Posted on: November 9, 2011 2:19 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2011 2:28 pm

Free Bruce Podcast, Week 11: Steve Sarkisian

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

In this edition of the Free Bruce Podcast, CBSSports.com senior writer Bruce Feldman and Bryan Fischer break down all the Week 10 developments including LSU-Alabama, Arkansas after their top-10 win vs. South Carolina, the Penn State scandal, and more.

That's before Bruce and Bryan welcome the podcats's special guest for this week: Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, joining them to talk rebuilding the Huskie program, Andrew Luck vs. Matt Barkley, what he's learned as a head coach, and more.

To listen, click below, download the mp3, or pop the player out in a new window.

Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.

Posted on: November 5, 2011 11:51 pm

FULLTIME: LSU 9, Alabama 6

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

had 60 fewer yards. Their quarterbacks combined to go 9-of-17 for 5 yards an attempt, no scores, and two picks on the road. (Hell, they completed only one meaningful pass all game.) They committed six penalties, several of the backbreaking variety. They never scored a touchdown. They never led in regulation.

But they won, because their coach is Les Miles, easily the best coach in the nation in close games. They won because they never let their opponent into the end zone, either. They won because their special teams were an ever larger advantage than the most fervent Tiger fan could have dreamed of. LSU and their coach are who we thought they were.

Alabama, though, is not. Nick Saban's teams are viewed as a model of discipline and in nearly every case, they are. But there's little that could have been less disciplined about the Tide's overtime possession. First down: Trent Richardson drops a screen pass. Second: a 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty. Then another incompletion to Richardson. (The Tide's lack of a go-to receiver once Maze tweaked an ankle, by the way, was obvious.) Third down was the backbreaker: McCarron meekly takes a sack, driving the Tide entirely out of poor Cade Foster's field goal range.

Alabama didn't lose this game becuase of their kickers; very few teams have players who can hit 49, 50, or 53 yarders. They lost because they couldn't make those kickers irrelevant with just one touchdown against the defense that gave up large numbers of yards and points (by their standards) to West Virginia and Oregon, even with the best field position they could ask for.

LSU won the game. But Alabama's wayward offense lost it, too. 
Category: NCAAF
Tags: LSU-Alabama
Posted on: November 5, 2011 11:24 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2011 11:25 pm


Posted by Jerry Hinnen

SPOILER: remember the scene in Rocky II where both Rocky and Apollo Creed, both utterly exhausted, knock each other down at the end of the fight? And the winner will be decided by who can summon the will to get up?

The conclusion of this football game was like that as both offenses, knocked senseless all game, finally fell down. After Alabama took the opening drive of the quarter to LSU's 28, only to be foiled by a tremendous interception on a trick play by Eric Reid, neither team was able to take any of their final five ocllective possessions across midfield. 

So now we get overtime. The first team to stand up and get into the end zone -- in all likelihood -- wins.

But before we move on, a tip of the cap to Brad Wing, the LSU punter who uncorked the biggest play of the quarter with a 73-yard bomb that sailed over the head of a hobble Marquis Maze. The play started at the LSU 9 and ended at the Alabama 18. That kind of special teams dominance is why despite being outgained 300-211 and committing a pair of turnovers in their own territory, LSU is still about to go to overtime at Alabama with a chance to keep their championship dreams intact.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: LSU-Alabama
Posted on: November 5, 2011 10:47 pm


Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The first half was marked by solid-to-excellent offense occasionally blunted by flat-out outstanding defense. So far, the second has been more of the same from the defenses ... paired with much worse offense.

LSU enjoyed the best drive of the period, moving from their 31 to Alabama's 34 behind a series of powerful Michael Ford runs. But in an illustration of how even minor mistakes can make a huge difference in a game like this, a false start put the Tigers behind the sticks and they eventually punted.

That was more than the Tide accomplished in their three drivers, which went: 1. three-and-out after great field position at own 47 2. three-and-out after great field position at LSU's 35 following Jarrett Lee interception 3. AJ McCarron interception to set LSU up in great field position. Woof.

That Lee pick meant that Alabama won the quarter anyway. But for the first time all game, the team that's actually playing better is the Tigers. Will they be able to keep it up for 15 more minutes? 
Category: NCAAF
Tags: LSU-Alabama
Posted on: November 5, 2011 9:49 pm

HALFTIME: Alabama 3, LSU 3

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Alabama has been the better team in the first half. But this being Les Miles and LSU, they're lucky they're even on the scoreboard and not behind.

