Raise your hand if, after Week 1, you had LSU playing in a November game with the SEC West on the line. If your hand is up, I now know you are a liar.
The Fighting Tigers, in their first season under Brian Kelly, have exceeded all expectations, especially after they lost in embarrassing fashion to Florida State to kick off their season. However, since then, they’ve become a completely different team, racking up wins over Mississippi State, Florida on the road, and Ole Miss. This group has found an identity under Kelly, but a familiar foe stands in their way if they want to win the SEC West.
Outside of a couple of instances, Alabama has completely dominated this rivalry, particularly in Baton Rouge, where the Tigers haven’t won in over a decade. In fact, LSU has only beaten Alabama at home five times since 1958, and two of those wins came with Nick Saban as their head coach.
The last time LSU beat Alabama in Death Valley was 2010, and the recent contests haven’t been close. The Tigers have only scored 10 points combined in their last three matchups versus Alabam in Baton Rouge, but expect that to change come Saturday.
LSU vs. Alabama
Line: Alabama -12.5
Another aspect of this matchup that makes it so compelling is Brian Kelly vs. Nick Saban. When Kelly left Notre Dame for LSU, many people thought it was a shallow move that made little sense, but it didn’t even take one year for it to become abuduntly clear why Kelly moved to the SEC. He hasn’t even had the opportunity to recruit his own guys, and this matchup will already present his best chance to conquer Saban and the Crimson Tide.
LSU is rightfully underdogs in this contest, and it will take their best game of the season to upset Alabama. However, their offense, led by Jayden Daniels, has shown signs of life over the last two weeks. Daniels is responsible for 11 total touchdowns, as the Tigers have racked up 90 points against Florida and Ole Miss.
Alabama’s defense will present an entirely different level of test for LSU, however, particularly up front, led by one of the most fierce pass rushing units in football. That could be a recipe for disaster against LSU’s young offensive line. If the Tigers can’t stop Alabama’s pass rush, it will be another long night in Baton Rouge.
Even if LSU can manage to score, they’ll still have to find a way to stop Alabama’s offense, led by 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young. This unit for the Crimson Tide has some flaws. Their receivers struggle to get separation, but Young doesn’t need much room to work his magic. Alabama’s offensive line has also looked better of late, and Jahmyr Gibbs is one of the premier running backs in the country. I see LSU having a lot of problems keeping Alabama off the scoreboard.
Overall, LSU’s story this season is nice, but they are running into a far superior team. In a couple of years, this could once again become one of the best rivalries in the sport, but the first matchups between LSU’s Brian Kelly and Nick Saban will go to the Crimson Tide.
Alabama 42, LSU 20
Photo: Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire