Let’s face it, that game – The Game of the Century – was hyped about as much as any game could possibly be. There’s not much to say about Alabama and LSU that wasn’t already said the first go round.
We can analyze the match up all over again, but perhaps the best way to take a look at this game is to look at the differences since last November 5th in Tuscaloosa:
1) Venue – This one is pretty obvious as the November game was in Tuscaloosa and the rematch is in New Orleans. While this game is in LSU’s backyard and I’m sure the crowd will tilt in their favor, I’m not sure how much of a difference that makes. It won’t be quite a night game in Death Valley and whichever team wins will have a lively crowd behind them.
2) Injuries – Both teams head into the game relatively healthy. And let’s face it, unless you had a season-ending type injury, you should should be ready to go with either 37 or 44 days off between games. Alabama players Barrett Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick were injured in the November game and running back Eddie Lacy was nursing an injured toe. Although Lacy’s toe won’t be completely well, all three players will be good to go for Bama. Mark Barron suffered a rib injury against Auburn, but figures to be ready as well. Will Lowery is out with a knee injury, but will be replaced with freshman playmaker Vinnie Sunseri. LSU was also healthy for the first game and should be at or near full strength for the rematch. Defensive back Eric Reid, he of the infamous interception, injured a leg following the Bama game, but should be at full strength on Monday.
3) Tyrann Matthieu – Honey Badger was in a bit of a mid season lull during the first game and wasn’t much of a factor. He’s bounced back well enough to find himself a seat in New York City for the Heisman award presentation, so it’ll be interesting to see whether he’s a difference maker this time around.
4) Jordan Jefferson – With two interceptions in game one, Jarrett Lee found himself a spot on the bench and Jefferson resumed his role as the Tigers’ starting quarterback. Jefferson effectively ran the speed option in game one, but wasn’t asked to pass very much. Everyone assumes Bama has prepared for the speed option and that Jefferson will bear the load of whatever passing attack the Tigers need this time. Jefferson’s performance will definitely be one to watch and could be a deciding factor in the game. The Tigers won the first game without an effective passing game, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can be more effective, and interesting to see how Bama responds.
5) The Kicking Game – Yes, Bama has the same kickers, but they head into this game with a monkey on their backs. The Tide’s kickers will likely be called on and they have to be able to respond. LSU’s kicking game has been outstanding all season, so don’t expect anything different there.
6) Mac has a New Job – Tide offensive coordinator Jim McElwain is now the new head coach at Colorado State. I don’t expect this to be a huge problem, but it is a difference from game one. Don’t worry about Mac going out with a bang. He’ll have the game plan in that Nick Saban wants.
7) Pressure – If you thought game one was huge, how about a rematch for the national championship? This one’s for all the marbles, so it’ll be interesting to see how both teams handle the pressure. The press likes to talk about how cool Les Miles is game like this and how uptight Saban is. That’s fine, but we’ll see come Monday night.