I didn’t cover the Alabama-LSU contest last Saturday (in a preview or in a recap) and it wasn’t because I can’t stand Presidential politics, or the SEC for that matter. Not that the SEC isn’t full of politics in its own right – but I can handle both topics just fine.
It was mostly coincidence – but a touch of personal preference too. Alabama and LSU are such terrific college football programs that it feels weird to dish-out any negative opinions. Now that America has spent the last 10 days fawning over the Tide and the Tigers, it feels a little more comfortable to analyze the outcome with blunt honesty.
Alabama’s defense is talented, but it’s not what it once was, and not as good as advertised. LSU’s Joe Burrow is a very good QB…but not a Heisman-favorite type of player. He was lucky to be playing against a diminished ‘Bama D.
“SEC hater!” you might be thinking. Naw – it’s only the match-up of Burrow against Nick Saban’s defense that had been over-hyped and over-valued compared to everything else. Each team’s offensive line is par excellence and any program in the FBS should envy tailbacks like Clyde Edwards-Helaire of the Tigers and Najee Harris of the Crimson Tide, who combined for 249 yards. Tua Tagovailoa didn’t have a marvelous day, but he still passed for 4 touchdowns, and threatened to turn WR Devonta Smith into a national superstar.
All in all, ‘Bama played ordinary defense (for an SEC contender) and LSU took advantage like a well-coached team should be able to. The Tigers’ biggest asset was skipper Ed Orgeron, who did not allow the visitors to feel intimidated at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The effects of Orgeron’s leadership can be spotted in Louisiana State DE Rashard Lawrence’s words to his team and the media following the clash in Tuscaloosa – “back to reality.”
In this particular case, “reality” involves a Saturday road game in Oxford against 9-to-1 underdog Ole Miss.
Who: LSU Tigers at Ole Miss Rebels
When: Saturday, November 16th, 7 PM EST
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, MS
Lines: LSU (-21) at Ole Miss (+21) / O/U Total: (65)
Burrow is the type of QB who only thrives when his supporting cast is excellent, but when things are going well all around him, he’s indeed capable of the type of elite pocket-presence and accuracy that Baton Rouge fans have long-hoped for at the position.
The only opponent to have slowed the LSU scoring barrage in 2019 is the Auburn Tigers, but a look at the stat sheet indicates that Louisiana State’s 23-20 victory was something of a deceptive final score. You can blame the top-ranked team for blunders and for failure to take advantage of its chances at the end zone, but LSU outgained visiting Auburn almost 2-to-1. None of the hosts’ running backs averaged under 6 yards per carry.
Has Ole Miss done anything on defense to compare with Auburn? Ironically, the Rebels contained Auburn for most of a 20-14 loss 2 weeks ago. It was the 2nd of 3 games in a row which can be considered above-average defensive performances for Mississippi. But the offense hasn’t been getting it done under pressure, only doing enough to beat New Mexico State while failing to out-score the Texas A&M Aggies or the War Eagle.
Still, the Rebels’ worst struggles came in late summer and early fall. Memphis and California beat Ole Miss 15-10 and 28-20 respectively in OOC games, putting Mississippi behind the 8-ball in the race to get to a bowl. Despite losing 4 of the team’s last 6 contests, Ole Miss has not played like a 4-6 squad through an arduous conference slate.
The Over/Under total for LSU-at-Ole Miss is rising slightly, which may reflect injury issues on defense for both sides. However the gamblers taking “Over” (65) might be overlooking the physical toll of 9 games on Burrow’s blockers:
The Tigers will travel to Oxford for this weekend’s game against Ole Miss without the team’s normal five starters on the offensive line. On Monday, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said starting right tackle Austin Deculus would be listed as “doubtful” to play against the Rebels. Deculus went down with an injury multiple times in the win over the Tide. Meanwhile, starting left tackle Saahdiq Charles appears to also be out for the game, though not with injury.
Charles has sat out of four games already this season for undisclosed reasons. He did not play against Georgia Southern, Northwestern State, Utah State or Mississippi State. Orgeron also confirmed that backup left tackle Dare Rosenthal would not see action against the Rebels. “We are going to put Badara at right tackle and experiment with Magee at left tackle and put Ed at guard,” Orgeron said. “Dare Rosenthal will not be available for this game.”
“Back to reality” is right. LSU is going on the road to play a desperate team for which 1 more loss equals a likely absence from the postseason. Mississippi likely won’t win, but the Rebs can play a little defense – and handicappers are forgetting that QB play is a continuum. Burrow’s shining hour has helped gamblers forget that he’s not a miracle-man and will eat the ball if Ole Miss gets around the edge thanks to a noisy host crowd.
Take the Under (65) with extra betting units for Saturday.