Friday, January 06, 2012
Sports News

LSU, Bama want no part of postseason points-fest

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[January 06, 2012]  NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The points have been piling up so fast this postseason it's as if they're giving away touchdowns along with all those video games and watches the bowls hand out to players.

Hardware41-38. 45-38. 67-56. 70-33.

Seemingly endless offense has left LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers wondering: "Where is the defense at? Does it exist?"

It will in the BCS title game.

When No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama meet at the Superdome on Monday, expect every yard to be earned and touchdowns to be at a premium -- again.

Round 1 between the Tigers and Crimson Tide was the definition of a defensive standoff. LSU's 9-6 overtime victory turned into a field goal-kicking contest and left many fans outside SEC country less than thrilled about watching Round 2.

But for LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, who spent 20 years as a defensive assistant at Tennessee before joining coach Les Miles in Baton Rouge in 2009, that first game was a thing of beauty.

"When you got guys that are scoring every two minutes and the other team is scoring every two minutes, that's certainly exciting football for the fans to watch, but jeez," he said Thursday. "I got enough gray hair. I don't ever want to see any of that."

Then the Southeastern Conference is the place to be -- especially this season.

Coming into the bowl games, the top four teams in the nation in total defense were from the SEC, led by Alabama at No. 1 and LSU at No. 2, and followed by Georgia and South Carolina.

During the SEC's run of what will be six straight BCS titles after Monday night, the conference's top teams have often separated themselves from the best teams from the rest of the nation by excelling on defense and neutralizing potent spread offenses, like those from Oklahoma, Texas and Oregon.

Florida's championship teams in 2006 and 2008 finished sixth and ninth, respectively, in total defense, and held their BCS title game opponents to a total of 28 points.

LSU was third in the nation in total defense after it won it all in '07 and Alabama was second in '09.

Auburn was the exception last season, ranking 60th, though the Tigers did manage to limit Oregon to 19 points in the title game.

"The SEC has the best defensive linemen, no doubt," Alabama center William Vlachos said. "The team speed is stronger with the SEC defenses. I think as a unit, the SEC defenses are head-to-toe just better. We've played some outstanding players from other conferences ... but as far as a unit, I think the SEC defenses, nobody touches them."

The league has come to define itself on the less glamorous side of the ball, and at places such as Alabama and LSU the players understand that as soon as they arrive on campus.

"When you grow up watching LSU, LaRon Landry, Chad Jones and those guys, they set the bar really high so you just aspire to be like them," Louisiana-native Eric Reid said of the great safeties that preceded him at LSU.

Gary Danielson, the former NFL quarterback who has been the lead analyst for CBS's SEC coverage during the conference's run of dominance, said it's not coaching, schemes or even an emphasis on defense that separates the deep South's football powers. It simply comes down to SEC teams having better athletes to stock those defenses.

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"There's nothing (Alabama coach) Nick Saban is doing that Michigan or Iowa State or Arizona State style-wise isn't doing," Danielson said. "They just don't have the parts."

Danielson said the evolution of the spread offenses and the passing game in college football have made it impossible to hide a weak link or two on defense, and the top SEC defenses have fewer weak links -- especially in the secondary.

"With the spread passing attacks, you need a third corner to survive," he said. "There are more third corners in this league than there are in any other league."

No better example of that will be on display Monday night in the Superdome.

LSU became the first team to have two cornerbacks selected to the AP All-America team. While Tyrann Mathieu was a Heisman Trophy finalist, Morris Claiborne won the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back. Behind them Tharold Simon and Ron Brooks could start almost anywhere in the country.

Except for maybe at Alabama, where Dre Kirkpatrick was a second-team All-American, senior DeQuan Menzi is an NFL prospect and sophomore Dee Milliner has potential to be as good as either of them.

"Their third corners, I think are superior to the No. 2 corners on most teams in college football," Danielson said.

Danielson said LSU's and Alabama's units are on par with the other national title defenses from the SEC -- though he admits that the numbers Alabama and LSU have put up, they have allowed a combined 19.3 points per game this season, have been skewed by some unusually poor SEC offenses.

"Even the SEC defensive coordinators said this is as down a league as they've ever seen," he said.

Still, LSU and Alabama have shown they can bring down the best. Arkansas had the top-ranked offense in the SEC this season averaging 445 yards per game. The Razorbacks gained 226 yards against Alabama and 254 against LSU.

Come to think of it, Alabama and LSU have had productive offenses in just about every game they've played this season -- except for that one on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

"You've got playmakers all over the place," Brockers said. "You've got NFL potential all over the place also. It just shows how amazing these defenses are."

[Associated Press; By RALPH D. RUSSO]

Follow Ralph D. Russo at

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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