LSU vs. Alabama: The Zen Riddle

Can a game be great even though the quarterback play is only average (or even below average, depending on how you adjust for the competition)?

Your answer probably determines whether you thought last night was a good game or a bad one, or even whether it was fun to watch or was boring.

  • http://twitter.com/TacoHole Troy Coll

    With 42 other guys on the field (not counting ST plays), I should hope that a game’s greatness does not hinge on the play of the two dudes that happen to touch the ball on every snap. 

  • Below Average is Generous

    it could be.  the 2006 GT vs. Wake Forest ACC championship could be great as well.  and in both cases you’d be insane for thinking so.  just because the SEC won the last 5 NC’s doesn’t excuse such terrible play by the QB’s and Special Teams.  People want to believe last night was good because that’s what we were told it was going to be.  It simply wasn’t and failed to live up to every single promise there was.

  • http://twitter.com/d1shima Dean

    Oklahoma State-K State was a much more entertaining game. I’m glad it ended after the “Game of the Century.” It stirred me from my slumber.

  • Oiler

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” The SEC could not play offense; the Big 12 (10) could not play defense. Generally, I will take a team eating defense over great offense in about 90% of the games I have watched. If it is OK ST vs. LSU, LSU will win, but in the 30-26 variety. 

    LSU vs. Alabama  was not the game of the century; it was too ragged in Special Teams and QB play. I found myself changing around between it, KSU/OSU, and AK/SC. It was a good Saturday to watch football overall.  

  • Panama Williams

    As a Razorbacks fan, I chose to watch Arkansas-South Carolina over LSU-Alabama.  I was worried that my affinity for the Hogs would lead to me missing a very entertaining “Game of the Century.” My worries were apparently unfounded.  

    In reference to the above question, one’s answer probably depends on whether one prefers great offensive performances or great defensive performances.  I prefer offensive shootouts, and as such, I cringed when I saw the final score of LSU-Alabama.  But for someone who prefers stifling defenses, that game was probably one of the best of the season.  Thus, great QB play is not necessary, although a defensive-minded fan would likely prefer a game where a great QB is held in check over a game with mediocre QBs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/samcallan Sam Callan

    It was an old fashioned slugfest defensively that McClendon and Bryant would have loved.  I cannot call it a “classic”.  There has to be some offense and at least one TD to reach that level.  Not nearly as entertaining at OSU-Michigan was in 2006.  I think anyone who thinks there should be a rematch needs to be made to watch the tape of this game.   

  • Acid Reign

    …..The “game of the century” really wasn’t. Bama’s long-range field goal misses nullified what was otherwise a victory. A tip of the cap to Chris and Smart Football. Bama ran a perfectly executed “Wham” play to get into field goal range in the second half. Wouldn’t have wholly comprehended it, if not for the Smart Football dissection of the play last week!

  • http://twitter.com/TacoHole Troy Coll

    To clarify, I watch football for the feats of incredible concentration, gamesmanship and athleticism that it showcases. When a game is as competitive as last night’s I can’t help but appreciate it.

    I think you guys are forgetting that both these teams were averaging nearly 40ppg coming into this matchup – these two defenses are just playing amazing football at the moment.  

  • Yrro Simyarin

    It was two great defenses… and two very mediocre offenses.

    The special teams miscues kept it from being a great game. I don’t know how Les Miles gets his opponents to shoot themselves in the foot so consistently.

    That said, somehow I get the impression that if it had been any other league playing each other to a 6-6 stalemate, the media spin would have been a little different.

    Personally, I’m a Big Ten fan, so I actually enjoyed watching the defenses pillage.

  • Dazz

    Dan Wetzel always has a way with words in my opinion: “This game would be won in the trenches, with open-field tackles,
    intense, one-on-one battles. It would be ugly. It would be beautiful.
    Whatever. It was football. LSU won.”

  • Hemlock

    I think the way the question is formulated is a bit flawed.  Neither Bama, nor LSU run offenses that put their QBs in a position to truly excel.  Alabama has an identity on offense, one-back, inside zone team that likes to use h-backs, but their offense is not one that really puts a QB in a good position.  LSU has no identity on offense; their all over the place.  What was once said about Gene Stallings could easily be said about Les Miles in regards to how he hampered his former OC, Gary Crowton.  The bottom line is this, you cannot judge QBs that are put by their systems in situations in which they are doomed to fail.

