BCS National Championship: Alabama keys

A look at three keys for Alabama in Monday night’s Allstate BCS National Championship Game:

1. Finish drives: Alabama moved the football in the first game, but hurt itself with penalties, negative-yardage plays and turnovers from the 30-yard line on in. Give LSU’s defense credit for some of that, but the Crimson Tide also have to make sure they’re doing the little things right to finish drives. They can’t repeatedly misfire on first down every time they move close to the red zone. And even if their drives don’t end in touchdowns, they need to give their kickers a better chance with 30- and 35-yard field goals as opposed to 45- and 50-yarders.

2. Play even in special teams: Nobody in Alabama’s camp is conceding the special-teams battle to LSU, but the Tigers kick and punt the ball better, not to mention cover punts and kickoffs better. What Alabama can’t have happen is a critical breakdown in the kicking game, or more precisely, to get pummeled in the kicking game the way the Crimson Tide did the last time these two teams met. Alabama doesn’t necessarily have to win the special-teams battle to win the game, but the Crimson Tide could sure help themselves by making a few plays in special teams and playing the Tigers to a draw. Return specialist Marquis Maze could be huge in this game.

3. Force Jefferson to throw: As much time as Alabama has had to prepare for this game, it would be a major surprise if LSU has as much success running the option as it did the last time. The Crimson Tide will do everything they can to put this game on Jordan Jefferson’s right arm (instead of his legs) and make him throw. They don’t think Jefferson can beat them throwing the ball from the pocket. In particular, Alabama wants to get Jefferson in a steady dose of third-and-long situations, which is where this defense is most lethal.