College Football Game of the Week: No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 Alabama

Story posted November 6, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by Connor Griffin

We’re just days away from what many have dubbed the “game of the year” in college football.

No. 2 LSU heads into Tuscaloosa to take on No. 3 Alabama this Saturday. This historic rivalry has been fairly lopsided as of late, with Alabama winning each of the previous eight matchups. Last year’s contest in Baton Rouge resulted in a 29-0 blowout victory in favor of the Tide.

LSU has the talent to flip the script this year, though. With impressive wins over Florida and Auburn, along with the stellar play of Heisman favorite Joe Burrow, the Tigers have solidified themselves as an undisputed contender for the national championship. There’s not as much certainty surrounding the Crimson Tide, however, considering the combined win percentage of their opponents thus far ranks dead last among Power Five schools.

Alabama has rolled through its schedule to this point, as it has yet to receive any semblance of a test. We haven’t seen the reigning SEC champions face adversity this year, but that will certainly change come Saturday, especially if their star quarterback isn’t healthy enough to line up under center.

Two weeks ago, Tua Tagovailoa limped into the locker room after suffering a high ankle sprain against Tennessee. The junior underwent successful surgery the next morning and has since been rehabbed ahead of schedule, according to AL.com. The website’s sources also indicate that Tagovailoa is recovering much faster than he did when he received the same surgery on his opposite ankle last season. That injury didn’t stop the left-handed gunslinger from lighting up Oklahoma with 318 yards and four touchdowns just 27 days after sustaining it. Nick Saban rolled the dice when he chose to play Tagovailoa in last December’s Orange Bowl, and it paid off with a 45-34 Alabama win.

It’s important to note that Saban made this decision even after backup quarterback Jalen Hurts saved the day in the SEC championship game. Hurts, a former starter for the Crimson Tide, was a more-than-capable substitute, but Saban elected to go with Tagovailoa despite the injury concerns. Alabama’s current backup Mac Jones pales in comparison to Hurts, so it’s more than likely Saban will roll the dice with his star quarterback once again. This outcome seems even more probable when you factor in the accelerated progress of this year’s injury, as well as the overall urgency of this game.

The winner of this matchup has a clear path to the SEC championship and to the College Football Playoff. The loser, on the other hand, will be forced to relinquish control of its destiny, leaving it to the 13-member committee to decide whether or not it has the right to compete for a national championship.

All things considered, this is Alabama’s game to lose. Both teams are much better on offense than they are on defense, which is ironic considering the recent history of the series. This should be a high-scoring affair—one in which big-time players are going to have to make big-time plays.

Joe Burrow has obviously been sensational. He’s currently completing 79% of his passes for 2,805 yards and 30 touchdowns. The senior is playing the best football in the country right now, but this is the first game that there’s a threat of him being outdueled by an opposing quarterback, assuming Tagovailoa returns as expected.

Even if Tagovailoa can’t fully keep up with Burrow, his supporting cast is clearly superior. The Crimson Tide have the best wide receiver corps in the nation, and they have a far more consistent running game than LSU does, which is due in large part to their stronger offensive line play. Overall, the Alabama offense will have a bigger impact on the game than that of the Tigers. That’s not to mention that the Tide offense is going up against an LSU defense that’s given up 38 points to a now-unranked Texas and 28 points to Florida’s Kyle Trask, a second-string quarterback, in his first ever road game.

Alabama has been chomping at the bit to prove itself after getting embarrassed in the national championship game by Clemson. The Crimson Tide will be given their first opportunity to do so this Saturday, and their playmakers on the offensive side of the ball will deliver.

Prediction: Alabama 38, LSU 31

 

Connor Griffin is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email cfg6@psu.edu.