Happy Monday, everyone. Nobody needs to tell you what week it is. For eighth straight year, LSU has had this particular Saturday circled on its purple and mustard yellow calendar.
Can LSU finally get over on Nick Saban (4)? The fan base is obsessed with beating the one man the Tigers cannot beat—their former coach turned tormentor, the guy who delivered the program a national title and then left a year later for the NFL and ultimately for Tuscaloosa. The current losing streak in the rivalry is eight, longest since Bear Bryant won 11 in a row from 1971-81. The last four, and six of the eight, have been by double digits. But this is the first time during the current streak that LSU has the offensive personnel to match up.
I’m not sure that obsessed does it justice. It’s not uncommon for a team to become overly preoccupied with a bully in its own division, but the fact that Alabama’s dynasty could easily have been theirs instead just adds fuel to that fire. For the first time in a while, a lot of LSU fans actually expect to win. The Vegas Insider consensus line opened at 7, but has dropped to 6.5 in favor of Alabama.
The funny thing is, as far as the CFP is concerned, the Tigers probably don’t really need this game.
Of course, I am projecting both will get in, based on an Alabama victory. The chances for both getting in are not as good if LSU wins. Alabama’s strength of schedule could be a problem as an 11-1 playoff candidate. LSU had a good nonconference opponent in Texas and a good cross-division game with Florida. Alabama has none of that. The Crimson Tide are much more likely to get aced out by a 12-1 champion from another league like the Big 12 or Pac-12, or possibly even by an 11-1 Penn State or Ohio State. That could happen to LSU also, but the Tigers resume is better than that of Alabama.
No. 2 LSU at No. 1 Alabama, Nov. 9
The impact is obvious. The winner will take the SEC West, barring two significant upsets. The loser will plead its case to the selection committee but will have a hard time finishing in the top four should four Power Five champions have one or zero losses. The big question: Will Tua Tagovailoa be healthy? He has a week-plus to work his ankle back into shape before leading the Crimson Tide against LSU.
The main competition would be the Oklahoma Sooners, and there is no way that a one-loss LSU, with wins at Texas, Auburn, and Florida, would be left out in favor of an Oklahoma squad whose best win was over Texas at a neutral site. The main question is whether Alabama needs it.
The Allstate Playoff Predictor is actually quite clear on which route it thinks the committee would go: the SEC team. In the event that this scenario plays out, either LSU or Alabama would rank ahead of Oklahoma in Strength of Record. Yes, even Alabama: The Tide would have won at Auburn at this point, which would certainly be a better win than anything Oklahoma has. The Sooners would have an average Strength of Record rank of 6.7, compared to 2.8 for LSU and 3.8 for Alabama at 11-1 each. In FPI, Alabama (2) and LSU (4) also have the edge on OU (7).
To be clear, this is why the playoffs suck. On the week of college football’s biggest November game in a few seasons, multiple national writers are debating whether the game even matters. We discuss it every year about this time, but so many people fail to realize that while the 2011 Alabama-LSU rematch was the impetus for the four team playoff, expansion was designed not to prevent such a rematch from happening again, but to allow for it. The idea was simply to require two top ranked teams from the
SEC same conference to “prove it” by beating the best from somewhere else in the country. There are even specific rules written in case three of the best four teams hail from the same conference.
Winning the conference should mean something, and I don’t mean to a committee trying to pick four finalists out of 128 pageant contestants. It should matter to the program, the players, the coaches, and the fans. Hopefully it still does.
As Michael Casagrande points out, the injuries are the thing this week.
Still TBD. Stay tuned.
But seriously, the injuries
They were not insignificant for Alabama -- and to a lesser extent LSU -- coming out of the last few weeks. The Tigers had All-American safety Grant Delpit sidelined in practice last week with a sprained ankle suffered against Auburn a week ago. For Alabama, it goes beyond the quarterback’s ankle. DeVonta Smith left the Arkansas game with a shoulder injury. Najee Harris left with a bum ankle and Miller Forristall is out for six week with a rare throat/voice box injury. Safety Jared Mayden also missed the last game with a groin injury while kicker Will Reichard is still working through a hip flexor injury that Saban called “frustrating.”
Every one of those players is important in a game of this magnitude, and I maintain that Delpit’s is the one to watch. It’s tough to imagine a LSU victory without a great game from him.
Always the pot stirrer, Finebaum is trolling some Dawgs.
The Bulldogs have held fourth-quarter leads against Alabama in each of the past two meetings, two heartbreaking defeats. Nick Saban is unbeaten in his career against former assistants turned head coaches.
“I agree with my good friend — Georgia doesn’t want Alabama,” Finebaum said. “I’ve talked to Kirby Smart about this, it’s a big deal with Nick Saban. Student vs. pupil. He definitely wants a shot at Ed Orgeron, who’s a good coach, but he’s not Nick Saban.”
I mean, he probably ain’t wrong.
Last, Florida State moved on from Willie Taggart, which is only mildly surprising due to the timing. Word is that they want to get a jump on USC in the coaching derby. Stoops Bob and Mark both make their short list according to the Tallahassee Democrat, but one other name might interest you from their “other names to watch” section.
Memphis coach Mike Norvell
Clemson offensive coordinator Jeff Scott
Former Georgia/Miami coach Mark Richt
Washington State coach Mike Leach
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn
Whether FSU turns out to be the facilitator or not, it appears that they are heading for a divorce on The Plains. Stay tuned.
That’s about it for today. Have a great week, and try to get a little work done.