With our focus on the titanic LSU-Alabama game Saturday night, what better way to discuss No. 1 versus No. 2 than by having one of the best college football writers in America answer "Five Burning Questions" about the much anticipated showdown.
Our latest guest at CBR is Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports. His summer move from ESPN to CBS, and the resulting #FreeBruce Twitter campaign, was the talk of the college football media this offseason. Bruce is one of the most respected voices in all of college football, a New York Times best-selling author, and he was heavily involved in the highly anticipated Roll Tide, War Eagle documentary. In this edition of 5BQ, we ask Bruce about the hype surrounding the game, which defensive player will have the biggest impact and the chances of possibly seeing a January rematch...
1) Looking at the big picture of this game, how does this LSU-Alabama game rank in terms of anticipation compared to 1 v 2 games in the past? Is this the biggest regular season game of the BCS era?
I want to tell you that it's the biggest regular-season game of the BCS era. Is it really? Maybe. I can justify it and say, since we have Twitter and more social media and more, well, media, it'll be the most hyped regular-season college football game. What's added to that is the fact that the SEC has won the previous five BCS titles. That last part means the SEC has by far the most cache of any of the power conferences has ever had setting up one of these. The only reason why I hedged a little bit is because we live in a world of hyperbole where everything is the best this or worst that, and the latest thing, which is so fresh in our minds, always is the biggest or best and we're in a rush to anoint things as such.
2) Can Trent Richardson run effectively against the imposing LSU defense? Would a good performance and a win vault him to the top of the Heisman race?
Richardson ran pretty well against a very good Penn State defense with a terrific D-Line on the road. LSU has more speed and a much better secondary than Penn State but PSU does have two studs in the middle of their defense. I expect Richardson to do something similar this week.
This is the best O-Line that LSU has faced by far this year. Ultimately the Heisman race, I think, will come down to Richardson and Luck. To me, it's probably Luck's to lose. If he can keep Stanford undefeated, he wins regardless of what Trent Richardson does. IF the Cardinal stumble while Richardson wows people against LSU, Bama may have its second Heisman winner in three years. But I still wouldn't count out Luck with one loss. He really is special. Without him Stanford isn't even a ranked team.
3) How does LSU's offense and their two quarterback system match up against Alabama? Will Les Miles have to depend on some of his legendary tricks to score enough points to win?
LSU has a good stable of backs, but I'm not convinced they can do much damage against such a huge, physical defense. I spoke to a few coaches who have faced Bama this year and in recent years for a story and also talked to some NFL personnel people. They say the biggest difference this year with the Bama defense is Saban has confidence now in the secondary guys. How that really translates is, while you may see some opponents dent Bama early with a few plays on the first series or two, he can get a sense of the other team's gameplan, make adjustments and shut things down later. This helps to explain why no one has scored on them in the second half since September.
Miles has a great feel for the tricks and he'll probably burn Bama with something. He's great with it, but I doubt it'll be enough.
4) Both defenses are tremendously talented and perhaps the best in the country. Who is the one defensive player that will have the biggest impact on this game?
Courtney Upshaw. He played hobbled for most of last year, but he's 100 percent and been a terror this fall. He knocked John Brantley out of the Florida game and has made so many big plays this season. Don't be surprised if he forces one of the Tiger QBs into a crucial mistake.
5) What are the chances the loser of this game remains in the national title hunt and is there a possibility we could even see a national title game rematch if the cards fall just right, considering only one of these teams can even reach the SEC title game?
I think it's very possible, especially if Bama wins a close game. LSU has already handled Oregon and the Tigers have played a much tougher schedule than the Ducks, should Oregon knock off Stanford. If OU beats OSU, I don't see voters picking the Sooners above LSU, who would've only lost AT Alabama while having beaten Oregon, WVU, and Arkansas among other ranked teams. The wildcard is Boise, but with only beating UGA it probably isn't enough to convince pollsters that they're deserving of a BCS berth. It'd be an intriguing match-up if they did get to face the SEC champ given how accurate and smart Kellen Moore is and Boise's rep in big games because they're so well coached/prepared.