Posted: Friday November 11, 2005 11:53AM; Updated: Friday November 11, 2005 1:38PM
One of the things that makes college football great is upsets. We see them every week to some degree, and nearly every year we have one that shakes up the national championship picture. Even though we haven't had any of such magnitude this season, there's still time.
After watching Miami dominate Virginia Tech last week in Blacksburg, a week after the Hokies looked indomitable, I realized that no team is safe. And just like I had a feeling that Arizona was going to beat UCLA last week, I sense there could be some pretty big upsets this week, so I'm going out on a limb and picking a few. No hate mail, please. These are just based on a few informed hunches and are by no means mortal locks.
(5) LSU vs. (4) Alabama
3:30 ET (CBS)
Bryant-Denny Stadium (81,018)
Joseph Addai hopes to be back at full-speed when the Tigers take the field for Saturday's matcup with Alabama.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Ever since Alabama lost game-breaker Tyrone Prothro in its rout of Florida on Oct. 1, the Tide's offense has virtually disappeared. Alabama has scored one offensive touchdown in its last three games and none in its last two. The Tide have some terrific skill players in QB Brodie Croyle (1,930 yards, 12 TDs), RB Kenneth Darby (968 yards, three TDs) and receiver DJ Hall (38 catches, 571 yards, four TDs), who has become the team's big-play threat in the absence of Prothro. Alabama, which received another major blow when veteran center JB Closner was lost for the season after breaking his leg in last week's win over Mississippi State, must find a way to move the ball effectively against LSU.
Pure and simple, the reason Alabama is undefeated is its defense. The Tide have the nation's No. 1 scoring defense (8.2 points per game), are second in pass efficiency defense and fourth in total D (244.4 yards per game). Strong side linebacker DeMeco Ryans is the team's best defensive player. He leads the Tide with 59 tackles and has nine tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks. End Mark Anderson is a disrupter up front and has 11.5 tackles for loss, including five sacks. The secondary has been air-tight and corners Ramzee Robinson and Simeon Castille have two interceptions apiece.
LSU hasn't exactly been an offensive juggernaut as of late and led Division I-AA Appalachian State, 14-0, after three quarters last week before pulling away with 10 points in the final 15 minutes. But the Tigers have put up 35 or more points four times this season. And they beat the same Mississippi State team Alabama struggled with last week, 37-7 in October. QB JaMarcus Russell (1,759 yards, 11 TDs) has a strong arm and a knack for making big plays, but he also makes his share of bad ones. Leading rusher Joseph Addai (664 yards, seven TDs) is just getting healthy after playing sparingly in the last two games while nursing an ankle injury. LSU has a bunch of big-play receivers in Dwayne Bowe (seven TDs, 18.8 yards per catch), Early Doucet (four TDs), Craig Davis (16.5 yards per catch) and burner Skyler Green.
Like Alabama, LSU has a dominating defense. The Tigers are ranked sixth in the nation in scoring defense (13.9 points per game) and 12th in total D (295.8 yards per game). LSU is extremely athletic and the Tigers front seven has been ferocious. Linebacker Ali Highsmith (55 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss) has been a one-man wrecking ball, while ends Melvin Oliver and Chase Pittman and tackle Claude Wroten get penetration up front. The secondary is susceptible, especially on the corners, but LaRon Landry has been a rock at free safety.
This game could be ugly, though not as ugly as Alabama's 6-3 victory over Tennessee. If the Tide had a hard time scoring against Ole Miss and Mississippi State, how are they going to manufacture points against LSU? Alabama has been skating by for several weeks now. It won't be pretty, but LSU has more weapons and will send the Tide tumbling from the top of the rankings.
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