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After all that, LSU calmly kicks its way into the BCS penthouse

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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LSU 9, Alabama 6 (Overtime).
After two relentless defenses, three shaky quarterbacks and a couple dozen future draft picks have canceled one another out, what are you left with? The kickers, of course. Tonight, LSU had them. Alabama did not.

And after a solid month of dissecting blue chips, Heisman contenders, millionaire head coaches and every other possible angle of the heavyweight slugfest of the year, and 60 minutes watching every one of them combine to produce a game even heavier and sluggier than anyone bargained for, it's LSU that survives with all of its ultimate goals intact thanks to names almost no one discussed. The Tigers made the kicks. The Crimson Tide missed the kicks. With nary a touchdown in sight, the night — and possibly the season — belongs to the Tigers.

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Obviously, there was a little more to the collision than the dueling legs of Drew Alleman and Cade Foster. For all the hype surrounding the defenses — pretty clearly the best two defenses in the nation coming in, and now confirmed as such by a wide, wide margin — no one was prepared for them to dominate to quite the extent they did. Both offenses turned in season lows in terms of total yards. Alabama was held out of the end zone for the first time in Nick Saban's tenure. LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee capped a five-game, 100-pass streak without an interception by getting picked on consecutive throws. The Crimson Tide, having committed just one turnover in their previous seven games, gave it away on back-to-back possessions in the third and fourth quarters. On eleven separate opportunities in opposing territory, the offenses combined for 12 points.

Alabama will be the side ruing the ones that got away, and it will have plenty to choose from: Three missed field goals on the first three possessions of the game, a fourth in overtime and an interception on a trick play with the ball in scoring position early in the fourth. That giveaway also negated the longest (and easily the most impressive) run of the night, a 24-yard, tackle-breaking romp by human locomotive Trent Richardson that nearly broke the game open. Five opportunities, zero points.

As usual, though, LSU had more than a minor hand in creating its own luck.{YSP:MORE} Alabama's missed field goals were all from well over 40 yards out — three of them from 49 or longer — after the Tigers dropped the 'Bama offense for a loss on the preceding series. One of the kicks was blocked. The killer interception at the start of the fourth was a jaw-droppingly athletic theft by safety Eric Reid, who recovered on an end-around pass by Tide receiver Marquis Maze in time to literally take the ball from the hands of tight end Michael Williams at the goal line. In terms of field position, LSU punter Brad Wing was arguably the MVP, dropping four punts inside the 'Bama 20-yard line and sending another one 72 yards to get the Tigers out of a hole following Reid's interception. And of course, Drew Alleman nailed all three of his field goal attempts.

None of which, frankly, tells us very much about LSU that we didn't already know. Les Miles' teams have always been designed to win without a lot of offense, and have never been better at creating or exploiting opportunities than they are this year. Tonight may have been the logical extreme of the trend we took from the Tigers' more decisive but equally opportunistic wins over Oregon and West Virginia, but the fundamental truth is the same: With this defense, they will never be out of a game.

If that holds for four more, the logical extreme of their season now ends in New Orleans, in the BCS Championship Game.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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