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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

January 10, 2012 at 12:27 PM

A macabre comparison to the ‘Bama-LSU title game

The BCS title game is now a memory 15 hours distant, and many folks can’t wait to put it farther in the rear-view mirror. As exquisitely prepared as was Alabama, as complete a game as it played, there’s also the reality that LSU was simply awful, and who knows how much of that we can ascribe to ‘Bama’s excellence?

LSU was so good this season, so irrepressible, that a lot of people thought it might deserve the title even if it lost. It won on the road at Alabama, it won on the road at West Virginia, it throttled Oregon by two touchdowns.

And then this clunker: Five first downs, 92 yards of total offense, a discombobulated performance from hell. For a night, the Tigers looked like Louisiana-Monroe, not the school from Baton Rouge.

Think about this: What are the two most recent big college sporting events? Monday night’s game, and the NCAA men’s championship basketball game in 2011.

Connecticut beat Butler, 53-41. Not even a mother could love the Bulldogs on that night. Recall, they shot 18.8 percent, worst in the history of the NCAA title game. More revealing than that, as I wrote last April, is the fact Butler’s shooting that night was third-worst in any NCAA tournament game in history. The only two poorer shooting games happened in 1940 and 1946.

The size of the gargantuan domes in which the NCAA now plays its Final Fours (70,000-plus arenas, as opposed to the 40,000-or-so in the days of the Kingdome) was widely attached to Butler’s woes.

What’s LSU’s excuse? I can only offer the thought that sometimes a long, long layoff tends to do strange things to a team. Five years ago, Ohio State was being compared to history’s greatest teams, and it got thrashed by an underdog Florida team in the title game. Somewhere, the game the Buckeyes had played the previous 12 weeks was misplaced.

The Tigers hadn’t played for 37 days when they met ‘Bama a second time. That’s five weeks. The Tide had even longer, not being in the SEC title game. That’s a long time to give Nick Saban to prepare a team, and Alabama had the motivational edge of having lost the first meeting.

A lot of people are howling about the defensive nature of the game. The paucity of touchdowns doesn’t bother me. The object is to win, and defense is every bit a part of the game, even if if it’s not as much fun for fans. I thought it was telling that in the aftermath of the Alamo Bowl shootout between Washington and Baylor, some fans thought the offense was too much; it began to bloat some people, as if they’d eaten too many chocolates. In general, we seem to want our game presented in a neat little box — we want it offensive-minded, but not too much.

Still, while ‘Bama played a superlative game, especially on defense, it’s inescapable that LSU’s offense was simply terrible. Maybe the equivalent of shooting 18.8 percent in basketball.

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