3:30 PM EST, CBS – Line: Alabama -6.5, Over/Under: 64
As they have on so many Saturday’s thus far, all eyes in the world of College Football will be on the Southeast Conference, where the No. One LSU Tigers battle the No. Two Alabama Crimson Tide in a seismic clash from Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Needless to say, this particular meeting between the SEC powerhouses carries MAJOR Playoff implications, with the two programs meeting as the top two teams in the AP Poll for the first time since January 2012. That, of course, is a day that continues to live in infamy for LSU (8-0, 4-0 in SEC), who met their division rivals in the BCS National Championship Game, where they were pummeled in a 0-21 shutout. Since that fateful night, the Tigers have lost eight consecutive meetings with the Tide, including their last three trips to Tuscaloosa, as their SEC brethren have gone on to dominate the College Football landscape, advancing to four National Championship Games, winning two. However, there is something different about these Tigers, who for the first time since that infamous January night enter this matchup ranked No. One Overall, a distinction that is certainly warranted given their performance in 2019 thus far. Simply put, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team in the country with a stronger portfolio than Louisiana State, who possess not one, not two, but THREE victories over Top-10 opponents, besting the likes of No. 9 Texas (45-38) on the road, and No. 7 Florida (42-28) alongside No. 9 Auburn (23-20) in Baton Rouge. As a result, Ed Orgeron’s charges have leapfrogged tonight’s opponent in the Rankings, who had spent the previous four weeks ranked No. One Overall. Whereas we’ve grown accustomed to this matchup being an annual slugfest, there is reason to believe that it could turn into a shootout, for the first time in over a decade, the Tigers have a high-powered Offense. Orgeron went out of his way in the Offseason to overhaul his team’s approach on this side of the football, reaching out to none other than the New Orleans Saints, who gave them Co-Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady, who working in tandem with returning Playcaller, Steve Ensminger, has overseen a radical revolution in the Bayou. When Orgeron took over the program two years ago, the attack could muster just 27.2 Points per Game (76th Overall) on 411.1 Total Yards, improving to a modest 32.4 Points (38th Overall) on 402.1 Total Yards in 2018. This season, they’ve erupted for 46.8 Points per Game (4th Overall) on a whopping 536.0 Total Yards, the most in school history, topping forty points in their first six outings. In his second year with the school following his transfer from Ohio State, Senior Quarterback, Joe Burrow (78.8%, 2,805 YDS, 10.8 Y/A, 30 TD, 4 INT), has absolutely thrived within this pro-style scheme, completing a deadly efficient 78.8% of his Passes for an average of 350.6 Yards on 10.8 Yards per Attempt, with a school record Thirty Touchdowns in comparison to just Four Interceptions, while rushing for three more scores to boot. Burrow’s exploits, particularly those in big games, have pushed him to the forefront of the Heisman debate, while also raising his Draft stock considerably; he was ruthlessly efficient in the wins over Texas and Florida, completing 52-of-63 Passes (82.5%) for 764 Yards, Seven Touchdowns and One Interception. When we last him, he and the Tigers met their stiffest challenge to date in the form of Auburn, whose physical Defense became the first to slow down LSU’s juggernaut in 2019, limiting the hosts to a season-low twenty-three points, despite totaling 508 Yards of Offense, they stopped them on Fourth Down on two occasions, and intercepted on another. Burrow completed 32-of-42 Passes for 321 Yards, a Touchdown and an Interception, while rushing for another Thirty-One Yards and a crucial score late in the Fourth Quarter that stretched the lead to ten points. Junior Tailback, Clyde Edwards-Helaire (115 CAR, 683 YDS, 5.9 Y/C, 8 TD) grinded out 136 Yards and a Touchdown on Twenty-Six Carries, while hauling in Seven Receptions for another Fifty-One Yards, with Sophomore Receiver, Ja’Marr Chase (43 CAR, 749 YDS, 17.4 Y/R, 9 TD), adding 123 Yards on Eight Catches. Heading into tonight’s meeting with ‘Bama, they’ll need to clean up their sudden Red Zone issues, while also playing more under control; in an affair that featured a whopping Twenty-Seven Penalties, the home side were flagged a dozen times for a loss of 118 Yards. Starting Defensive Backs, Grant Delpit (43 TKL, 1.5 TFL, 1 FR, 1 INT, 4 PD) and Derek Stingley Jr. (22 TKL, 4 INT, 9 PD), also left the encounter early with various ailments, though both are expected to get the green light from the medical staff following the Bye Week. However, in a turn of events, Orgeron announced on Monday that Senior Linebacker, Michael Divinity Jr. (22 TKL, 4.0 TFL, 3.0 SK, 1 FF), would no longer be with the team moving forward, citing “personal reasons” for his departure. Needless to say, this is quite a blow to a Defense, who will no doubt miss his leadership and playmaking skills in a matchup where it could surely be put to good use.
