Bama – LSU II: Five Statistical Tide Bits

We’re less than two weeks away from the BCS championship game, so it’s time to get a little more focused.

To be honest, I thought everything that could be written or said about Alabama – LSU was taken care of before the Nov. 5th game.  And with a 44 day layover between games, I’ve been trying to think of anything else but the game.

But now we’re under two weeks away, so maybe I need to focus a bit more.  Here’s a first pass at some statistics for the rematch:

1) Bama and LSU are nearly identical running the ball.  Alabama primarily uses the Trent Richardson sledge hammer, especially with Eddie Lacy banged up, and LSU uses a committee approach, but when you add everything up, these teams look very much the same.  Alabama rushed for almost 220 yards per game in 2011, while LSU rushed for 215.  Bama scored 33 rushing touchdowns and LSU had 35.  The Tigers average just over 43 carries per game and the Tide averaged about 39.  The Tide picked up 5.58 yards per rush and LSU averaged 4.96.

2) LSU’s passing numbers are pretty nice.  Despite everything that has gone on at the quarterback position for the Tigers this year, their passing numbers not bad.  In fact, their touchdown-to-interception ratio is a fantastic 21-4.  Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson have combined to complete 61.8% of their throws and have a combined QB rating of 151.98 – good for tops in the conference.  The Tigers clearly are a run-first team, and Lee was exposed again in the first Bama-LSU game, but the Tide can’t totally sleep on the LSU passing game.

3) AJ McCarron ain’t bad, either.  Through 12 games, McCarron has completed 66.7% of his throws for 2,400 yards, 16 touchdowns and only five interceptions.  Not bad for a first year starter.  Not bad at all.  He’s averaged 8.2 yards per attempt, which isn’t bad considering that a dominant wide receiver hasn’t emerged for the Tide this year.

4) Tyrann Mathieu leads LSU in tackles.  That’s right.  Though he’s known for creating big plays, the Honey Badger also isn’t afraid of the action.  He’s totaled 70 tackles this year to lead the team.  In fact, the top three tacklers on the LSU squad are all defensive backs, which is somewhat surprising.  Senior linebacker Ryan Baker is the top non-defensive back with 58 total tackles.

5) Alabama’s weak spot may not be where you think it is.  Ask most folks to identify this team’s weak spot and they would probably say place kicking.  I’m not sure that’s true, though.  Bama kickers did miss four field goals against LSU on Nov. 5th, but I think an argument could be made that the Tide’s weakest position is receiver.  McCarron has utilized his tight ends pretty effectively this year, but Bama’s only consistent threat at wide out has been Marquis Maze, who has caught 56 passes, but only averages 11.2 yards per catch.  That yards per catch number is good for 27th in the league.  The Tide’s next two leading receivers are tight end Brad Smelley and running back Trent Richardson, each with 27 catches a piece and tight ends and running backs have caught 16 touchdown passes compared to seven for the wide outs.  Against LSU on Nov. 5th, Bama moved the ball consistently between the 30s, but failed to reach the end zone.  Better production from the wide receivers would go a long way toward solving that problem in the rematch.