Here are some statistics/thoughts on the LSU game. I'm not going to talk a ton about individual "players" and "matchups," that's been done enough by people better at it than myself. Instead I'll try to throw some numbers out there and see what sticks.
It's been an exceptionally tight series under Saban:
Average yardage differential LSU by 34.5
Average scoring differential Bama by 1
Avg turnover margin 0
We average 3 penalties for 29 yards
They average 8 penalties for 60 yards
-Not a lot to say there, except that this series has been every bit as close statistically as it has felt watching it.
Recruiting snapshot (based on the 247Composite):
2007: Alabama-12, LSU-4
2008: Alabama-3, LSU-11
2009: Alabama-3, LSU-1 (Current Redshirt Seniors)
2010: Alabama-5, LSU-7 (Current Seniors)
2011: Alabama-1, LSU-7 (Current Juniors)
2012: Alabama-1, LSU-13 (Current Sophomores)
2013: Alabama-1, LSU-6 (Current Freshman)
-That feeling you get when you watch LSU on defense, how they aren't as talented as years past? That's because they aren't as talented as years past. Look at how even the 2007-2011 classes were from the two schools. It's no surprise that the 2011 game(s) between LSU and Bama, which featured those classes, was so competitive. Fast forward two years, and it's a very different picture. The last class LSU had better than Bama was in 2009, and they have almost entirely left both programs. It should then come as no surprise that there is a clear talent gap emerging between Bama and LSU. We average the 2nd best class, and them the 8th. It doesn't seem like much, but it's a tangible difference in a series that has been much more evenly matched in the past.
LSU out of the title race:
LSU has often responded poorly after being handed their second loss (knocking them out of contention for the conference title). Here are their recent records prior to their 2nd loss of the season, and then from a 2nd loss onwards:
In 2008, they were 5-1 leading into a non-conference game with Georgia. After that second loss, they would go 3-3 to round out the season, 0-3 in the SEC.
In 2009, they were 7-1 leading into the Alabama game. After the loss to Alabama, they 2-2 to finish the season, 1-1 in the SEC.
In 2010, they were 10-1 leading into their game against Arkansas. They did go 1-1 to finish the season after Auburn had locked up the West.
In 2011, they went undefeated in the regular season.
In 2012, they were 7-1 leading into the Alabama game. After the loss to Alabama, they would go 3-1, 3-0 SEC, though they beat terrible Ole Miss and Arkansas teams by a combined 11 points.
Year: Prior to first loss, After first loss
2008: 5-1, 3-3
2009: 7-1, 2-2
2010: 10-1, 1-0
2012: 7-1, 3-1
-So, LSU is a remarkable 42-9 (82%) when entering a game with one loss or fewer. Even ignoring the 2011 season they are still 29-8 (78%) when the conference title is within their reach. However, they are a mediocre 9-6 (60%) after they have achieved a second loss. LSU under Miles is a highly emotional team, and emotional teams tend to play best when they have something to play for. Once that goal is snatched out from their grasp, LSU has had a strong tendency to play at a much lower intensity level. The same thing happens to a lot of teams with TAM potentially having the same problem right now.
-What makes this especially important is that 2008 was the last time LSU entered the Alabama game with two losses. In that game, Alabama went into Baton Rouge to face an athletically superior LSU team, turned the ball over 3 times, and won. In no other year would such mistakes have allowed an Alabama victory. Even in 2008 both of LSU's losses were to East opponents, so they had a real chance at a Western conference crown. This will actually be the first year that LSU enters the Alabama game where they have been knocked out of the West title hunt completely, and we're still competing for the division crown. That is a huge, huge X-factor in this game.
Here's a simple statistical prediction model for the game I've used in the past, it predicts the game based on how well each team holds their opponents below those opponents averages:
- opponents average yards/rush
- allowed yards/rush
-- Calculate % of opponents' average yard/rush allowed
- opponents average yards/attempt
- allowed yards/attempt
-- Calculate % of opponents' average yard/attempt allowed
- average yardage of each team
-- Calculated predicted yardage (% allowed x average)
- points generated per yard
-- calculate points scored by each team based on the predicted yardage
In the past, this prediction has yielded:
2012 LSU: Bama wins 27-17, Bama +71 yardage (Actual Bama wins 21-17, LSU +104 yardage)
2012 TAM: Bama wins 33-27, Bama +14 yardage (Actual Bama loses 24-29, Bama +13 yardage)
2012 UGA: Bama wins 35-25, Bama +79 yardage (Actual Bama wins 32-28, Bama +118 yardage)
2012 ND: Bama wins 30-16, Bama +55 yardage (Actual Bama wins 42-14, Bama +227 yardage)
-That's not too bad. Aside from the Notre Dame game (where the competition operated in different worlds) the predictions were always within a score for both teams, and the yardage predictions were pretty darn close.
This year it predicts (screenshot below):
Bama wins 36-33, Bama +8 yardage
-That's actually kind of shocking... though this is a pretty plain analysis, there's less of a statistical edge than in any of our big games last year. That should give a lot of us pause... even though we've done very well the last few weeks and LSU hasn't, we haven't done all that much better relative to the quality of our opponents. This is why I've tried to warn quite a bit about taking too much from Kentucky, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Those teams were all terrible, and we should have fully expected to stomp them. The "silver lining" is that we've clearly been trending up while LSU has been trending down, LSU's first few games are balanced against our last view games, and that does bode fairly well going into this game.
Here's My One Key State to Stop LSU (Patent Pending)--- LIMIT HILL:
-The biggest key to LSU their opponents is Jeremy Hill, who is usually the dominant part of their offense. Against Auburn, Hill had over a third the touches 25/58 touches (43%), for a similar chunk of the yardage 184/457 (40%). I was critical of Florida's defense against LSU because they leaned even harder on Hill. He had 20/48 (42%) of team touches for an even bigger share 151/327 (46%) of the total yards. Florida's vaunted defense just wasn't able to force the gameplan away from him, and that's a recipe for disaster .
-In contrast, Ole Miss did manage to limit Hill. The fewer touches could be blamed on Miles as a coaching decisions, but he wasn't being nearly as effective as in previous games. Hill had 17/68 (25%) of team touches for 64/388 (16%) of the team's yards (3.76 yards/touch vs 6.35 yards/touch for everyone else).
-The biggest impact of limiting Hill is actually putting pressure on Mettenberger, which generated turnovers. I think the real key here isn't even the number of touches, which you can't control. It's that you better be darn sure that he generates less yards/play than the rest of the team. Otherwise they can rely on Hill to move the ball, and avoid putting too much pressure on their passing game, which will generate negative plays.