The Tigers made the first major adjustment of the game, switching to Jordan Jefferson at quarterback for their final drive of the half and going to an option look with Michael Ford that paid big dividends. Jefferson then made the one big pass play that the Alabama secondary had to worry about (a 29-yarder to Russell Shepard) that set the Tigers up inside the 10. Credit to the Tide defense for getting the stop and for stopping everything but that one throw and the Jefferson option -- the Tigers had just 90 total yards aside from the completion to Shepard -- but it's a nasty reminder that LSU has enough big-play ability to neutralize any amount of dominance elsewhere.

As for The Tide , theywon't be happy with having scored a grand total of three points on four first-half drives inside the LSU 30, and the three misses from Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley hurt. But no college kicker is going to be reliable from 44, 50, or 49 yards (the length of said misses), making the bigger issue the Tide's passing difficulties once they get into LSU territory. McCarron has been accurate and his receivers open on the Tide's side of the field, but haven't been able to solve the LSU secondary otherwise; in LSU territory, McCarron is just 3-of-7 for 9 yards. 

(It's debatable whether the Tide should have attempted the FGs at all. Given LSU's reliance on field position, pinning them deep and playing that game on them might have been a better option than asking the wobbly likes of Foster and Shelley to make tries of that length in the first place.)

Alabama can't be too upset--with an admirable 181 total yards vs. the LSU D, Richardson a terror as both rusher and receiver, the Jarrett Lee-Rueben Randle entirely shut down (1 ctach, 6 yards), and the turnover margin in their favor, they're playing well in nearly every department but the "finish the drive department." Too bad for them LSU is dangerous enough that that one department has been enough to keep the game tied ... and almost swung it in LSU's favor.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: LSU-Alabama
Posted on: November 5, 2011 8:56 pm


Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Game of the Century of the Year has lived up to its billing thus far in terms of physical runs, fast-twitch defense, and outstanding play in the secondary ... but not yet on the scoreboard with neither team breaking its goose egg yet.

With the game's first three possessions all covering at least five plays and three minutes, though, there's been more offense than the scoreline would suggest. Alabama has created creases here and there for both Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy -- ones for the former almost exclusively coming over Barrett Jones' left side -- and AJ McCarron has been the more polished of the two quarterbacks so far. 114 total yards isn't a bad total against a defense like LSU's at all, and despite Cade Foster's two missed field goals (both long attempts where the Tide might have been better served punting and playing field position), the Tide offense looks like it's going to break through sooner rather than later.

As for the Tigers, their offensive line likewise got a surprising amount of push in the running game on their first drive. But that won't matter if the passing game continues to struggle--the Tide were able to rush Lee into a couple of wayward throws, and he capped the quarter with his first interception in five games.  The Tigers simply can't win if that doesn't change in a hurry.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: LSU-Alabama
Posted on: November 4, 2011 4:27 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 5:05 pm

LSU-Alabama Daily, Nov. 4: The prediction

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.

DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 1, or the number of times -- it bears repeating -- No. 1 and No. 2 have met in a regular season SEC game as of this Saturday night. Tune in, and you'll be seeing something that quite literally has never happened before in college football. That the two teams are entirely worthy of their rankings (as best we can tell) is just the icing on the cake.


We've spent two weeks and thousands upon thousands of words breaking down this game here at the LSU-Alabama Daily, and the only thing we feel completely certain about is that you can't be certain of a winner in a matchup like this. When nearly every advantage one team has over the other is the kind of advantage you have to split hairs in naming it an advantage at all, it's it's fair to call it an out-and-out "tossup" or "coinflip." We fully expect the game to come down to one play, and with both teams loaded to the gills with the sort of athletes who could make that play, the winner truly is anybody's guess.

But since it's no fun not making a guess all the same, we'll offer one here. We've given LSU slight edges in special teams and quarterbacking, Alabama slight edges in the running game, front seven and secondary (though we know LSU partisans will debate that last one fiercely). On paper, as you'd expect, it's just about even.

But we think one of the edges, even if slight, is worth more than others: Alabama's in the front seven. Thanks to their relative weakness at linebacker, LSU already has trouble defending the run without bringing in help from the secondary; as we've noted, nearly all of the Tigers' top tacklers are safeties and corners. Against some of the quarterbacks the Tigers have faced, this hasn't an issue, but vs. a well-drilled AJ McCarron playing at home? It easily could be.

Mark Barron of course also ranks amongst the Tide's top tacklers, but for the most part, Nick Saban is happy to let his front seven stop the run on their own. And though that's easier said than done vs. Spencer Ware and Co., the boost of adrenaline and energy provided by the home crowd should make it a more achievable goal.

In short: even if Trent Richardson doesn't have his usual gaudy day on the ground, he's almost certain to force the LSU defensive backs to cheat up and open holes for the passing game. We can't say the same for the LSU ground game, and we think Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson's greater difficulty finding those holes could prove to be the difference.

