LSU for what was accomplished in the program here,” Saban said on Sunday when asked about facing that very team on such a big stage. “And no one’s ever going to take that away.
“I would hope that people can appreciate and respect that. I appreciate people’s passion for their institution. But it’s all good.”