  • Anonymous

    I thought it was a great football game. I am, of course, entertained by high scoring games where the last team to get the ball wins. Last year’s Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game was incredible. But this game was played on such a razor-thin margin — every mistake looked like it would cost the game. And there were a number of huge plays. I loved it. The only thing that marred it was Alabama’s horrible performance in overtime, but overall I thought it lived up to the hype. It will be very interesting to see what these teams do in bowl games against high-scoring opponents.

  • Anonymous

    you mean like Oregon and West Virginia?

  • Anonymous

    Except LSU doesn’t look like they are failing to me, whether or not the QB is all over the place or not, no?

  • http://twitter.com/BHillz_ BigWorm

    I thought the game was great. However, I like games much more with better quarterback play, but to me this brings up a big issue. Why is it that Alabama, cannot get a big time QB? Is it simply because QB prospects see Bama’s offense as being something that won’t help them get to the NFL? Does Saban try to get an offensive coordinator that is more explosive? I know he tried to get Jimbo Fisher to run the offense, like he did when they were at LSU together, but Fisher decided to stay at FSU. 

    Seems like Saban likes to play it close to the vest on offesne.

  • guest

    Saturday showcased two defenses riddled with NFL level talent. It also showcased two offenses with NFL caliber backs, receivers, and linemen. Although both offenses do not have the a Luck or Weeden at QB, I believe that the level of football was the highest in the nation. It has nothing to do with the fact that it took place in the SEC. These are two of the best teams in the country this year. The intensity was palpable watching on TV. The physicality was tremendous, the speed impressive, and the game enjoyable. 

  • 4.0 Point Stance

    I think it’s kind of silly to argue that you can either enjoy a defense-dominated  game like LSU-Bama or an offensive-dominated game like OK State-K State. A wise man once said there’s no such thing as the Platonic ideal of football.

  • Guest

     And they say baseball is boring?  This was like watching a second coat of paint dry.  I wonder why either team doesn’t just run the option or wing T over and over.  It seems better than pretending you are in a pro style offense and just handing it off repeatedly, and then running the obligatory 3rd down pass play.  For all its hype, pass incompletions, drops,  locking on to receivers and special teams miscues made this game easy to forget.

  • Chase Stuart

    The idea of “every mistake might cost a team the game” is commonly said about great, tense, soccer matches.  This game definitely had a little bit of that feel.  Whether or not that’s a good thing, well, everyone’s mileage will vary.

  • T_Rico

    I believe a game can’t be great unless both teams play good to great in all 3 phases. The amount of missed FG’s and offensive ineptitude doesn’t allow for this to be considered a “classic” or a great game. This question would be laughable if it were two Sun Belt teams were playing instead of LSU-Bama. That being said, I tip my hat to LSU, they are interesting to watch, if nothing else.

  • T_Rico

    I believe a game can’t be great unless both teams play good to great in
    all 3 phases. The amount of missed FG’s and offensive ineptitude doesn’t
    allow for this to be considered a “classic” or a great game. This
    question would be laughable if it were two Sun Belt teams playing
    instead of LSU-Bama. That being said, I tip my hat to LSU, they are
    interesting to watch if nothing else. 

  • Mr.Murder

    LSU has dual quarterbacks, and the chemistry issue surfaced. Twice their starter threw picks on vertical seam reads where the wideout failed to break down in a zone in front of the safety far enough to flip the field. The Qb got blamed and sat.

    Their other QB was more of a challenge, Saban prefers set piece passers(pro style D) and the second LSU quarterback broke it on an option play. Sabam played close to the vest, relied on defense, and got no scoreboard separation(very old school pro game approach). Left it close enough for someone to steal it on a big play.

    The interesting item was how the teams changed their sets for field position. When Bama tried going zone they were smothered by what was in essence a Bear front. The big LSU ends got over the guards and denied any kind of inside runs to establish play passing with. There was no room to run and no movement, at times blockers moved back. It denied Bama the chance to run inside dives as a way of lining up safe field goal tries late in the game.  The subtle yardage difference meant they had to deal with LSU’s array of talent in the defensive backfield to move sticks and Bama tried tunnel screens late instead.