(One other minor factor worth mentioning about LSU's linebackers: they'll be the ones responsible for dealing with Alabama's screen game, bar-none the best in the country. When caught between getting stuffed on the ground and throwing into the teeth of the opponent's vicious secondary, Alabama still has the option of going to Richardson and forcing either Ryan Baker or Kevin Minter to make a play; with only seven receptions on the season [or barely a quarter of the 25 pulled in by the Richardson-Eddie Lacy tag team], Ware doesn't offer the same kind of alternative for LSU.)

There's that, and then there's simply this: we don't think anyone's beating this Alabama team in Alabama. When everything else is equal -- and we think things are ever-so-slightly unequal, in the Tide's favor -- take the home team.

So we are. Alabama 23, LSU 17.

THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA: By this point, there's not a whole lot left for either team to say or report. Saban himself enjoyed his usual Thursday radio call-in show but didn't have much of interest to discuss where the game was concerned. He did say that LSU has "the best special teams" in the country and "probably the best running team" since Les Miles's arrival.

Perhaps the most intriguing pre-game point? CBSSports.com RapidReporter Jim Dunn reports that Tide players have made allusions to unseen tricks still in Saban's and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's bag, since the long series of Tide bludgeonings hasn't required much in the way of schematic ingenuity. This could be a plus for the Tide--but we have no doubt LSU's equally lopsided series of wins means John Chavis and the LSU defense can say precisely the same.

Alabama's players have studiously avoided smack talk of any kind, including pointedly refusing to address Deangelo Peterson's claim that the Tide's "slow" linebackers wouldn't be able to cover him. So maybe it's fitting that maybe the most eyebrow-raising comment of the week comes from receiver Darius Hanks about ... the Tide's own former players?

"Last year, the leadership wasn't there like we needed it to be," Hanks said of the team's 2010 defeat in Baton Rouge. "This year, we have many leaders at every position." So, Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones ... you guys' thoughts on that?

Not that everyone would disagree with Hanks. An anonymous "veteran coach who's faced both Alabama and LSU this season" spoke to the Bimringham News and said the game would come down to McCarron making the throws needed to win the game--throws the coach pointedly said McElroy didn't make last year.

THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: It's not just the pundits who are saying the two teams are strikingly similar for a game like this: LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers told reporters that after watching film, going up against Alabama is like "looking in a mirror."

Push is going to have to come to shove when it comes to coaching trends. Miles has gone a sparkling 10-3 in his last 13 games after bye weeks or in bowl games, and an even better 11-1 in road night games ... so it's too bad Saban has gone 12-0 in his last 12 vs. coaches who defeated him the year before.

We suppose this was inevitable:

Yes, that's Miles appearing in a government-sponsored advertisement for Louisiana-grown turfgrass.

"Nothing beats Louisiana-grown turfgrass," Miles is quoted as saying in the spot. "It's local, fresh and reliable. And it's the grass of champions, whether you chew it for luck or not." It's always nice when you see a celebrity endorser who you know really does use the product they're shilling for, isn't it?

SIGNING OFF: Here's hoping you've enjoyed our two-week run here with the LSU-Alabama Daily. For more, check out Dennis Dodd's take on whether the game deserves the "Game of the Century" tag, Bruce Feldman's and Brett McMurphy's predictions for the game, BCS expert Jerry Palm's take on whether we could see a rematch, and enough LSU-Alabama videos to just about take you up to gametime.
Posted on: November 3, 2011 5:36 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 1:11 pm

LSU-Alabama Daily, Nov. 3: QB showdown

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.

DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 2, or the number of fumbles LSU has lost all season, the third-fewest total in the FBS. What's incredible is that that number is still one more than the number of interceptions thrown by Tiger quarterbacks in 2011; only Utah State has also tossed just one. Not surprisingly, LSU's total of three turnovers is the lowest in the nation. But Alabama's not that far behind--the Tide's eight ties them for sixth-fewest nationally.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Which team has the advantage at quarterback?

Just before the season -- even given that AJ McCarron had yet to start a game at the collegiate level and hadn't even been delcared the full-time Alabama starter -- this was a no-brainer. LSU was mired in a quarterbacking slump that had lasted three full seasons, and their best hope for a change in fortunes seemed already dashed by the indefinite suspension of the reportedly much-improved Jordan Jefferson. Jarrett Lee couldn't really be the answer, could he?

Not only has Lee been the answer, he's been such a positive that if the question is still a no-brainer, it's a no-brainer in the Tigers' favor. With an incredible 13-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, the highest quarterback ratio in the SEC (and one of the top 20 in the nation), and the single biggest hand in an offense averaging an unthinkable 39 points per-game, the senior isn't just having a career year--the former turnover machine is having the sort of season we believed would have to be some other quarterback's career year. If we were picking the first-team All-SEC quarterback today, Tyler Wilson would be Lee's only serious competition.

