This is about as big as it gets in the college football regular season with No. 1 against No. 2 in early November. The status of Tua Tagovailoa hangs over the game, but that didn’t stop Alabama from being a -6 point favorite with an over/under of 65 early in the week.
Tagovailoa is listed as a game-time decision and it’s unlikely Nick Saban will release more info on him before Saturday. Alabama has dominated LSU in the last decade, but this is by far the best offense LSU has had in some time.
That’s the main reason for the hype with both teams averaging more than 45 points per game. That said, there are some questions after LSU managed 23 points against Auburn last game and 36 at Mississippi State the week before that. Alabama doesn’t have the best defense, but it’s a step above most of the teams LSU has faced.
Joe Burrow has been awesome for the Tigers, completing 78.8% of his passes on 10.8 yards per attempt for 30 touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s helped by a stud core of receivers in Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall.
LSU has also been solid running the ball behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who is at 5.9 yards per carry. But this offense loves to pass, which is why Burrow attempted 42 passes in the win against Auburn even though Edwards-Helaire was averaging more than five yards per carry on his 26 rushes.
It remains to be seen how good Alabama’s defense is having faced a slew of mediocre opponents. It’s allowing 15.3 points and 180.1 passing yards per game, but beating up on Tennessee and Arkansas doesn’t mean much.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Burrow carved up this defense, though it also wouldn’t be surprising if LSU struggled again considering it failed to score in last year’s meeting.
Of course, the bigger question is the status of Tagovailoa, who was injured a few weeks ago. If he can’t go, the Crimson Tide will likely take a run-first approach, which would change how the game looks.
If LSU gets a lead, asking Mac Jones to keep up on the scoreboard will be difficult. Jones has been fine in limited appearances, but he’s averaging 8.7 yards per attempt against weaker defenses, whereas Tagovailoa is at 11.2 for the season.
Either way, Alabama’s receiving corps may be the only one in the country that can contend with LSU’s, led by DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs. Running back Najee Harris is also a little banged up, but he should be good to go.
If Jones starts, Harris and Brian Robinson should get a heavy dosage in order to keep the mistakes down in the passing game.
LSU has been stout against the run, allowing less than 100 rushing yards per contest, but similar to Alabama’s defense, a lot of that has to do with competition. The Tigers have been exploited by a variety of offenses and even gave up 6.5 yards per carry to Vanderbilt’s top running back earlier in the season.
If Tagovailoa can’t play, this is the perfect spot for LSU to take hold and be the favorite to win the SEC and reach the College Football Playoff. Easier said than done, but the Tigers have the quarterback to do it.
With or without Tagovailoa, it’s still hard betting against Alabama at home. Saban has heard all of the talk about Burrow since the beginning of the season and this is the time to put an end to that if his defense comes to play.
LSU has covered in its last five road games, while Alabama has failed to cover its last five at home against a team with a winning road record. The under has hit in the last five meetings between these schools and the Crimson Tide are 5-1 ATS in the last six.
Our Pick – LSU +6.5