Bama-LSU Secondary Comparison

Jerry Hinnen continues his look at the Alabama – LSU match up and today looks at the secondary from each team.  Here’s the crux of it:

So who’s better? The stats give Alabama a slight edge, with the Tide having allowed an opposing QB rating of 83.68 to LSU’s 96.49, just 4.5 yards per-pass attempt to LSU’s 5.4, and a completion percentage of 48.1 to LSU’s 53.1. (All of these numbers for both teams rank among the best in the nation, of course.) Alabama has also reached “total shutdown” phase more often, holding five of their opponents to a QB rating of 90 or worse while LSU has unlocked that achievement just three times.

In LSU’s favor, though, is that 1. they’ve played the tougher schedule, thanks to facing teams like Oregon and West Virginia 2. they’re more likely to come up with the big play, with 11 interceptions to Alabama’s 9 and Mathieu among the national leaders in forced fumbles 3. as could be particularly important in a matchup of such fierce ground games, they’re more involved in stuffing the run, with Taylor, Reid, Mathieu and Claiborne all among the Tigers’ top five tacklers.

Those ratings and calculations are fine to use for analysis and all, but I think they’re a little misleading.  Take a look at these numbers:

  • 5, 9, 35, 80, 84, 93, 100, 106, 107, and 116
What are these numbers?  The passing rank for yards per game for most of the Alabama and LSU opponents.  Who is #5?  West Virginia.  Who is #9?  Arkansas.  Basically, Bama and LSU have each played one really good passing team and other than each team playing Tennessee (#35), they’ve really played a bunch of dogs.
The one great passing team LSU played pretty much ripped them (at least statistically) to the tune of 463 yards.  Bama pretty much throttled the one really good passing team they played to the tune of 24-for-40, 209 yards and one touchdown.
Hinnen also mentions Oregon as one of LSU’s tougher opponents.  Passing-wise, though, that’s bit misleading because the Ducks rank 80th in yards per game through the air.

It’s also not just about who has the best players or stats, it’s also about how each team matches up with the opposing offense.  Hinnen notes the following on match ups:

What about matchups? The Tide will be facing the toughest cover in the head-to-head in the form of Rueben Randle, now leading the SEC in average yards per-completion by a substanial margin, and they can’t forget about true freshman Odell Beckham Jr. (27 receptions, 334 yards). Those are two of only three LSU targets in double-digit receptions for the year, though, while the Tide boast seven. Marquis Maze (pictured at the top of this post, opposite Mathieu in the 2010 meeting) leads the way, of course, with 39  catches and 482 yards.

Randle and Beckham have accounted for an astounding 53% of their team’s 112 receptions. Russell Shepherd, who opened the season with a two game suspension has only nine catches for 116 yards.  To be honest, those numbers shocked me, though part of the reason for lack of production could that every game has been a blowout for the Tigers.  LSU also ranks 99th in the nation in passing yards per game.

Bama has spread the ball around more with 11 Tiders having at least eight catches.  Behind Maze, Darius Hanks has climbed back to the number two receiver with 18 catches for 230 yards.  The Tide ranks 63rd in the country passing yards per game.

All of these numbers for the Tide and LSU wouldn’t make a good half for the Houston Cougars.  In other words, neither team has had to rely too heavily on their passing game thus far this year.

So who has the best secondary?  Well, Bama definitely has the better stats, although both teams haven’t faced stellar competition.  Bama’s secondary is probably more talented, but not as explosive (don’t expect the same answer from Vandy quarterback Jordan Rodgers, though).  Bama’s secondary is probably more disciplined.  LSU’s has created more turnovers.

They’ll also be asked to do different things.  LSU’s will be asked to stop Bama’s ball-control, clock-eating conversions to Maze and Hanks.  Bama’s will be asked to stop the home run ball that LSU will pitch to Randle two, three or four times.

So which is the best?  I’ll go with Bama because they stifled (along with a nasty pass rush) the one great team they’ve faced (Tyler Wilson and the Hogs) while LSU gave up some pretty big numbers to West Virginia.