Some Final Thoughts About LSU at Alabama

Christopher Walsh

We’re down to the eve of the LSU game and it’s been a crazy week.

Of course, it’s nothing like what we’re about to see here in Tuscaloosa.

So in calm-before the storm-style, here are some final thoughts about the game, plus I’ve tackled five questions I answered for the Sports Illustrated LSU site including my prediction.

Let’s just say I like the home team’s chances, and not just because Alabama has a 31-game winning streak at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

• I wish people would stop calling it the Game of the Century II, because it’s not. Game of the Century implies a regular-season No. 1 vs. 2 matchup in which its obvious those are the two best teams. This is not. This is not a once-every-100-years matchup. The College Football Playoff has it No. 2 vs. No. 3.

• Having said that, I do find it extremely interesting that this is the first time in college football history the teams ranked No. 1 in the AP and coaches’ polls are meeting in the regular season.

• We have it on very good authority that you should not take the university’s suggestions about arriving early for granted. Ticket holders are highly encouraged to be in line for entry no later than 1 p.m. Trust me, this is not a ploy. This is going to be a logistical mess.

• I find it very interesting that no one in the national media seems to remember that Tua Tagovailoa played hurt in this game last year. It’s when he had his first interception.

• The demeanor of the teams is also very interesting to me. LSU is pushing every button it can, which after eight straight losses feels like desperation. Alabama has been very calm, dignified and Nick Saban has been in a great mood all week.

You know what that probably means.

Five questions about LSU at Alabama

1. We all know Tua is going to play but what can we expect from the Alabama offense with a not 100% Tagovailoa at quarterback? How much do you think this injury will affect him Saturday and will Saban try to limit some of the stuff he can do by playing it safe?

My guess is that they’ll do a little to try and protect him, but not too much. The big thing is that you won’t see him run as much – although I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a rollout on the first couple of plays to get in the back of everyone’s heads. The key is because he throws left-handed it’s not his back foot, so in theory it shouldn’t bother him too much. Really the biggest concern this week was Tua would try and do too much and have a setback. He didn’t through the two toughest practices of the week.

2. Talk about those receivers, mainly Jeudy, Smith, Ruggs and Waddle. How much do they rely on those slant routes we’ve been hearing about and what makes them so effective as a unit?

Not as much as people think. Alabama’s offense this year is really geared to “take what the defense gives you,” especially with the RPO reads, so disguising the blitzes and so forth are absolutely crucial. If LSU gives the receivers a cushion they go to the slants. They move up, Najee Harris gets the ball. It’s really tough to defend, especially on the bottom end as Alabama can almost find a mismatch.

3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Alabama defense? I know they lost two starting linebackers early in the season but how have the guys that replaced them been performing? Is there an area that LSU will be able to attack in the Bama defense?

The defense has played a lot better since Terrell Lewis started getting healthy. He returned from last years torn ACL and then hyperextended his knee against South Carolina. He’s a game-changer. The secondary is a veteran group, that’s going to be a great matchup to watch. Every opponent has gone after the two freshmen at interior linebacker, who have gotten better as the season’s progressed. What I’m going to be watching, though, is the defensive line. No one’s talking about Raekwon Davis, who is lining up next to two freshmen. LSU has to win that matchup.

4. How is the LSU/Alabama rivalry perceived among Bama fans? I know here in Baton Rouge it’s all about getting that 0-8 monkey off the back but what do Bama fans think of the rivalry?

There’s a ton of respect. LSU is always the toughest game for Alabama in terms of opposing talent and physicality. Even though the Crimson Tide has an impressive winning streak going, this is the game that everyone circles in terms of season buildup and finding out just how good the team really is. There’s a sort of nervous anticipation about Joe Burrow because of the players surrounding him. Just like how LSU fans have been saying for years “If we can just get the passing game going,” Alabama fans have been saying the same on the other end. Also, the bartenders in Tuscaloosa love LSU games because they get the most business and the fans tip the best in the SEC.

5. Prediction for Saturday’s game and why you feel it’ll go that way.

Alabama 38, LSU 31. Tua has a gutsy, gritty game and wins the Heisman.