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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Alabama-LSU National Championship Game Will Lack Offense Once Again

The drumbeat grows louder. Presumably, by this time, the average college football fan has all but ruined their appetite by filling up on the crudités that is every other bowl contest leading up to the BCS National Championship Game on Monday. (In this metaphor Northern Illinois versus Arkansas State would serve as the radish just there for show, and eventually gets disregarded.) Already, the offering of bowl games has run the gamut from the lemons (Temple’s ho-hum win over Wyoming and Arizona State spud-dering against the Idahoans from Boise State) to the sublime (Baylor-Washington minus the defense, and Michigan State actually taking the ‘block that kick’ chant to heart against Georgia). But, it’s doubtful that anyone not associated with SMU and Pittsburgh can explain the importance of the BBVA Compass Bowl trophy in a thousand words or less.

What piques the interest in college football in the absence of leprechauns, unicorns, and a suitable playoff system is the national championship game. It’s the one for all the marbles. The whole shebang. The big enchilada. The giant kumquat. (OK, I made that last one up). It’s the reason for spewing countless numbers of clichés, but then again you’ve to give them (the government?) credit because, at the end of the day, they all make plays, oh and the sun sets. For more information on this subject, listen to Kirk Herbstreit for about ten minutes.

This year’s game — just as seemingly every one before in recent memory — has been the subject of ire for anyone who doesn’t live in a locale that might double as the setting for a John Grisham novel. Either LSU or Alabama will become the sixth straight team from the Southeastern Conference to win college football’s prized national championship. Odds are, if one doesn’t currently possess a southern drawl, that mere fact is not likely to have someone whistling “Dixie” any time soon.

Just in case, you’ve expunged the last seven weeks from your memory or had it erased as a result of New Year’s imbibing, the two teams met already once this season, making this game the first BCS title game involving two teams from the same conference, division, and/or who have already met this year. If the notion of a replay doesn’t have people cursing a blue-state streak, then perhaps remember that the first meeting involved four quarters and an overtime of 9-6 goodness. Plenty of defense, 5 field goals, and just as many touchdowns scored at the game as there were from the couches of the fans watching it.

When you consider that this year’s Rose Bowl had surpassed that scoring mark in the game’s first nine minutes, this matchup might be a tough sell. 9-6 evokes images of the American workday, which everyone surely enjoys. Call up the cable company for a service call and they may tell you they’ll be there between the hours of 9 to 6. A football game bearing such numerals would evoke similar dread. Theoretically there’s nothing wrong with the scoreline from the game, assuming there is a public outcry over the forward pass. Hey, Walter Camp would have been entertained. The fact of the matter is the bulk of the 24 players who will be starting on the respective defenses will be logging significant time in the NFL in the near future. That does not bode all too well for their offensive counterparts.

The initial meeting between these two was much-hyped and highly viewed. It was dubbed the “Game of the Century.” Unfortunately, as the events of November 5th showed, no one bothered to specify which century. Is this not to say that there wasn’t plenty of intrigue and excitement? In retrospect, well … LSU and Alabama came into the game ranked numbers one and two (and the top two in the nation in yards allowed). The defenses played well. It came down to an overtime field goal. The simple fact of the matter was that there were more coin flips than touchdowns. Neither team eclipsed 300 yards of offense, and LSU had half as many penalties (7) as first downs (15).

Sure, when you’re spoon-fed West Coast football your entire life, you come to expect scores that reflect a Tecmo Bowl-like atmosphere. (Writer’s Note: I still don’t think it was fair that Lawrence Taylor and Dexter Manley could just block any field goal or PAT in that video game, but I digress.) When you consider that you would have to multiply LSU and Alabama’s point totals from that November game to come anywhere near what Stanford and Oregon tallied in their respective games on Monday, it certainly brings about a different level of expectation.

For someone who has pored over UCLA football for most of his existence, Woody Hayes’ famous “Three yards and a cloud of dust” simply meant that the Bruins would be punting on 4th and 7, an all-too-familiar occurrence in their Hunger Strike Bowl (or whatever it was called). The closest thing anyone in these parts has come to gingham would be on a table cloth. So, y’all will have to pardon our unfamiliarity with such grudge matches that are so germane to the rest of the college football landscape.

Apparently there is a lot of anticipation for this game: The average ticket price is $839. Maybe Alabama’s offense can recapture the glory days when running backs were so fast they sprinted right through the end zone and into the tunnel. (Oh, right, Forrest Gump never really happened.) Maybe Les Miles can get more miles (kilometers for the European fans) out of his quarterback tandem of Jordan Jefferson (he of the infamous bar brawl in August) and Jarrett Lee (no relation, unless he makes it big in the NFL). Either way, get ready for the second “Game of the Century” in the last 2twomonths. There will be plenty of defense. Both teams will try to run their way to the national title. Both will try and set up the pass. But, like my eventual trip to the Bayou during Mardi Gras, neither is likely to score very much.

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