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NCAA Football's Richardson gives Alabama edge on LSU

November 01, 2011 3:04 AM by Micah Roberts

The game of the year that everyone had hoped would come to fruition is finally upon us. No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama have both done their part to make it happen by each coming in with unblemished records.

The winner of Saturday’s game will have a clear path to the BCS national championship game.

Las Vegas sports books have received money on LSU from the very beginning, all the way back in June when the Golden Nugget initially opened Alabama as 9-point favorites in their first posting of the games of year.

There wasn’t enough action to move the number initially with most people waiting to see what happened early on with LSU against Oregon in a key matchup to kick off the season.

Despite only having 98 yards passing and 273 yards overall, LSU used four Ducks turnovers to win convincingly, 40-27. Since then, the debate has gone on with who the No. 1 team in the nation really is with a few different teams occupying the top slot.

Now we really get to see who it is with matters settled on the field.

A few weeks ago, several sports books started posting odds on the game with the starting point being Alabama -6½. The number has been pushed down with LSU money coming in to the point where the consensus around town ranges from -4 to -5.

Renowned Las Vegas odds maker Kenny White made Alabama -7 three weeks ago citing Alabama playing Tuscaloosa is worth at least 5 points, especially in a big matchup like this. But at what point does the Alabama home field edge start to decrease when talking about a top ranked team like LSU visiting as opposed to welcoming the likes of North Texas and Vanderbilt.

It is apparent by the line movement that bettors don’t believe Alabama’s home field is worth 5, nor would Alabama be favored on a neutral field.

If we look at each team’s body of work, it’s hard to decide who to like more, especially considering bettors have been cashing in on both teams all season. LSU is a perfect 3-0 ATS on the road, 6-2 ATS overall. Meanwhile, Alabama is 7-1 ATS with its only blemish coming against North Texas as 47-point favorite, a game the Tide won 41-0.

Alabama allows only 44.9 yards rushing per game while LSU allows 76.6 yards. Alabama leads the nation with only 6.9 points scored against per game with LSU not far behind at 11.5.

They’ve had two common opponents this season, each easily disposing of Florida and Tennessee. LSU has beat five ranked opponents to Alabama’s three, suggesting that the Tigers strength of schedule should bode well for them.

The Tigers won impressively in back-to back road games earlier this year at Mississippi State and West Virginia while Alabama beat a punch-less Penn State offense and Florida on the road with a quality win against Arkansas at home.

Then we have the great storyline of current Alabama coach Nick Saban who won a national title for LSU in 2003 before leaving for the NFL. Saban won a title for the Crimson Tide in 2009 and has split the four meetings since coming back.

Current LSU coach Les Miles has done a great job over his tenure despite constant criticism trying to coach in the shadow of what Saban did for them while in charge. It also hasn’t helped that Miles has a few clock management gaffes over his reign to irk many of the Bayou supporters.

Alabama would seem to have a slight edge in coaching, along with home field and the best player in the nation with Trent Richardson running for them. First year starting quarterback A.J. McCarron has done what Saban has asked of him, which is ‘just don’t make any mistakes.’

McCarron really hasn’t been put into a spot where he’s been asked to win the game and you’d have to think at some juncture that he is going to have to make some plays in key moments. This should be the major key to the game in deciding who wins and loses, and for Vegas purposes, who gets the money.

I’ll take the coach, his defense, the home field and Richardson in this one and feel comfortable laying the points. And if Stanford loses to Oregon November 12 and Oklahoma State falls to Oklahoma December 3, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing these two teams go at it again on a neutral field for the title.

Whoever loses this game shouldn’t be penalized too much despite the loss coming later than the likes of an Oklahoma or Oregon. The pick: Alabama 27, LSU 16.

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