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 Big-bang theory: Alabama and LSU need explosive plays in showdown

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PostSubject: Big-bang theory: Alabama and LSU need explosive plays in showdown   Big-bang theory: Alabama and LSU need explosive plays in showdown Icon_minitimeFri Nov 04, 2011 3:39 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- There won't be much space to operate for the Alabama and LSU offenses on Saturday against arguably college football's two best defenses. But the last four tight Alabama-LSU games suggest one offense will make at least one long play to help determine the outcome.

And Alabama, at least statistically, appears better positioned than LSU this year to make that play.

Coaches come up with various standards to measure bursts of yards. In the past, Alabama coach Nick Saban has set a goal of his offense having seven big plays or nine explosive plays each game. Saban defines a big play as a run of 16 yards or more or a pass of 21 yards or more, and an explosive play as a run of at least 13 yards or a pass of at least 17 yards.

Alabama averages 6.1 big plays and 8.8 explosive plays per game and has met Saban's goal in five of eight games. Using those same measurements, LSU averages 4.6 big plays and 6.8 explosive plays and reached Saban's goal in one of eight games.

If the first four years of Saban vs. Les Miles has taught us anything, it's that a matchup this close with so much athleticism on the field gets impacted more by big plays than lengthy drives.

Forty-one percent of the touchdowns scored in the past four Alabama-LSU games came on plays of 21 yards or longer, including four of at least cheap nfl jerseys60 yards. Eight of the nine touchdowns exceeding 21 yards came on passes, accentuating the difficulties of running the ball against either defense.

Last year, LSU's Rueben Randle caught an early 75-yard touchdown and made a crucial 47-yard reception on third-and-13 with 2:49 left to seal the Tigers' 24-21 victory. When Alabama won 24-15 in 2009, Julio Jones turned a short catch into a 73-yard touchdown for the winning score in the fourth quarter.

In 2008, Jones made a difficult 24-yard reception to set up the winning score in Alabama's 27-21 overtime victory. And when LSU won 41-34 in 2007, Demetrius Byrd started the Tigers' rally from down 10 late in the third quarter with a 61-yard touchdown catch, and Early Doucet had the tying 32-yard scoring reception with 2:49 remaining in the game.

The ability of teams to acwholesale nfl jerseyscumulate chunks of yards gained importance in recent years as more offenses spread the field and utilized dual-threat quarterbacks.

Seven of the past eight BCS champions averaged at least 5.1 big plays and 7.2 explosive plays per regular-season game. The lone exception: Alabama in 2009, when it averaged 4.8 big plays and 7.4 explosive plays.

Auburn, with Cam Newton, averaged 7.2 big plays and 10.5 explosive plays as the 2010 national champion. Two years earlier, Florida and Tim Tebow won the national title with 6.8 big plays and 9.3 explosive plays per game.

In Saturday's Alabama-LSU matchup, there are four main playmakers to watch: Alabama running backs Trent Richardson (20 big/explosive plays) and Eddie Lacy (12) and wide receiver Marquis Maze (12), and LSU's Randle (13).
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Alabama and LSU have played two similar opponents, Florida and Tennessee. Alabama averaged 6.5 big plays and 9.5 explosive plays in those games, slightly better than LSU's 5.5 big plays and 8.5 explosive plays against the Gators and Volunteers.

At some point Saturday, watch for a playmaker to break one of these talented defenses with a long gain to help settle this showdown.
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