Bettors Like Alabama Over LSU In BCS Championship
By: Willie Bee
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Did another salty blow off the gulf shut the Big Easy down? Has a Southern Baptist convention taken over the city? Are they no longer serving alcohol at Pat O'Brien's?
It has been a quiet week leading up to Monday's big matchup between the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide. Even the self-anointed worldwide leader in sports is having trouble coming up with stories, with ESPN loading up with feel-good profiles about some of the individual combatants who will be taking part in the BCS National Championship.
Part of the slow news out of the Big Easy might have to do with the Tigers and Crimson Tide being familiar foes. There's a sense of 'been there, done that' to this clash with the two SEC rivals meeting annually. Not only do their own fans go through this each season, the rest of the nation outside the Southeastern Conference saw this game in November when the teams met previously as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the land.
Compounding that ambivalence towards this NCAA title tilt is the fact much of the country is firmly engrossed in the NFL Playoffs. Indeed, Crescent City's own inhabitants are far more interested in Saturday's game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome between their beloved New Orleans Saints and the Detroit Lions. Once that game goes final, perhaps the 'Bama-LSU game won't be such a tough sell and the pregame revelry will finally get underway in earnest.
Oddsmakers are also finding LSU to be a tough sell in recent days. College football betting lines originally had the game a pick, with the spread moving a point back and forth along the way in early trading. Alabama has moved to 1½-2 point favorites this week. The Nov. 5 meeting in Tuscaloosa closed with the Tide laying 5-5½.
Monday's total has settled in at 40 after initially being set at 39.
The 9-6 overtime win in the November contest was the second straight in the series for LSU, with the Tigers dominating the head-to-head meetings in recent years (7-2 straight up). The Bayou Bengals are 4-3-2 against the spread in that span with the totals split (4-4-1). Only once in that stretch has either team scored more than 28 points, and that came in the 2007 matchup in Tuscaloosa when both teams found their offensive strides and LSU rallied for a 41-34 victory with two touchdowns in the final two minutes and 49 seconds of the game.
AJ McCarron and the Tide had just enough offense earlier this season when facing LSU, but Alabama couldn't cross the goal line and a pair of kickers combined to miss four field goals, including a 52-yarder in overtime. Though 'Bama will rely as much as possible on Trent Richardson and the running game, keeping the Tigers defense honest by finding some of his outside receivers will be crucial for McCarron.
Along those lines, the Crimson Tide got some good news this week on the injury front with a pair of receivers both upgraded to probable. Darius Hanks, who missed the final two games of the regular season with an ankle injury, is expected to play. Hanks ranks fourth on the Tide stats sheet in receptions (21) and receiving yards (270) despite missing a total of four games.
Backup receiver DeAndrew White should also be available after some late-season shenanigans led to a suspension.
LSU is also expected to be at full strength for the game. Starting safety Brandon Taylor, second on the team with 67 tackles, is probable with a foot injury, and he completes a very strong defensive backfield for the Tigers that also includes corners Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne plus safety Eric Reed.
There were also rumors that quarterback Jarrett Lee might be academically ineligible for LSU. Those rumors have been laid to rest and Lee is expected to be available in a backup role to Jordan Jefferson after starting the first nine games under center for the Tigers.
The team ranked No. 1 entering the game has won the last two BCS Championships, with Alabama topping Texas in 2010 and Auburn taking down Oregon last year. Before that, however, the No. 2 team won four of the title tilts -- Texas over USC in 2006, Florida beating Ohio State in 2007, LSU against Ohio State in 2008 and Florida triumphant over Oklahoma in 2009. Since the title game's inception in 1999, the No. 1 team is 7-6 in the matchups.
ESPN has the kickoff a little past 8:30 p.m. (ET) on Monday.