The 'CSI: Miami' Rivalry
Alabama and LSU play this weekend. Of course, Nick Saban once patrolled the sidelines in East Lansing, and plucked Mark Dantonio from Kansas to start his track of hating Michigan in the mid-'90s. Les Miles is a Michigan graduate with a complicated relationship to his alma mater. Together, the two have extended some of the faintest echoes of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry down south: two SEC juggernauts rooted in old-school ideas.
But lately, one of college football's most glamorous yearly games has become one-sided. The Tide are on a four-game winning streak, with the last Tiger victory occurring on this day in 2011. Not only that, but Alabama has cracked the code of recruiting in Louisiana, plucking superstars Landon Collins and Cam Robinson from LSU's home state while spending increasing amounts of time recruiting there in LSU's back yard.
But every year presents a new opportunity, and this time Miles has his squad ranked #2 in the country. Alabama is #4. Both teams have a lot at stake in this one, and that's always a sign of good TV. So, we figured we'd get you primed for the match by sharing some of the recent history between these two teams.
Since 2007, LSU has averaged 3.24 yards a carry against Alabama; the Tide have averaged 3.81. Since Matt Flynn's 353 yards in 2007, no quarterback has gotten 300 yards in this game, though Zach Mettenberger came close in 2012. Only four times has a runner gotten 100 yards. All four of those backs - Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram, Jeremy Hill, and T.J. Yeldon - ended up being drafted in the first three rounds. In fact, a combined 93 players have been drafted from one of these schools since 2009. Julio Jones, on Alabama's side, terrorized LSU for three years, getting 324 yards from 2008-10. Odell Beckham, Jr. on the other hand had 169 over four games against the Tide.
Since the 2012 championship game, LSU has gone 35-11, while Alabama has gone 43-6. One out of every five of Les Miles' losses since 2007 have been to Nick Saban and the Tide, and Saban has beaten Miles more than any other coach has done. Some of the coordinators to coach in this game against each other: Jimbo Fisher, Bo Pelini, John Chavis, Jim McElwain, Kirby Smart, and Lane Kiffin. Kevin Steele has coordinated defenses for both teams. The record of Bo Pelini, Jim McElwain, Lane Kiffin and Jimbo Fisher as head coaches in the college ranks: 199-81.
- An incredible grab by ODB.
- A Woodson-like interception.
- Four straight sacks.
- A tight end outruns the defense.
- A game-winning touchdown.
- Wrestling away a pass.
- The one touchdown in a 21-0 game.
"I'd be honored to face that team again." - Les Miles, 2011, after LSU lost 9-6
"Boy, we wanted to finish this one. It's hard to finish a season that was so successful this way." - Les Miles, 2012, after LSU lost 21-0
"They did a good job of scheming all over. They made the right adjustments when we made our checks. They just did a great job scheming us up tonight. ... Any time you play against these guys you've got to sometimes just take the tough yards because you can't bounce things or cut things back. They played a great game tonight and had a great plan for us." - Jeremy Hill, 2013, after LSU lost 38-17
"I'm not the referees. The DB grabbed my hands. He didn't hit the ball. He was facing me. Another tough thing to swallow, the referee didn't make the call. We lost." - Malachi Dupre, 2014, on a fourth down pass that ended a 20-13 overtime game
Finding Optimism In Corvallis
It's not every day that four-star recruits pledge to Oregon State. In fact, the last time that a blue-chipper committed to OSU - well, before Gary Andersen received two such pledges in the last month and a half - was in late 2012. That player's name was Dashon Hunt, a cornerback out of California who discovered he had spinal stenosis and had to retire from the game. Before Hunt, Oregon State coach Mike Riley got a couple other four-star guys to commit in 2011, but one has had recurring foot injuries and the other, a tight end, got lost for the 2015 season due to illness. Needless to say, Beavers fans are due for a little change in luck.
