There are two games going on in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. One of them is LSU vs. Alabama, which is going to be a boring blood-sucking.
The other is Alabama versus a 21-point spread, and that one has the potential to be much more dramatic. Those marks LSU’s getting are the most for either team in this series in at least 20 years.
Spoiler alert! The team that lost to Troy three games ago isn’t going to beat Alabama on the road.
The Tigers have a positive passing game this year, but they’re still probably not scoring more than a few points. They’re not going to stop Alabama’s stable of elite running backs from running roughshod behind a powerful O-line, and it’s actually against the law for LSU to run for more than 3.3 yards per carry against Bama’s defense.
There are game plans that can beat Alabama. The most recent successful one involved throwing a lot, somehow being incredible at it, and having Alabama also throw a lot, but being bad at it. Steve Sarkisian is present in Atlanta, unfortunately for LSU. Too many things would have to happen for an upset.
So, let’s talk about the real drama here: Does Alabama cover?
For gamester who’ve selected to spend money in LSU staying within three touchdowns of the Tide, I’ve prepared a sort of field guide.
This is what the Tigers have to do in order to make you money on this game.
It is not an example of LSU actually winning because I’m not out to con anyone.
1. Encourage LSU to shorten the hell out of this game.
The Tide are a dominant running team. Their passing game’s fine but still a work in progress. So, you’d think: LSU’s gotta just load the box on defense and make Jalen Hurts beat them through the air.
Well, maybe, but we’re more concerned with LSU covering than actually winning.
LSU must play with two high safeties all night. The Tigers must let the Tide systematically continue because that burns clock. After every tackle, root for an LSU defender to lie on top of the guy with the ball. Root for the LSU offense to run the clock down. Root for Bama field goal attempts on 12-play, 87-yard drives.
2. Delight very difficult for LSU’s embattled punters.
LSU is not a particularly good field-position team, in part because its punting has been terrible. The Tigers have co-starting punters now, sophomore Josh Growden and 27-year-old former minor league baseball pitcher Zach Von Rosenberg.
Alabama must have to visit 65 yards or more, in order for LSU to beat the spread. If the Tide are starting at their 36 all the time, they’re going to score too quickly for LSU to have a chance at beating the spread.
3. Hope LSU can run the ball against Alabama.
4. Pray for Nick Saban to bring in his backups early.
The Tide haven’t played anyone of consequence yet, and this is a rivalry game. Saban may be want to continue the score even after LSU’s body is cold just so he can give the Playoff committee a nice data point.
But backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has appeared in seven of eight games. He’s one of 17 true freshmen to play this year for the Tide because Saban doesn’t have time to redshirt kids who are going to leave for the NFL after three years anyway. Tagovailoa’s a five-star and not much worse than Hurts, but even Alabama rookies make mistakes sometimes.
If the Tide have a 28-3 lead with five minutes left, that’s when things get interesting for our friends in the desert. If Saban has a bunch of freshmen on the field, they’ll be hungry, but will they hold up?
Alabama is beyond teams 107-9 in the first quarter, but only 57-35 in the fourth. That suggests the spread will at least be in play.
Anyway, Bama’s probably going to cover.
Alabama’s 4-4 against the spread. LSU’s 3-4. The Tide are favorites in every game they play, and they often cover anyway, most recently a 36.5-point line against Tennessee.