BY GARY SHELTON,
Times Sports Columnist (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
NEW ORLEANS -- They kicked the top team in the nation to the curb. They pulled the plug on an electric LSU offense. They won by 21.
But was the University of Alabama No. 1 enough for you?
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Once again, their coach looked like the smartest guy in the game. Their defense looked like the biggest bullies on the block. And although they kept scoring three points at a time, they won without ever being threatened.
Still, but was the Crimson Tide convincing enough to be a champion?
For Alabama, that is the only question that stands between them and another national championship. The fact of it is, the Tide had surprisingly little trouble in beating LSU, 21-0 in Monday night’s title game. For most of the night, the LSU offense couldn’t manage a breath against Alabama’s swarming defense.
Remember, this was an offense that scored 35 points or more 10 times in 12 games, but against Alabama, it was as someone had shut off the electricity.
There always seemed to be two tacklers in the hole, two defenders on the intended receiver. It was brutal, and it was punishing.
Ah, but was it enough?
Even before this game, remember, there were AP voters who suggested that if Alabama wasn’t convincing enough, they might just go ahead and vote for LSU despite the final score. How feisty of them. Sure, voters should follow with their consciences, but this time, it’s a silly argument. Both teams knew this game was for the championship. What happened in November only mattered if the world didn’t get around to having a January.
How can you deny this Alabama team? How can you ignore a defense that pushed around LSU’s offense as if it was, say, Ole Miss? How can you not acknowledge the sight of Nick Saban, the Nicktator, hoisting another trophy?
Put it this way: Around Alabama, where the fans lay claim to 13 national championships, they know the sight of a championship team by now.
In case you are wondering, yeah, it looks a lot like Monday night.
By TIM DAHLBERG
AP Sports Columnist
@BR BodyRR dropcap GRAY50:The game, Nick Saban insisted rather testily the day before, was never about him. Said it wouldn’t define him as a person or as a coach, no matter what happened on the field.
Sure felt a lot like it Monday night.
Two national titles in three years? Saban can check that one off his list of unfinished tasks.
Coach a defense so smothering it pitched the first shutout ever in a national title game? Put a check beside that one, too.
Winning an unprecedented three BCS titles? Yeah, that, too.
And how about beating the coach who took over for him when he left LSU? No matter what Saban says publicly -- and it’s never much -- that had to be the sweetest part of the whole night.
There is an undisputed king among coaches in the undisputed king of all conferences. He wears Alabama red, and if this continues, Bama fans will be talking about him in the same breath as the great Bear Bryant.
Sorry Nick, but on this night the game was all about you.
Not the kicker who somehow managed to get five field goals through the uprights. Not the defense that stopped LSU at every turn and didn’t allow the Tigers to get past midfield until midway through the final quarter.
Just the coach with the sour disposition who starts his day by watching the Weather Channel with his wife for 30 minutes.
By Tim Cowlishaw
The Dallas Morning News
@BR BodyRR dropcap GRAY50:With 7:30 to play in the fourth quarter, LSU’s offense took its first snap from Alabama territory. Not first snap inside the 20, first in the “red zone” or anything like that first across midfield.
Moments later, on fourth-and-18, quarterback Jordan Jefferson was stripped of the ball, and Alabama’s Nick Gentry recovered.
LSU never did.
The BCS national championship game was a thing of artistic beauty on only one side of the ball for the Crimson Tide. That was enough.
Holding LSU to five first downs, Alabama locked down its second national championship in three years with a 21-0 destruction of the top-ranked Tigers.
There should be no argument as to which team is No. 1. Oklahoma State fans will try to support their cause as another strong one-loss team. It might be more convincing if the Cowboys hadn’t trailed Stanford for all four quarters and needed a short field goal miss to win in overtime in the Fiesta Bowl.
Likewise, there’s no longer a case to be made for LSU. Yes, the Tigers split with Alabama this season, but this was the championship game and, unlike the game that went to overtime in November, this wasn’t even a contest.
Alabama came here with a reputation for dominant defense and left here with something far more impressive on its resume.
The Tide outgained LSU 384 yards to 92. The Tigers had two first downs in the first three quarters.
Alabama outgained the Tigers by the much closer margin of 295-239 in the first meeting, a game won by LSU, 9-6. Maybe the three field goal tries the Tide missed that night caused too many of us not to notice that Alabama, for the most part, was the better team.
It was an easy distinction to make the second time around.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron threw for 234 yards against Tyrann Mathieu, LSU’s “Honey Badger” and Heisman finalist, and the rest of the vaunted Tigers secondary.
LSU’s Jordan Jefferson completed 11 of 17 passes for a measly 53 yards. Some Tigers fans were calling for Jarrett Lee, who started the first Alabama game, to be brought off the bench. But coach Les Miles was probably correct when he said, “With the pass rush they were sustaining, I didn’t think that would be fair to Jarrett.”
LSU’s stable of running backs had nowhere to go. Kenny Hilliard, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford ran 12 times for 24 yards.
While there’s no question that LSU’s offense doesn’t play at the same level as the team’s defense, this is a team that, in its last three games, scored 52 against Mississippi, 41 against Cotton Bowl winner Arkansas and 42 against Georgia in the SEC championship.
For the Tide to pitch a shutout in which LSU never got close enough to even think about a field goal is remarkable.
“They are a hateful bunch,” coach Nick Saban said of his defense, “and they are as competitive as you can ever imagine.”
This game had a chance to be a five-field goal affair, mimicking the first matchup, only with the Tide doing all of the kicking.
Alabama’s Jeremy Shelley made five of seven for a 15-0 lead through three quarters. Finally, with less than five minutes to play, Alabama’s Trent Richardson ran for 34 yards and the only touchdown in eight quarters of LSU-Alabama football this season.
“We had to get over that hump eventually,” McCarron said. “Who else? No. 3. He’s carried us all year.”
For Saban, if there was any lingering question as to which coach rules college football today, it was answered. The first coach to win BCS titles with two schools is now the first to win the BCS crown three times.