BATON ROUGE – Turns out, Tua Tagovailoa can play in the fourth quarter – not that he really needed to. Given the teams’ paths through the season, the idea of a showdown sounded great but seemed a little forced, and it was. Alabama’s eighth consecutive win in the rivalry with LSU came via emphatic shutout, and served as a statement.
Tiger Stadium was revved up and as loud as it has ever been. But it didn’t matter at all. Alabama’s offense was slowed slightly, but only slightly. Tua and the Tide sucked the noise right out of Death Valley.
Here are three takeaways from No. 1 Alabama’s 29-0 victory against No. 4 LSU:
– So OK, Alabama’s offense is not quite unstoppable. LSU’s defense did a nice job of making things much more difficult than the Tide had faced in its first eight games. The Tigers even shook up Tagovailoa, sending him to the sidelines for one play in the first quarter. But mostly, they chased him in vain. And against Alabama, you’d better bring some semblance of an offense yourself if you hope to have a sliver of a chance.
And in the final analysis, Tagovailoa was super, again: 25-of-42 for 295 yards and two touchdowns. He punctuated it all with a 44-yard burst for a third-quarter touchdown that stretched the lead to 22-0.
Even Tagovailoa’s first interception of the season – a deep pass picked off by Todd Harris inside the LSU 5 late in the second quarter – worked out OK, serving almost as a punt. After the Tigers went three-and-out, Alabama set up near midfield and needed only two plays to score. Tagovailoa’s 25-yard teardrop to tight end Irv Smith was perfect. The Tide led 16-0, and the only realistic question left was if Tagovailoa would play in the fourth quarter.
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– Ed Orgeron has galvanized LSU, which fell out of realistic Playoff contention but might still be headed for at least 10 wins. But in the end, what we suspected was exposed. Despite that 7-1 start and the lofty ranking in the initial College Football Playoff Top 25, the Tigers are not elite.
They’re held back by a familiar issue: the same ol’ offensive approach, and the same ol’ (lack of) production. For most of the season, they survived because of great defense. But against Alabama – which has a good defense, but not a dominant one – LSU was unable to produce much of anything. In the decisive first half, the Tigers managed 67 yards on 29 plays, a 2.3-yard average. They crossed midfield twice.
For LSU to climb back to where its fans believe it should be – which in the SEC West, means for LSU to beat Alabama – the Tigers’ offense must upgrade into the 21st Century
– Alabama will face another talented defense next week, when Mississippi State visits Tuscaloosa. But the Bulldogs are offensively challenged like LSU. Which means Tagovailoa and Alabama might not score on every possession – though they might – but they’re unlikely to be in much danger of an upset. Auburn remains on the schedule (and, ahem, the Citadel) – but repeat with us, offensively challenged. We’re easily to the point where it feels completely safe to fast-forward to Alabama-Georgia in the SEC championship game with a playoff berth on the line.
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