Opinion: Danger, Mettenberger
The Alabama defense is coming
By Carter BryantPosted Oct 31, 2012
I have one simple message for Zach Mettenberger going in to the Alabama game:
“Run Zach, Run!”
I say that in my best Jenny-from-Forrest Gump voice. Mettenberger should stay away from Tiger Stadium and run back to Georgia while he still can.
The Crimson Tide defense is scary and historically good. They are fast, predatory, rabid, and rapacious animals. The NCAA should require “CAUTION: Hazardous Material” labels on the jerseys of the Tide’s defensive players.
The Crimson Tide defense leads the nation in total defense, pass efficiency defense, scoring defense, pass defense, and red-zone defense. On the other hand, Mettenberger leads the nation in shaved mustaches and overthrows.
“We have complete faith in him leading us to victory,” said LSU tackle Josh Dwoaczyk to Nola.com. Tim Tebow has more faith in scientology than I do in Mettenberger beating ‘Bama.
But this really doesn’t have anything to do with Mettenberger’s struggles the season. All immobile quarterbacks fail versus Alabama. The Crimson Tide lost four games the past four seasons, all against quarterbacks who could make plays with their feet. The last time they lost to a pocket, pro-style quarterback was in the 2009 Sugar Bowl versus Utah’s Brian Johnson.
Jordan Jefferson wasn’t spectacular in LSU’s historic 9-6 victory in Tuscaloosa last year, but former linebacker Courtney Upshaw said that Jefferson’s ability to run made the difference in the game.
“He [Jefferson] could break contain with his speed, while [Jarrett] Lee stayed in the pocket,” Upshaw said. “We played well, but Jefferson was why we didn’t dominate.”
Lee was a solid quarterback for LSU, but he was putrid versus the Tide. Lee’s career numbers versus Alabama are a staggering one touchdown to seven interceptions. Lee could never escape the rush and blitzes from Nick Saban.
Mettenberger is just as stagnant in the pocket and has worse statistics than Lee at this point in the season. Lee struggled versus Alabama even with big play threat Rueben Randle at his disposal. The last time LSU played Alabama in Tiger Stadium, Randle’s three catches for 125 yards led the Tigers to victory.
LSU’s lack of a deep threat will let Alabama’s defensive backs press and play closer to the line of scrimmage. Safeties will pack the box, which will allow the Tide to smother LSU’s hot rushing attack.
But even if LSU had Randle, the Tigers would still have trouble running the football. LSU’s Achilles’ heel running the football is facing a Southeastern Conference hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme. The Tigers have failed to eclipse 50 yards rushing the last two times they have faced it, most recently in Florida earlier this year.
LSU’s offensive line has put together two consecutive great performances, but they fail to get a push against teams that run hybrid fronts like Florida and Alabama. Les Miles acknowledged that the size of the Alabama linebackers could be frustrating for offensive guards.
Upshaw said the Tide had more freedom and less rush-lane discipline versus Lee instead of Jefferson. The same holds true for Mettenberger. Right tackle Vadal Alexander struggles against linemen who can beat him to the inside. Alabama defensive ends will be able to move wherever they please because Mettenberger is a sitting duck.
Alabama’s offense is better than LSU’s offense, but LSU’s defense is no slouch. The Tigers will find ways of stopping efficient quarterback AJ McCarron and his stable of running backs, but the Crimson Tide will have more offensive success than LSU.
Miles will need all of his sorcery to beat the Crimson Tide on Saturday night in Death Valley. But even the magic of Tiger Stadium, David Copperfield, Houdini, Harry Potter, Gandalf, and Ervin Johnson put together wouldn’t get Mettenberger 100 yards passing.
“I know I can be very good at this game,” said the No. 12 quarterback in the SEC. “Maybe this is the game I could break out.”
Or maybe Mettenberger should run home and watch Forrest Gump. In fact, Mettenberger having success versus the Crimson Tide is much like Forrest Gump’s All-American football career at Alabama.