    Then Bama copied the Bear front and suddenly the scrimmage line had a lot of people on it. Told my friend that LSU could still run on the same front. Because Jefferson gave them plus one on the numbers as a keeper and they could option the end. Sure enough the next play he broke it after his team was denied the down before trying to run a lead/power into the overload side. They optioned the weak end man and he ran for a big gain. Sometimes the end man was off the ball in their run fits, it took them some time to define who had contain for what they viewed as they shifted from wrong arming and spilling to bracketing end blockers, to hard edge with an inside force backer stepping to the line. All very basic high school(old school) asthetics in place, Knute Rockne would have known how to handle it. Saban even hid safeties in the run fits from slot(seems LSUwas pretty aware of that and they picked times to block down off that or screen out of it).

  • Anonymous

    just a question, but how much of our impressions of this game are the result of media hyping?
    If you’ve watched either of these teams this year, you certainly wouldn’t be surprised at what you saw from their quarterbacks on Saturday. Did sports media sell you a bill of goods?

  • DSpydr84

    I always find it more interesting to watch two great defenses play.  It’s fascinating to me to watch what the offenses try to do when nothing is working, or who finds the chink in the armor first.  Both teams tried every imaginable formation/motion/shift on offense and simply could not find a running lane.  LSU used more option than I’d seen and Alabama was using unbalanced for the first time all season.

    Most people can’t appreciate the little subtleties going on during each play or series, they simply see the offense “handing it off every time”.  Being a bit of a nerd when it comes to football, I absolutely love seeing the offense start in an unbalanced bunch left, shift it to the other side, motion the wing back into the opposite backfield spot, and have the defense adjust to every move and make the stop.  If even one player gets confused, that open gap could result in a huge play.  It just didn’t happen in this game.

    For those that want a replay of it, check it here while it still is online.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSOyeK9kXDk

  • David Kilpatrick-White

    I have to admit I didn’t watch the game live. I chose to watch OK-St and K-State because the Cowboys are the most entertaining team in college and provide offensive dorks a lot to look at and think about. I watched LSU/Alabama on DVR, which is good because if forced to muscle through the game and commercials I never would have finished. Yes, both defenses are stellar, but the missed field goals alone make the game a story of ineptness more than anything else. As several others have pointed there nothing wrong with defensive showcases (Giants v Patriots yesterday was awesome), but when neither offense has a QB that scares the defense things get mundane. DSPYDR84 makes the point about watch offenses try and create and formation/shifting/motioning to gain leverage…all nice, but when the defense doesn’t have to account for the passing game when adjusting to all those things is very easy…LSU v Alabama was probably the 5th or worse entertaining game of the day (OK-St v K-St, WVU v Louisville, ASU v UCLA, Baylor v Missouri, Arkansas, SCarolina) were in my opinion all more interesting because QB play allowed those to manipulate defenses…

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

    You clearly don’t know of what you speak.

    Do you have any idea how often LSU and Alabama throw on first down?

  • John Phamlore

    Looking back at other big games such as BCS title games, in retrospect what is amazing to me is the lack of players who will have any impact at the next level in the NFL.  Take for example Oklahoma versus Florida:  Twenty years from now is the most important player in the NFL from that game going to be Florida’s center?  I am starting to think we should listen to what the players in the NFL seem to be saying, and actually demanding in their collective bargaining agreements, time off from team supervised offseason conditioning so that the players can work in their own individually customized programs instead.

    By NCAA rules, if we look at what players are and what they do, they are now weightlifters who happen to play football not football players who lift weights.  Weightlifting and other similar conditioning is what they do as far as percentage of time spent related to football.  But even with buzzwords being thrown around such as “Olympic-style weightlifting,” the players are not being given a customized training program that a true Olympic contending athlete would follow.  The NCAA for example has seen fit to restrict the availability of a training table supervised diet to its athletes.