But what takes LSU's quarterback position from merely "outstanding" to "nearly as good as any that's not Stanford's" is that Lee's only part of the equation. Les Miles has always handled the two-QB, change-of-pace rotation expertly, and so it's no surprise that hasn't changed with Jefferson back and the "running" quarterback also a senior with three years' worth of starts behind him. The numbers for the LSU quarterback spot in the three games since Jefferson's full-time return speak for themselves: 70 percent of passes completed, 10.2 yards per-attempt, 8 touchdowns, no interceptions, 82 yards rushing and a rush TD (courtesy of Jefferson) for good measure.

It's a testament to how strongly McCarron has come on since being named the Tide starter that, for all of that, it's not a no-brainer to declare LSU with the advantage here; his 67 percent completion rate and 8.3 yards per-attempt are both better marks than Lee's, and since throwing two picks Week 1 vs. Kent State, McCarron's 9-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio will stand with anyone's. Particularly worrying for the Tigers is that McCarron has been particularly money at home: 15-of-20 without a pick vs. Arkansas, a 4-to-0 TD-to-INT ratio vs. Vanderbilt, a season-high 10.9 yards per-attempt against Tennessee last Saturday.

Combine McCarron's penchant for such strong showings at Bryant-Denny with an LSU secondary we feel is just a hair more boom-or-bust than the lockdown unit Lee and Jefferson will face, and it's possible that the redshirt sophomore will outplay his LSU counterparts--especially if he can keep the ball out of the hands of the LSU ballhawks. That would be a win that would no doubt put LSU in deep, deep trouble.

But at this point in the season, Lee and Jefferson have done enough that even on the road, even against Alabama, we're expecting them to get the better in the head-to-head matchup. That doesn't mean LSU will necessarily come away with the victory in a game this tight--but if they don't, we are confident in saying it won't be on the guys under center.

THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: You won't find much in the way of bulletin board material in the above video interviews with Les Miles, T-Bob Hebert and Eric Reid, which is why CBS Sports maybe should have spoken to LSU senior tight end Deangelo Peterson instead. Asked about his matchups Saturday, Peterson had this to say(emphasis added):
"I think I can play a big role because I feel like their linebackers can't guard me one-on-one. They're slow ... I don't think their safeties can either. If the ball comes my way, I'll make an opportunity with it."
Well then, Mr. Peterson. CBSSports.com RapidReporter Glenn Guilbeau is correct when he points out that the Tide's linebackers are larger than the ones typically faced by the Tigers, and no doubt Miles appreciates his player's confidence. We still have no question Miles would much rather not have his player challenging the likes of Dont'a Hightower and Mark Barron to prove they can, in fact, cover him.

It's not often that a team facing a bunch of dedicated road-graders like Alabama willingly gets smaller, but Miles said Wednesday that he won't shy away from using the nickel -- a move that would put more emphasis on his loaded secondary and less on his merely-good linebackers -- when the game calls for it.

“It depends on the situations that we run into, but there’s also a point in time where the fast guys will make it more difficult for the big guys to block at times,” Miles said. “We’ll play that nickel package in some marginal downs and distances.”

Crazy stat of the day: LSU hasn't won its first six SEC games of the season since 1961.

VIDEO BREAK: If there's one person we wouldn't blame for being tired of the LSU-Alabama hype, it's CBS analyst Gary Danielson, who' been previewing the game in one form or another seemingly since the start of October. But that's also made Danielson as knowledgable as anyone on the game, so we suggests watching the two following clips as Danielson discusses the game first for CBSSports.com, and then on the Tony Barnhart Show:

How much can Trent Richardson bench press? God only knows, and we mean that literally: neither Richardson himself nor his trainers have a firm figure since said trainers won't allow Richardson to press more than 475 pounds. "I did 475 easily," Richardson told the Dan Patrick Show, "and they won't let go above 475." (Less interesting, but more germane to preparation for Saturday: when asked which LSU defenders stood out on film, Richardson mentioned a safety we assume is leading tackler Brandon Taylor and Morris Claiborne ... and not a certain Honey Badger.)

Reporters allowed to get a glimpse of Wednesday's practice reported that Tide backup running back Eddie Lacy was still exhibiting a "noticeable limp," the sophomore having injured his foot against Arkansas Sept. 24. But LAcy wore a full-contact white jersey at the practice and Nick Saban said he had no injury news to report. "We don't have any personnel injuries, problems or anything you don't know about. Everybody's been practicing all week,” Saban said.

The guess here: Lacy isn't 100 percent. But whatever percent he is, it's nowhere near low enough to keep him out of a game like this.

And we're guessing everyone saw this coming as soon as ticket prices hit quadruple digits, but yes, there's counterfeits out there. Be careful if you're getting yours late.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com