June 18, 2024

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The Sports Fanatics

Alabama vs. LSU score, takeaways: No. 2 Tide survive inconsistent play, strong effort by Tigers

No. 2 Alabama survived a scare from rival LSU on Saturday night despite playing at home in Bryant-Denny Stadium as a 28.5-point favorite. The Crimson Tide pulled off a 20-14 win despite inconsistent play in all three phases of the game, including a missed field goal and extra point that made the game closer than it should have been in the fourth quarter.

LSU quarterback Max Johnson’s 30-yard prayer fell incomplete as time expired, but it wouldn’t have mattered as a facemask on the final play of the game would have allowed Alabama escape from a Tigers squad that played hard on behalf of lame duck coach Ed Orgeron. The Alabama stand came after an all-out blitz forced Johnson to get rid of a pass to Jack Bech off of his back foot on fourth-and-9 to protect the six-point lead with 2:36 to play. This after Tide QB Bryce Young fumbled and the Tigers recovered on the Alabama 41-yard line with 3:25 play.

LSU was able to hang with the Crimson Tide due to a stifling defense that shut down Brian Robinson and the Tide running game. Robinson managed just 18 yards on 13 carries, but did score one touchdown that tied the game at seven in the first quarter. The team as a whole gained just 49 sack-adjusted rushing yards — an average of 2.2 yards per carry. 

Young was able to shoulder the load despite the running game’s struggles, however. The redshirt sophomore completed 24 of 27 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns, one of which came with 48 seconds of the first half to give the Tide a 14-7 lead. That touchdown came five plays after Jayln Armour-Davis picked off Johnson to give the ball to the Tide at the LSU 39-yard line — a play that gave Alabama momentum for the first time in what was a sleep first half.

Johnson finished the day 16 of 32 for 160 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the losing effort.

Focus on the positives

Believe it or not, there are bright spots to take away from this game if you’re head coach Nick Saban. 

Linebacker Will Anderson, Jr. was the star of the afternoon. The redshirt sophomore had 12 tackles, four for loss, 1.5 sacks, one pass breakup and two quarterback hurries while essentially holding a mortgage in the LSU offensive backfield. Anderson did so at key times, especially early in the fourth quarter when he notched two tackles and two quarterback hurries — including one on fourth-and-7 on the Alabama 7-yard line with 6:46 to play — to thwart LSU’s last legitimate chance at the win. It’s not the first time Anderson has shined on the national stage, either. He had 2.5 tackles for loss against Ole Miss and 3.5 at Florida — two of the Crimson Tide’s biggest games of the year — to establish himself as one of the best defensive players in college football.

Young was, of course, the other bright spot. The redshirt sophomore was able to top the 300-yard mark through the air despite the lack of help from his running game and offensive line. Simply put, the deficiencies up front and on the ground have put a ton of pressure on the first-year starter all year, and he still finds a way to get the job done. Just wait until offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien fixes the Tide’s issues. 

Now … the negatives

We currently live in a world where the bigger, faster and stronger Alabama offensive line looks like a middle-tier FBS line than one that is supposed to dominate. Don’t get me wrong, Robinson and the other running backs have to do better as well, but they aren’t getting any help. 

This has become an alarming trend for the Crimson Tide. They’ve rushed for under 5 yards per carry in each of the last five games, three of which rank in the bottom half of the conference in rushing defense. It’s one thing to sleep walk against lesser competition. But this is to a point where it’s fair to call the rushing offense below average by normal standards, not just the elevated Crimson Tide standard. 

The inability to run the football is what makes Alabama a national title pretender as opposed to a contender. 

Give it to the Tigers

A round of applause for LSU’s players. The future is in doubt with the coaching change on the horizon, but instead of 85 players going in 85 directions, coach Ed Orgeron has found a way to keep his team motivated down the stretch. 

All it took on Saturday night was a little juice. The fake punt on the first drive of the game clearly loosened the Tigers up and allowed them to give Alabama’s its toughest test of the year outside of the Texas A&M loss. Punter Avery Atkins pulled up on a fake run up the middle and found Jack Mashburn for a 26-yard gain on the jump pass to keep the first drive of the game going. 

That’s just great coaching from Orgeron. He knows that Alabama has the ability to strike while the iron is hot, but that fake punt allowed his team to control the tempo and style of the game from the outset. Those players are still playing for him and for each other.

Alabama should fall in CFP rankings

It was a surprise to nearly every college football fan in the country when Alabama chimed in at the No. 2 spot in the first edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings, but it won’t be there for long. Selection committee members should recognize that the same problems for Alabama keep cropping up no matter who it’s playing. 

Sure, other top teams will make the committee’s job hard this week. No. 3 Michigan State fell to Purdue, No. 4 Oregon struggled with Washington and No. 6 Cincinnati survived a big scare from Tulsa. But, at this point, where’s Alabama’s signature win? Ole Miss is 7-2 and ranked No. 16, but other than that, it’s a win over Mississippi State — which will likely fall out of the rankings after losing to Arkansas. 

This isn’t a top-four team right now. If the committee puts it there, it’s because of brand recognition more than anything else.