As if the upcoming Alabama v. LSU didn't already have enough background noise, injuries, arrests, and suspensions have all combined to add even more drama to the mix. So, I thought it would be a good idea to write up an article on how those things will effect the game itself.
As a whole, both squads come into this game relatively healthy. Sure there are some injuries, but for the most part both squads have been pretty fortunate on the injury front thus far this year. Moreover, an off week for both squads immediately prior to the game will go a long way to ensuring that both teams are healthy coming in. So it's really not "injuries," it's an injury that is at the forefront, and that injury is to LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. In case you've been in a cave the past two weeks, you know by now that Dorsey was blatantly and illegally chop-blocked on his left knee by a chickensh*t Auburn guard in their most recent showdown on the Bayou.
The major questions at this point are whether or not Dorsey will play, and if he will play how effective will he be. Those are the $64,000 questions.
Dorsey did not practice last week during the off week, but he has returned this week. He did not apparently do all of the drills in practice, but he has gotten some work in -- he estimated that he did about 70 per cent of practice drills on Monday -- and he certainly wants to play. LSU head coach Les Miles has been mum on the subject, and as like most coaches he is not going to disclose any legitimate amount of injury information, considering it could benefit the other team. For the record, Miles had this to say on Monday: "I think Glenn Dorsey's injury is one that will mend and heal. We are very optimistic about him but we don't know if he will play or not yet."
At this point, the most likely scenario is that Dorsey will play, and will likely be relatively healthy, but at not quite 100 per cent.
But what does all of that mean in real terms?
It's hard to say, honestly. To begin with, how good is Dorsey in the first place? He was a complete non-factor against both Florida and Kentucky, and though he played relatively well against Auburn, he wasn't exactly dominant, and his biggest news of the night was the chop-block. Some draftnicks have downgraded their rating of Dorsey, and, considering many people have Dorsey as their token Heisman candidate, Heisman Pundit had this to say on his Heisman hopes:
The point of all of this, mind you, is not to bash Dorsey. He's a good kid and a fine football player, one who will -- barring more cheapshots like he got in the Auburn game -- be making millions this time next year. However, he is not an upstoppable beast who devours opponents without breaking a sweat. He's a very good football player yes, but as Florida and Kentucky showed, you can stop him. It's likely that he will play, and it's also likely that he will be pretty healthy and playing about like he normally does. The real question will be whether or not the Alabama center and guards can play well enough to neutralize him. It's been demonstrated on multiple occasions this year that he can be neutralized, and we'll just have to see if we can do it.
Despite all of the hoopla to the contrary -- unless Dorsey misses the game entirely or is significantly limited -- the Dorsey injury is unlikely to make a major impact on the game.
You know the story on Ryan Perrilloux and Derrick Odom, so what impact does that have?
To begin with, Derrick Odom is a back-up linebacker who never plays. If you're reading this, you've probably played about as many meaningful snaps in LSU football games this year as has Derrick Odom. He is a complete non-factor. Odom is only relevant in terms of police blotter, not on the gridiron.
Perrilloux, being quite frank, is very much along the same lines. Perrilloux comes in as a change-of-pace quarterback on probably about 20 per cent of LSU's offensive snaps. He only has a limited play book, as apparently the LSU coaching staff gives him only about 30 plays. If you watch him play, Perrilloux essentially has three types of plays: the zone read play, option left / right, and then a bunch of trick passing plays. I know that sounds simplistic, but it is what it is. He basically either runs the option, or the zone read play. Occasionally he will suddenly pull up on a run and throw a pass deep down field, i.e. a bit of a trick pass. His activity aside from that is relatively limited considering he has so little of the play book.
Matt Flynn, though, can do all of those things, too. He can run the option, and he runs the zone read play quite well. None of that stuff goes out of the play book just because Perrilloux almost certainly isn't going to play. It's not like Flynn is Freddie Kitchens and Perrilloux is David Palmer or something like that. Flynn can do everything that Perrilloux can do, and honestly can do it just as well if not better. In terms of running with the football, Flynn is actually quicker and a better runner, and the only major difference is that Perrilloux is a bit bigger and thus a bit harder to tackle. Again, there's just nothing that Perrilloux could to that Flynn can't do as well if not better. Perrilloux was more valuable to LSU when Flynn was hampered by the high ankle sprain, and thus they couldn't move Flynn around very much, but since Flynn has returned to almost full health, that's not a problem anymore.