    The absurdity of current training practices is shown in the example of the near tragedy in the Iowa football program the last offseason that sent not to one, not to five, not to even ten, but thirteen to the hospital.  These endless weightlifting sessions appear to be nothing but extended team-building exercises that don’t actually result in teams being all that good, such as Iowa’s offense that apparently feels that having a quarterback who can actually throw the football consistently is a sin against the football gods.

  • Hemlock

    My point is really more about efficiencies.  I think both programs could be truly devistating on offense if they concentrated on developing a highly streamlined approach that revolves around a few basic concepts that has answers for everything. 

    Why should having great talent, like these two teams have, prevent you from coaching them just as they would at Bowling Green or some other small program?  What baffles me, for example, is that I think LSU’s current OC did a much better job coaching at Bowling Green than at LSU.

    Also, and sorry to be so telegraphic, but its not just about the QB for me; its about an economy of concepts.  Yes, ASU lost a game against UCLA they should never have lost, but when watch Mazzone’s offense it is a beautifully streamlined system that is predicated on a VERY small number of concepts, which is why he is able to plug kids in and still be incredibly prolific. 

  • T_Rico

    I wasn’t surpised about the performance, in fact I’m glad this happened because the SEC is oversold constantly and I would much rather watch the Big-12 or Pac-12. As a Pac-12 guy, I’m probably unusually bitter about the media’s love affair with the SEC, and although not relevant, the media’s love affair with the Big 10.

  • T_Rico

    I wasn’t surpised about the performance, in fact I’m glad this happened because the SEC is oversold constantly and I would much rather watch the Big-12 or Pac-12. As a Pac-12 guy, I’m probably unusually bitter about the media’s love affair with the SEC, and although not relevant, the media’s love affair with the Big 10.

  • Guy

    The Alabama kicker missed field goals of 44, 5o, 49 and 52 yards (not sure which was blocked). If the attempt is any indication, they were all considered makeable by Saban, but they aren’t gimmes. Neither teams punting stood out to me as being bad. I will admit to partaking in adult beverages while watching the game, so I could be misremembering.

  • Guy

    The Alabama kicker missed field goals of 44, 5o, 49 and 52 yards (not sure which was blocked). If the attempt is any indication, they were all considered makeable by Saban, but they aren’t gimmes. Neither teams punting stood out to me as being bad. I will admit to partaking in adult beverages while watching the game, so I could be misremembering.

  • Hemlock

    Let me just flesh out my comments from a previous post on this thread.  No, clearly LSU is not failing, Chris is most correct there.  And, yes, the ultimate measure of any program is wins and losses, period.

    That said, what meant to say was that both programs, but LSU in particular, are hardly playing what I would call winning offensive football.  In a sense, and here was the thrust of my Stallings remark, both teams are winning despite their offenses.  And to be totally honest with you, from a schematic point of view, LSU is just as screwed up as Penn State is and nobody who is serious about good offensive football should watch Penn State. 

    And like Penn State, LSU does not do a good job of putting either of their QBs in a good position to succeed.  They win because they simply should win with the talent they have; offensively speaking, is that good coaching, I’m not sure.

    I have more respect for what Alabama does because they do have a couple of packages that they can hang their hat on.  Like I said, they are a full zone team; I say full zone because they run both outside and inside.  In terms of the passing game, they’re pretty simple, but they do a nice job running Levels.  Their zone game would undoutedly be better if they invested more time in developing a more sophisticated vertical approach; they’re an easy team to squat on.

  • Hemlock

    Let me just flesh out my comments from a previous post on this thread.  No, clearly LSU is not failing, Chris is most correct there.  And, yes, the ultimate measure of any program is wins and losses, period.

    That said, what meant to say was that both programs, but LSU in particular, are hardly playing what I would call winning offensive football.  In a sense, and here was the thrust of my Stallings remark, both teams are winning despite their offenses.  And to be totally honest with you, from a schematic point of view, LSU is just as screwed up as Penn State is and nobody who is serious about good offensive football should watch Penn State. 

    And like Penn State, LSU does not do a good job of putting either of their QBs in a good position to succeed.  They win because they simply should win with the talent they have; offensively speaking, is that good coaching, I’m not sure.