Meanwhile, it may feel like they’ve been forgotten about to a degree (if that’s even possible), but Alabama (8-0, 5-0 in SEC) continues to lurk at the top of the AP Poll, where they’ve been ranked no lower than No. Two Overall this season. Indeed, the reigning Southeast Conference Champions have gone about their business as usual, steamrolling through a schedule that has offered very little resistance to this point, with the only ranked opponent they’ve met thus far being No. 24 Texas A&M, whom they dispatched with ease in a 47-28 victory on the road. Much like their opponent tonight, their success this season has been largely defined by the play of their explosive Offense, which after years of the ground and pound approach, has been a breath of fresh air for the faithful in Tuscaloosa. The offensive revolution began last year, with then Sophomore Quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa (74.7%, 2,166 YDS, 11.2 Y/A, 27 TD, 2 INT), pulling the trigger for a passing attack that averaged 323.6 Yards through the air on 11.1 Yards per Attempt, ultimately scoring 45.6 Points per Game. This season, they’ve been even more prolific, with the Heisman favorite spearheading an aerial assault that has averaged 338.6 Yards per Game on 10.5 Yards per Attempt en route to posting a staggering 48.6 Points, second-most in the nation. When on the field, Tagovailoa has been nothing short of sensational, completing an efficient 74.7% of his Attempts for 2,166 Yards on 11.2 Yards per Attempt, with Twenty-Seven Touchdowns in comparison to just Two Interceptions. Indeed, the Crimson Tide have evolved into arguably the most deadly passing team in the country, with a cadre of Receivers littered with NFL Prospects. Reigning Biletnikoff and All-American, Jerry Jeudy (52 REC, 682 YDS, 13.1 Y/R, 8 TD), is the headliner here, blending silky smooth route-running with subtle speed and sure hands, hauling in 120 Receptions for 1,997 Yards and Twenty-Two Touchdowns over the past two seasons alone. however, he’s far from the only weapon in this Receiving Corps, with fellow Junior, Henry Ruggs (26 REC, 513 YDS, 19.7 Y/R, 6 TD), playing the role of vertical threat, peeling off nearly Twenty Yards per Catch (19.7). Though he’d get top-billing nearly anywhere else, Devonta Smith (43 REC, 721 YDS, 16.8 Y/R, 9 TD) is the third wheel here, with the Junior, already surpassing last year’s totals in Receptions (43), Yards (721), and Touchdowns (9). Indeed, with a Quarterback as accurate as Tagovailoa and a group of targets like this, the Passing Game is as deadly as it’s ever been since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. And it’s with that said, that nearly everyone in the state of Alabama held their collective breath when their prized Quarterback exited 35-13 victory over Tennessee with a bad sprained ankle, which ended up requiring surgery, similar to the same procedure that he underwent to correct a sprain to the opposite ankle late last season. The Junior Signal-Caller saw his mobility compromised to a degree following his return to the field in 2018, with Saban and the Medical Staff taking every precaution with him heading into tonight’s affair with LSU. The Bye Week couldn’t have come at a better time for Alabama, even if they ran through Arkansas two weeks ago in a 48-7 drubbing without their Starting Quarterback. Redshirt Sophomore, Mac Jones (70.4%, 472 YDS, 8.7 Y/A, 4 TD, 1 INT), received the nod from Saban, and he didn’t disappoint, completing an efficient 18-of-22 Passes for 235 Yards, Three Touchdowns and Zero Interceptions, connecting with Jeudy seven times for 103 Yards and a pair of Touchdowns, the latter of which was a 40-Yard score early in the Second Half, effectively serving as a proverbial drop of the microphone. All in all, Alabama didn’t miss a beat in this dress rehearsal for their biggest contest of the season, amassing 459 Total Yards, including 179 Rushing on Thirty-Eight Carries, with Junior Tailback, Najee Harris (108 CAR, 642 YDS, 5.9 Y/C, 5 TD), accounting for Eighty-Six Yards and Two Touchdowns on Thirteen Carries, while the Defense snuffed out the Razorbacks, forcing a quartet of Turnovers, including an 84-Yard Interception Return courtesy of Senior Cornerback, Trevon Diggs (22 TKL, 2 FR, 1 TD, 3 INT, 1 TD, 5 PD), just before Halftime, his second Touchdown Return of the season. As we stated earlier, the Tide, and Saban in particular, has absolutely OWNED LSU since he was hired back in 2007, going 10-3 against his former employers, including each of the last eight meetings. When they met last season, Alabama rolled into Baton Rouge and smothered the hosts in a 29-0 shutout, relegating the Tigers to a scant 196 Total Yards, including TWELVE Rushing Yards Twenty-Five Carries.