LSU has best shot at beating Alabama in years

By Ed Daniels, Clarion Herald Sports

If not now, when?

That’s what LSU fans should be asking as next Saturday’s game at Alabama approaches.

There’s no better time, to end a losing streak against the Tide that runs all the way back to January 2012 in the Superdome.

If not now, when?

LSU has an edge at quarterback.

It seems almost ridiculous to write such a thing, as over the last eight meetings, Alabama quarterbacks have been so much more productive than their purple-and-gold counterparts.

However, Joe Burrow has thrown for 2,805 yards, the second-most in the FBS after games were played on the final weekend of October.

And, Alabama has a significant quarterback question: Will Tua Tagavailoa, dealing with a high ankle sprain, return to start against the Tigers? If so, how effective will he be?

His backup, Mac Jones, threw four TD passes in a rout of Arkansas. But, Mac Jones against Joe Burrow? Jones has thrown 67 passes in his college career. Burrow has thrown 260 this season, with 30 going for touchdowns against only four interceptions. Advantage LSU.

Defensively, Alabama has smothered the Tigers. In last November’s 29-0 stomping in Baton Rouge, the Tigers were held to 196  total yards. Alabama had 576. LSU hasn’t scored a point against Bama in Baton Rouge since 2014.

Ouch. Domination.

One year later, Alabama’s defense was ranked 19th in the FBS, against a weak schedule. The LSU defense, getting multiple starters back from injury, climbed to 24th.

The stakes for both programs in this game could not be higher, in both the short and long term. An LSU win at Alabama puts the Tigers in the driver’s seat in the SEC West.

Only two losses in LSU’s final three games could deny the Tigers the West title. And, LSU will be heavily favored against Ole Miss on the road and Arkansas at home.

If LSU finishes the regular season unbeaten, with four wins against top 10 teams, it would be hard to keep the Tigers out of the CFP final four, even with a loss in the SEC Championship Game.

An LSU win also would give another boost to recruiting. The week of the Auburn game, LSU landed a commitment from the No. 1 tight end prospect in the country. The commit by Arik Gilbert of Marietta, Georgia spoke volumes. In the past, playing the tight end position at LSU was akin to being another offensive tackle.

An LSU win would be quite a blow to Alabama. Alabama could still reach the playoff by winning out. But, in recruiting, LSU, already ahead of Alabama in the class of 2020, would be in the same neighborhood as the Tide, a thought almost inconceivable a year ago. But, that’s what a revamped offense and a Heisman contender at quarterback has done for LSU.

Joe Burrow’s record as the LSU starter is 18-3. A 19th win on Nov. 9 would turn him from beloved in Tigertown to a legend.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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