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Going into last week’s bye for both teams, LSU vs Alabama was expected to be number one versus two and the highest-profile SEC regular-season game this decade. While Ohio State ended up earning the number one spot in the first official College Football Playoff rankings this week, unbeaten LSU and Alabama are right on their heals at two and three, and this game remains just as important. Two teams historically more known for defense bring in their best offenses in recent years being led by two of the best quarterbacks in the country in Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. In a game that will have immediate College Football Playoff implications, let’s take a deeper look and see where we can find an edge.
LSU Tigers @ Alabama Crimson Tide
Saturday, November 9th, 2019 – 3:30 pm EST
Alabama -6 O/U 62.5 (via PointsBet)
The talk all week has been the (improving?) health of Tagovailoa’s ankle and all indications, especially with the magnitude of this one, are that he’s going to play come Saturday afternoon. The junior quarterback, who has 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions, underwent surgery less than a month ago, and all reports indicate he is planning to make himself draft-eligible come the spring. For head coach Nick Saban, who annually has to deal with a coordinator carousel bolting for greener pastures and promotions, this Crimson Tide defense is having an uncharacteristically average year. Through eight games, they rank 16th in the FBS allowing 307.9 yards per game, and while they haven’t had any exceptionally close calls, they haven’t been able to pull away from teams as they have in the past (4-4 ATS). Alabama has had to rely on Tagovailoa, who is second in the nation in yards per attempt (11.2), to make plays out of the backfield and post 48.6 points per game (also second in the FBS).
After a Week 2 win on the road at Texas, Burrow and this Tigers’ offense has seemingly gained confidence each week on their way to averaging 46.8 points per game. Their number two ranking has certainly been earned, with wins over both Florida and Auburn in the last three weeks of October. While the defense has been adequate for the schedule they’ve faced, allowing 316.5 yards and 20 points per game, the offense has been on a scorching pace led by Burrow and junior running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire who has eight touchdowns on the season. Burrow, who’s a senior and also has his eye on the NFL Draft, has emerged this season as one of the top quarterbacks in the country and a sure-fire Heisman candidate. Through eight games, Burrow has 30 touchdowns to just four interceptions and leads the country with an astounding 78.8% completion rate. This is an LSU team that is pass-first as well, averaging over 32 attempts per game.
When this line originally opened over the summer as one of the “Games of the Year,” Alabama found themselves 16.5-point favorites. Between the Crimson Tides’ lackluster defense and the emergence of Burrow as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, this line has continued to drop even since opening earlier in the week at seven. When this game kicks off on Saturday, Tagovailoa will be just three weeks to the day removed from ankle surgery that has kept him from full speed to this point. While this will be the most hostile environment LSU has played in all season, this is an upper-classmen led team who is battle-tested that I expect to lean into the fight in Tuscaloosa. With a full-strength 2018 Tagovailoa, I see the Crimson Tide as a touchdown favorite. With a hobbled Tagovailoa and a down Alabama defense, I’ll take my shot here with the best LSU team I have seen since JaMarcus Russell.