    I have more respect for what Alabama does because they do have a couple of packages that they can hang their hat on.  Like I said, they are a full zone team; I say full zone because they run both outside and inside.  In terms of the passing game, they’re pretty simple, but they do a nice job running Levels.  Their zone game would undoutedly be better if they invested more time in developing a more sophisticated vertical approach; they’re an easy team to squat on.

  • Anonymous

    Fair enough and you make good points. I’m certainly not claiming that LSU is an offensive juggernaut. I do think the offense will continue to become more streamlined and even efficient, as they’ve had some issues there (Miles has his ideas, Crowton was there but is gone but they kept the framework, Kragthorpe came in to be OC but became ill yet is still involved, and Sturdwa is a good coach but was hired to call plays rather than design the full offense). Like most things done by committee, it’s a bit piecemeal yet milquetoasty at the same time. Add to that the fact that with an NFL level defense and incredibly special teams, the directive from above (HC) is more “don’t screw up” than “field me the best offense in football.”

    I do think the current braintrust, Kragthorpe and Sturdwa, are both good coaches and will get things ironed out. As Brophy has pointed out, some of the best coaches come after adversity, so what they have next season might be more interesting and cohesive.

    I will say embedded in this is how much risk is acceptable in an offense? I think it’s sensible that Mike Leach ran his program the way he did at TTech, but I also think it’s sensible that Nick Saban doesn’t hire Leach or a Leach disciple as OC; similarly Stoops wanted Leach at OU when they were an up and comer, but once they got great talent something else made a bit more sense (though there are/were issues there too).

  • Anonymous

    Fair enough and you make good points. I’m certainly not claiming that LSU is an offensive juggernaut. I do think the offense will continue to become more streamlined and even efficient, as they’ve had some issues there (Miles has his ideas, Crowton was there but is gone but they kept the framework, Kragthorpe came in to be OC but became ill yet is still involved, and Sturdwa is a good coach but was hired to call plays rather than design the full offense). Like most things done by committee, it’s a bit piecemeal yet milquetoasty at the same time. Add to that the fact that with an NFL level defense and incredibly special teams, the directive from above (HC) is more “don’t screw up” than “field me the best offense in football.”

    I do think the current braintrust, Kragthorpe and Sturdwa, are both good coaches and will get things ironed out. As Brophy has pointed out, some of the best coaches come after adversity, so what they have next season might be more interesting and cohesive.

    I will say embedded in this is how much risk is acceptable in an offense? I think it’s sensible that Mike Leach ran his program the way he did at TTech, but I also think it’s sensible that Nick Saban doesn’t hire Leach or a Leach disciple as OC; similarly Stoops wanted Leach at OU when they were an up and comer, but once they got great talent something else made a bit more sense (though there are/were issues there too).

  • BertJones

    Regardless of whether or not he was aided by the camera cables on the 72-yard punt,I think we can say that Brad Wing has a been a very important factor in LSU’s success this season. 

  • BertJones

    Regardless of whether or not he was aided by the camera cables on the 72-yard punt,I think we can say that Brad Wing has a been a very important factor in LSU’s success this season. 

  • endersgame

    “Did sports media sell you a bill of goods?”

    Is the Pope Catholic?  In all seriousness, I thought K-State/OSU and (yes, I’ll say it) UCLA/ASU were much more entertaining games, but mainly because there were no expectations to begin with. 

    For this “Game of the Century,” I think LSU and Bama’s offenses bought the bill of goods. 
    While there’s no question these defenses were elite, there in no excuse for such a stinker in 2 of 3 phases of the game. To be honest, I was more surprised at the lack of  any true vertical threats on either side, a healthy Marquis Maze the exception to the rule–which of these wide receivers/tight ends did anyone think  was going to break the game open? Russell Shepherd? Chris Smelley? Michael Williams? no? The best pass catcher for either team was Trent Richardson, for crying out loud. 

    In short, whoever made the SEC/Sun Belt comparison was spot on. The only reason this game was so “epic” was because of the build-up and the implications from the outcome. This doesn’t happen in a playoff scenario.

  • Robc

    Florida’s anemic offense put up double digit points on both teams.  That neither could due it to the other was pathetic.