In a span of 48 hours next weekend the New Orleans Saints will face off against the Detroit Lions Saturday night and the LSU Tigers will play the Alabama Crimson Tide for the BCS National Championship Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It will showcase the two teams from our area in what has been the best one year combined run ever when watching and pulling for both clubs.
As for the Saints, watching them play on offense is like watching a well lubricated machine do what it is programmed to do. Quarterback Drew Brees continues to shatter records and prove to one and all that he is indeed one of the best, if not the best football player in the NFL this season.
But it is his distribution skills, like how Magic Johnson was with the Los Angeles Lakers in basketball, that stick out.
Brees gets everyone involved and in his record-breaking season he has had seven different receivers catch 30 or more passes.
What has been the big difference since early in the season is that the Saints can rush the football effectively when they need to and want to.
Under Sean Payton the New Orleans Saints are 29-1 when they rush for 120 yards or more.
Since the injury to right tackle Charles Brown (which put Zach Strief back in the starting lineup) and the retirement of Olin Kreutz (which put Brian de la Puente at center) the Saints rushing attack has run on high octane fuel.
Defensively the Saints will still get gashed at times by long runs and big plays via the air, but they have done a great job of bending and not breaking in a league that has very few elite defensive teams.
The Saints defense has only given up five touchdowns in the first half of the last eight games. They have outscored their opponents in the first half of the last eight games 144 to 62.
With the Detroit Lions up next look for the Saints to take care of business in the first round of the playoffs. The Lions have an explosive passing attack led by quarterback Matt Stafford and the best wide receiver in the business in 2011 in Calvin Johnson, but they have a leaky secondary, no resemblance of a rushing attack and they have never walked down the aisle as a team during playoff time in quite a while.
This looks to be a double-digit victory for the Saints and then our attention turns to LSU vs. Alabama.
Make no mistake about it these are the best two teams in college football.
Both teams run the ball extremely well and both have defenses that just stifle opponents from hitting big plays either by the run or via the air.
The two most important players on the field with the national championship on the line is halfback Trent Richardson for Alabama and quarterback Jordan Jefferson for LSU.
For Alabama to win Richardson needs to have a signature game. If the Tide does not let him touch the ball 29 to 33 times in this game they have no chance to win. He is the best offensive player on the field and he can be a dominant performer as a runner and as a receiver.
For LSU rushing the football against Alabama will be tough so Jefferson needs to play big throwing the ball. This is his opportunity to showcase his passing skills against one of the elite defensive secondaries in the country, but he also has the one huge playmaker as a receiver the Tide doesn’t have in Rueben Randle.
Jefferson to Randle needs to connect at least five to six times and loosen up the Crimson Tide secondary.
The Tigers also have a decided edge on special teams. Drew Alleman and punter Brad Wing have been terrific this season while the Alabama kicking game has been inconsistent to say the least.
A win against Alabama would give the Tigers an undefeated season and a season in which they would have defeated nine teams ranked in the Top 25 when they faced them and four teams ranked in the Top 5 when they played them.
This team would go down as one of the greatest college teams ever with a win against Alabama and it would also be the third time in a row that Les Miles would have defeated Nick Saban.
Wins by the Saints and Tigers would really start off a Happy New Year’s celebration across Louisiana.
|Record-setting quarterback Drew Brees will lead the Saints in the first round of the playoffs against the Lions on Saturday night in the Superdome.|