The only potential problem that the absence of Ryan Perrilloux may cause for LSU is if Matt Flynn gets injured. If he goes down, they have no experienced back-up whatsoever, and that could get ugly. But as long as Flynn stays healthy, it's no real problem for the Bayou Bengals.
Much like the barroom brawl on the Bayou, you've heard plenty about the textbook-related suspensions for the Crimson Tide. All of the suspended players could possibly be declared eligible and play this weekend, but then again maybe not. And beyond that Saban may very well not let them play even if they are deemed eligible by the university and by the NCAA.
Regardless of all of that though, it doesn't seem that the Tide is preparing for those guys to play. According to published reports, all of them are currently working in some capacity on the scout team. Glen Coffee is donning the #18 jersey this week (Jacob Hester), and Johnson and Rogers are working in similar roles at their positions. Antoine Caldwell and Marlon Davis were seen in practice playing the role of defensive dummies in drill work.
In other words, it seems there is a snowball's chance in hell of those guys playing, so how will that effect the game? Well, let's have a look.
Two of the five -- Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers -- are not significant contributors to the team. Johnson played against Florida State after Lionell Mitchell got in Saban's doghouse for a perceived lack of effort, and, uh, yeah, bad memories. He hasn't seen a whole lot of meaningful playing time since them. Chris Rogers, on the other hand, hasn't even seen that much playing time, as he has logged almost all of his limited snaps on special teams. Losing these guys isn't a major problem.
Glenn Coffee seems like a potentially big loss on paper, but in reality it's no major loss. Coffee had a few games where he was the main load-carrier for the Crimson Tide, but after his third fumble against Ole Miss, he didn't see another carry the rest of the game. Even before he was suspended right before the Tennessee game, he was unlikely to see any meaningful playing time in the near future. His fumble-itis against Ole Miss had apparently got him in Saban's doghouse and passed on the depth chart by both Terry Grant and Roy Upchurch. Barring an injury to either Grant or Upchurch, those two will suffice. And even if one goes down, we'll just see the return of Jimmy Johns.
Antoine Caldwell, for whatever reason, is thought by many to be the second coming of Dwight Stephenson, and that's just not correct. Caldwell has been a pretty good player the past two years on a below average line, and that's it. Even this year, he was a pretty good center who struggled greatly with shotgun snaps and zero technique defensive tackles. And actually, he was apparently done at center anyway. For the Ole Miss game he was moved to left guard to take over for the absence Justin Britt, and the following week Caldwell himself admitted that he was staying at guard. If Britt returned he was moving to right guard, and if not he was staying at left guard. The center center planned all along was Evan Cardwell. In terms of the starter at center, Cardwell was starting there even if Caldwell had not been involved in textbook-gate.
Marlon Davis, on the other hand, was apparently headed for the bench. He was the starter at right guard, and with Caldwell moving to right guard when Britt returned, you can deduce what was in Davis' future. With Caldwell and Davis now ineligible, though, now things turn to B.J. Stabler. If you recall, Stabler has started the past two years, and is really a talented player. The downside him, however, is that he is plagued by knee injuries. If he were asked to play week in and week out, I think we may be in trouble, but fortunately that's not the case at the moment. He played against Tennessee, and will have had two light weeks to rest before playing LSU. He should be feeling good and ready to go this Saturday.
Put together, what effect will all of this have on the game? As with the rest, the impact should be relatively small. The loss of five players hurt, but only three were significant losses, and all three came at positions where we actually have depth and therefore can afford some losses. We may leave with a loss on Saturday, but it shouldn't be as a result of the textbook suspensions.
Putting It All Together
When you put it all together, the hoopla just doesn't hold up when you look at things empirically. Some people have this notion that all of the recent events of the past two weeks will have a major impact on the outcome of the game, but there is scant evidence to support conclusion.
Glenn Dorsey will likely play, and he'll likely be near 100 per cent. Ryan Perrilloux likely won't play, but Matt Flynn can do everything Perrilloux can, and it will only be an issue if Flynn gets injured, which is unlikely. Derrick Odom likely won't play, but it's not like he plays anyway. The five players involved in textbook-gate likely won't play either, but the meaningful losses come at positions where we can handle some attrition, and it's hard to argue those losses were vital when we played our best game of the year without them against Tennessee -- which is arguably the best team we've faced all year -- when we annihilated the Volunteers.
Though the recent events have generated tons of publicity, it seems that they will not likely have any significant impact on the outcome of the game.