This weekend gives us the game of the year in college football as the no. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide play host to the no. 2 LSU Tigers. The fun gets started at 3:30 EST on Saturday, November 9 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The game will be televised nationally on CBS.
Current odds list Alabama as 6.5-point favorites at home. The game also has an over/under of 64 points. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 11 college football odds.
Based on their resume, LSU has been the most impressive team in college football this year. Last time out, the Tigers survived a close game against rival Auburn. Along with wins over Florida and Texas, the Tigers have three wins over teams that were ranked in the top-10 at the time. There should be no debate about whether or not they’ve earned the no. 1 ranking.
Of course, LSU’s SEC title hopes likely come down to this week’s game with Alabama. The Tigers haven’t played in the SEC Championship Game since 2011, largely because the Crimson Tide have been in their way almost every year. Even with one loss on their resume, the Tigers could make a strong argument for a spot in the College Football Playoff. That being said, the only way to ensure a top-4 spot is to win this week and take home an SEC championship.
Meanwhile, it’s been business as usual for Alabama this season. The Tide hasn’t been challenged too often, playing just one team that was ranked at the time. But you can’t say that Nick Saban’s team has taken anyone lightly, beating every team they’ve faced by at least 19 points on their way to being 8-0.
Needless to say, Alabama’s most difficult games are still ahead of them. In addition to facing LSU this week, the Crimson Tide has road trips to Mississippi State and Auburn before the end of the month. Much like LSU, there’s a chance Alabama could sneak into the top-4 with one loss. But if they want to get back to the CFP and wipe away the memory of last year’s National Championship Game, they have to remain undefeated.
Even with a lot at stake, the rivalry that has developed between these two teams takes center stage in this game. It means a little more for LSU, who has lost eight games in a row to Alabama, including the 2011 National Championship Game. It was actually during the 2011 regular season that the Bayou Bengals scored their most recent win over the Crimson Tide, a 9-6 overtime win in Tuscaloosa. But the Tigers have had unpleasant memories against Alabama ever since.
With questions regarding the health of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, I have to lean toward LSU in this game. Also, I think the Tigers are better positioned to beat Alabama this year than they have for most of the eight previous games in this rivalry, most of which the Tide won by double digits. If nothing else, I think LSU can force a close game and at least beat the spread.
Officially, Tagovailoa is said to be a game-time decision. However, I’d be surprised if he didn’t play, even if Alabama was fine in their last game against Arkansas with Mac Jones at quarterback. That being said, there’s a good chance that Tagovailoa will be less than 100%. His mobility is a big reason why he’s so difficult to defend. When he extends plays with his legs, Alabama’s receivers become impossible to track down the field. That’s something that concerns me, especially since LSU is capable of getting after the quarterback, which could force Tagovailoa to flee the pocket on an ankle that isn’t fully healed.
While Tagovailoa’s injury cracks the door for LSU, the biggest reason I like the Tigers in this game is quarterback Joe Burrow. He has revolutionized the LSU offense in a single season. For what it’s worth, the Tigers can still run the ball consistently behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire. However, they now prefer to air it out with Burrow, who has posted Heisman-worthy numbers. Burrow has completed over 78% of his passes on the season while amassing 30 touchdown passes to just four interceptions.
More importantly, Burrow has had some of his best performances in the biggest games, throwing eight touchdowns to just two interceptions against Texas, Florida, and Auburn. He completed over 75% of his passes in all three of those games, so there’s been no drop-off when the competition level has been raised. LSU also has a trio of big-play receivers in Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Terrace Marshall, who all have at least seven touchdown catches this year.
Meanwhile, the Alabama defense has not been as dominant as in past years. The Tide has had to deal with injuries and depth issues throughout the season, making them vulnerable against some of the better teams they’ve faced. Despite a lackluster passing attack, Ole Miss scored 31 points in Tuscaloosa earlier this year while Texas A&M also had success moving the ball against the Crimson Tide. In other words, I’m not exactly confident that the Tide can keep Burrow under wraps.
Given Tagovailoa’s questionable status, I don’t think the Alabama offense can expect to run away with this game. I also don’t think the Crimson Tide defense can handle Burrow and the LSU offense for 60 minutes. I expect a lot of points to be scored in this game, but I also think it’ll be close in the fourth quarter. That’s enough to push me toward LSU as a road underdog.