Hard to Stomach: Putting LSU loss to Alabama in perspective
I picked Alabama to win. Let’s start with that fact.
That was no revelation or bold choice, though “homers” let me have it for doing so.
Of course, I felt and stated that LSU would be competitive and lose by 10-13 points. For those in the betting world, that would mean covering the spread.
The spread of food in front of me disappeared quickly Saturday night. Eating was the only way to stomach what we were watching. All 29-0 of it.
Later, that stomach of mine kept me up for hours on a night where we were supposed to gain an hour of sleep. Perhaps it was more the performance of the LSU offense than the stomach issues which kept the eyes wide open.
My eyes were wide open at the widening gap between Alabama and LSU football.
A year ago, the Tigers competed gamely up front in a 24-10 loss at Tuscaloosa. There was encouragement to take out of that contest, the belief that LSU was closing the gap between the two teams.
Then again, that Alabama team featured Jalen Hurts at quarterback.
With all due respect to Hurts and his record, he is not a patch on the knee brace of Tua Tagovailoa.
The new Alabama starter is simply brilliant and he has brilliant players around him.
Tagovailoa makes great decisions. He is calm. He sees the field extremely well. He is accurate. He can run, when needed, even with the knee brace.
While Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire are solid players and have done a nice job for LSU, Alabama’s running backs are clearly better in Najee Harris, Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs.
While LSU plays seven wide receivers, Alabama is clearly better on the outside than LSU with Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, III and Jaylen Waddle. Devonta Smith is good as well.
While LSU has a leader and solid player at tight end in Jesuit’s Foster Moreau, Alabama is better with Irv Smith.
Then, there is the matter of offensive line play.
LSU has done its best to hide its huge deficiencies in this department all season long. James Cregg has done a superb job of mixing and matching, due to suspensions and injuries. They were exposed at Florida. They were completely exposed last night.
Alabama destroyed LSU up front.
While the LSU defense held up as long as possible and can compete with Alabama’s defense, the fact of the matter is that the Crimson Tide amassed 576 yards. It helps when you have 79 snaps and your opponent only snaps it 60 times.
The Tigers rushed for 12 yards and they did not get out of negative yardage territory until the fourth quarter. It was no contest, embarrassing.
What is embarrassing for LSU and all Tiger fans is that Alabama has now shutout LSU three times in the midst of an eight-game win streak over its rival. That includes two of the last three games.
While everyone fretted over Les Miles and his ground-and-pound attempt to out-physical Alabama up front, Ed Orgeron’s offense has scored 10 points in three meeting with the Crimson Tide. So much for Matt Canada, Steve Ensminger and open formations!
Even when LSU’s big edge in the kicking game (see punting yard average, Edwards-Helaire kickoff return) manifested itself, LSU could not take advantage.
To add insult to injury, Cole Tracy, the best kicker in the nation, missed a short field goal which would have averted the embarrassment of another shutout.
Of course, it was embarrassing to see LSU try the field goal in the first place.
Down 22-0, a field goal leaves you three scores down. It made no sense, other than to save face by putting points on the board. Do the math. It was almost fitting that Tracy missed it.
Losing John Battle on the first play from scrimmage did not help LSU. Not having Devin White for a half certainly hurt.
That said, it made no difference. Neither plays offense.
Ja’Marr Chase was a five-star recruit. He saw one pass attempt which was incomplete. Terrace Marshall caught one pass. He was another elite recruit. Are they simply struggling to assimilate to the level of play as freshmen? Are they disappointing, to this point? Should they be getting the Tiger’s share of playing time, along with Justin Jefferson?
Then, there is the pain of watching Louisiana products shine for the Crimson Tide. In all, Alabama has 11 players with Louisiana ties.
Among those, Smith is a superb player from Brother Martin. Defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs of Ruston is a menace up front. He has the kind of size and quickness you need to be successful. While LSU has size up front on defense, it has no quickness on its defensive line. Defensive back Shyheim Carter of Kentwood has a pair of interception returns for scores. Linebacker Dylan Moses of University High committed to LSU as a youngster and switched to Alabama. He is a star. Smith, from Amite, is a good receiver.
Joseph Bulovas of Mandeville is the starting kicker for Alabama, though he had an uneven performance back in his home state last night. There are Phidarian Mathis of Neville and Eddie Smith of Salmen, along with Slade Bolden of West Monroe.
Of course, Saivion Smith originally signed and played at LSU and is now at Alabama.
Nick Saban is the best coach in college football history, in my estimation.
He has won national championships at two schools. He has dominated in an era of scholarship limits and more competition. Alabama deserves all of the credit and praise possible. The Crimson Tide and Saban have earned it.
Perhaps what is most frustrating to LSU fans is the putrid offensive performance in the eight-game losing streak. LSU has scored a total of 73 points in those eight games.
Texas A&M scored 21 points against Alabama while lowly Arkansas tallied 31. Tennessee, another poor team, scored 21 against the Crimson Tide. Even UL-Lafayette put 14 on the board, though Alabama was playing reserves. Can I get an Amen? How about a single point or two?
Losing is one thing but can you at least move the football, even a tad, or score any points?
For national television to fall for the hype of this matchup again, the folks in charge will have to think twice.
This has not been an entertaining game at all, most recently.
Now, there is the aftermath for Orgeron and LSU.
Can he get his team to rebound, re-focus and re-charge the batteries?
He has done so in the previous two years after losses to Alabama but none was hyped as much or was as big as the one last night.
Saturday night aside, Orgeron has done an excellent job with this LSU team. Losing Ed Ingram really hurt up front. It has produced a domino effect. While Joe Burrow is an upgrade over anyone else he would have had at quarterback, LSU still lacks the kind of play-maker needed at that position to challenge Alabama.
Arkansas has lost eight straight games. Rice has lost nine straight games. That should get you to nine wins. Texas A&M is solid but just 5-4 overall.
Would anyone have predicted LSU to win nine games with this team back in the summer? Would anyone dare to say he or she predicted 10 wins for this year’s Tigers?
This can still end up being a great season for LSU with an excellent bowl game bid awaiting the Tigers, perhaps even in New Orleans on New Year’s Night.
That is the big picture, what matters.
Alabama is simply on a different level.
In recent years, Ole Miss beat Saban a couple of times and its coach was run off for multiple violations. Auburn is the only other team to post multiple wins over its Iron Bowl rival with three wins in its last eight tries against Alabama, including two of the last five.
Everyone else in the SEC and country bows down to a superior program, at this point. Saban does not appear ready to retire anytime soon.
It will take relentless, mistake-free, superb recruiting to close the widening gap. Alabama leads the series 53-25-5 over LSU. The Crimson Tide has won the last eight, including six of those by double digits. Rivalries are all about competition. Until LSU can compete better with Alabama, this is not much of a rivalry. As a Louisiana native, that is hard to stomach.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…