November 02, 2011
Daly errata on the Game of the Century of the Century. Previous editions: LSU's offensive awakening.
• The Line. Alabama spent the first half of the week giving up five points according to most oddsmakers, which sent bettors flocking to LSU: Three-fourths of the bets have reportedly been in favor of the Tigers, driving the spread down to 4½ points as of this afternoon. "At the pace that the LSU/Alabama game is getting bet right now, this will almost certainly be our highest bet college game of the year to date and may even rival the BCS championship," said Richard Gardner, sportsbook manager at Bodog.com. "As predicted, the public is hitting up LSU taking the 5 points on the road, with about 75 percent of the money on the Tigers."
• Better than advertised. I spilled a lot of pixels this summer of the pending dominance of Alabama's defense, at point even describing it as "perfect" save for the pass rush. So I haven't been very compelled to keep close tabs on the status quo since that forecast has come true. But it has come true, and how: Through eight games, the Crimson Tide are fielding the best defense in America, and it's not close.
Statistically, they currently lead the nation in all four major categories — rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense — and rank second in both passing yards allowed and third down defense. No opposing offense has come close to gaining 300 yards. Only Arkansas has managed more than one offensive touchdown, finishing with two. Tennessee, Vanderbilt and North Texas failed to find the end zone at all, and it took Penn State until the final two minutes of a blowout.
In fact, the Tide have been so far and away the most dominant defense in the country, the only relevant comparisons at this point are historical: Not only is 'Bama obliterating the pace set by the dominant defense that led the charge to the 2009 BCS title two years ago; on paper, it's well on its way to becoming the best defense anywhere in terms of both yards and points allowed since 1999, at least. I only stop there because that's as far as the NCAA's online database goes. In the age of obsessively honed, up-tempo, no-huddle spread offenses, Alabama is turning in box scores out of the Dust Bowl.
The frightening part on Saturday: LSU's defense isn't very far behind on any of those counts.
• Fool me once, shame on you… In keeping with Nick Saban's reputation as the consummate Xs-and-Os chess master, I've heard more than one professional pundit argue this week that the bye week gives Alabama the edge — a decided schematic advantage, if you will. With two weeks to prepare last year, though, it was Les Miles who declared checkmate in the fourth quarter on a crucial 4th-and-1 reverse to tight end DeAngelo Peterson, setting up the go-ahead touchdown in an eventual 24-21 Tiger win.
"These guys have made lots of plays with fakes, the punter running the ball. They did it to us last year once," said UA coach Nick Saban. "They've done it to some other folks. They did it to Florida for a controversial non-touchdown. They've faked field goals before.
"I think a critical thing in special teams in this particular game is not only to try to create opportunities in terms of what you do on special teams, but make sure you're sound in how you're playing so that you don't compromise your ability to defend anything that they might do in terms of fakes."
"We have our eye on them, particularly on defense. You can't put anything past Les Miles. A lot of people call him the Mad Hatter. He does crazy things," said [senior linebacker Dont'a] Hightower. "Who runs an end around on a fourth-and-one play? You don't see that much. We're definitely going to be aware of that, especially in special teams because they have a lot of athletes out there."
Les Miles response, after thoughtfully removing his glasses and contemplating a moment: "Taffy."
• Quote of the Day. "Ingram actually voted for me for the Heisman last year. Seriously. Seriously."
— Alabama center William Vlachos, on (allegedly) receiving a Heisman vote from 2009 winner Mark Ingram.
Previous Tales of the Tape: Talent vs. Talent.