And they might have it with the commitments of Christian Wallace and Shurod Thompson - a pair of mid-four-star DBs who are both in the top 150 of Rivals' player rankings. Wallace and Thompson are anchoring a 2016 class that's heavy on DBs, defensive ends, and wide receivers - basically, anybody who can add the speed that Gary Andersen is looking for.
"[T]his league has what we like to call juice," Andersen said this past July. "It is fast. There are a lot of guys that make one mistake and you're going to pay the price quickly. On the defensive side it is the same way. There are elite pass rushers that are fast and quick. There are linebackers that can run on the back end that I believe can make up for a lot of problems that — it's hard to solve with a pen in your hand, but genetics take over and make you some special plays."
Even some of the bulkier guys who've committed to Andersen - like 6'3", 230-pound linebacker Shemiah Whitson - look like they belong on a basketball court sooner than they would in the trenches of a football game. Gary Andersen (who is 2-6 so far this year) has gotten a pledge from a 6'5", 195-pound wide receiver and a 6'6", 210-pound tight end, to go along with a 6'8" defensive end who has the strength of an ox's eyelids and the straight-line speed to win all the fast breaks. But for Oregon State, a little potential is just what the doctor ordered.
"There's no pat yourself on the back for losing, but the guys are playing better," said defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake this week. "You wanted this to happen earlier, but it's here, and we gotta keep rolling on it. Maybe now we can capitalize on making those plays and getting some turnovers and getting some impact plays like sacks."
Soon, the Beavers will, no doubt about that.
Hitting the Links Is Eating BTB
Two very similar runs by two great competitors. Elliott is the only Big Ten runner with 800 yards; he has 1,130. Barring an injury, this will be the third straight season Ohio State has fielded a 1,500-yard running back.
Even Kirk Ferentz reiterated this week he didn't know how good his Hawkeye team really is. Michigan State has also had a shaky go of it, and there are a lot of legitimate top teams this year. Keep winning, and the Big Ten will be fine.
This is a shame. Perhaps this is hope springing eternal, but if the playoff committee is as determined as Bill Hancock says they are to move the festivities around, it may be coming closer to home soon.
Minnesota's class includes three four-stars, which has actually happened before. In fact: Minnesota signed seven blue-chips in 2008, including guys from Texas and California. The Gophers had gone 1-11 in 2007. Weird.
Maryland's best player is probably Ngakoue, who is within reach of Maryland's program record for sacks. Few would have thought Joey Bosa would have four sacks at this point of the year, and that a former walk-on at Penn State, a Wisconsin linebacker and a converted Maryland linebacker would lead the Big Ten.
A talking point of mine for a while was talent at wide receiver, and the Big Ten has made that into an old hat. There's also been some nice growth in pass defense, and both those things were crucial for turning around the conference's bowl performances. Basically, the Big Ten had to get faster, and it has been doing that, even if it's still not getting too many five-stars.
This was a nice, short column reminding us that Penn State's inconsistencies are really just growing pains.
Nebraska is in the middle of some soul-searching, not unlike what Michigan has walked through the last few years. They'll come out stronger on the other side, I'm confident.
Ted Miller has gravitas here as someone who's followed Riley's career for over a decade. A good piece.
The Big Ten's problem around the end of the 2000's and the early 2010's was complacency. Purdue is still terribly complacent, not to mention silly to offer a first-time coach a contract with such a lucrative buyout.
Martin, the author of Game of Thrones, is an NU alum.
I'll want to see if Northwestern can regain its swagger this week against a team that's still contending in the East but should be susceptible to pressure.
Illinois, in my opinion, has a genuine shot to get a good mid-major candidate if they can get their athletic department together and put forward a competitive offer. Cubit will need to win two of these next four to go bowling: Purdue, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Northwestern.
This game also featured a Desmond King touchdown that got a lot of press. Likely has to be one of the most fun players to watch in the Big Ten; physically, he's got some limitations, but he competes really hard and can do some really amazing things.
This about sums up Nebraska's luck this year.