First, let me apologize abjectly to everyone for losing focus on the Vandy game. But what can I say? I just lack mental discipline.
Apology out of the way, I am starting to think we take LSU by double digits. And here's why.Admittedly, LSU has looked very impressive this year. But looking at it dispassionately, they have not been more impressive than we have.
LSU does have the best single win of any college football team this year: their easy neutral-site win over Oregon looks better right now (to me) than our win over Florida in the Swamp. But not by much, as we're competing with Wisconsin over Nebraska for the second most impressive win. Beyond that, LSU's #2 and #3 best wins over West Virginia and Mississippi St. do not look as good as our wins over Arkansas and Penn St.
If anything, IMO, our overall body of work this year is superior. After all, not a single team we have played has looked anything other than beat down in the 2nd half, whereas Oregon, West Virginia, and even MSU were still making a little noise in the 4th quarter. Nobody has made ANY 4th-quarter noise against us except a little garbage-time scratching around.
Put that all together, and I say past results are close. But there are three significant factors lurking below the surface that all lean Bama. Here's what they are.
(1) LSU has the larger turnover differential, Bama the larger yardage differential.
LSU is 4th in the nation at turnover margin, with a +2.4. Obviously, it's not an accident that their opponents are turning it over so frequently and they're not, but . . . this is a classic turn-around statistic, by which I mean it doesn't last. It has been proven over and over that it is a rare thing for a huge turnover margin to last. It tends to even out, at least a little bit.
It is not a rare thing, however, for a huge yardage margin to last: that's more the rule than the exception. Alabama has outgained its opponents by 246.4 yards per game, while LSU has outgained its opponents by 88.4 yards per game. Huge difference. Alabama has dominated from pillar to post, while LSU has outplayed everybody and then topped it off with a lot of big plays. Dominance is more predictable than big plays: we'll keep dominating, but will they keep getting big plays?
(2) LSU converts an unusual amount of its offense into scores.
We've all seen it. A team fumbles and stumbles around offensively for most of the game, but the three or four times they get anything going they take it to the house. The result is a team with a mostly stagnant offense that winds up putting a decent point total on the board.
Even more so than turnovers, that's mostly pure luck. And LSU has gotten a heaping helping of it this year.
It's a standard thing for a team with a hot D to score more points than its offensive figures would account for. Alabama is pretty normal in that regard: we're 38th in the nation in total offense, but 18th in scoring offense. But for LSU the gap is huge. LSU is 90th in the nation in offense and 19th in scoring offense. That huge differential, my friends, is most likely due to luck. LSU simply hasn't squandered 2- or 3-first down drives that lead to nothing this year. They're due, and it will almost certainly happen more for them in the future than it has in the past.
(3) The beatdown factor.
As I alluded to above, every single team Alabama has played this year has been about one sharp remark away from breaking down into tears by the 4th quarter. I don't think LSU's offense is going to be an exception to that rule. Jarrett Lee and/or Jordan Jefferson is/are going to be staring down the barrel of a loaded gun in that game, and by the 4th quarter he/they will tire of the view and close his/their eyes.
(4) The October Schedule.
This one is speculative, and it's really premature to judge its importance, if any. But if I had to bet, I'd bet that LSU gets a little more banged up against Florida, Tennesse and Auburn than we do against Vandy, Ole Miss, and Tennessee. At least looking at it before the fact, the schedule favors Alabama.
The first two of those factors are quantifiable, and things I always try to take into account if I am making a wager. The third is very subjective and kind of made up, but I still believe it's valid. The fourth, well, we'll see.
On the other hand, I don't see anything to make me think LSU other than their excellent results so far--but even there, they haven't shown any more than we have. I say LSU struggles offensively while we crank out a methodical 24-35 and win by double digits.