LSU's defense actually tested Alabama and 5 more takeaways from the Tide's dominant win


Different offensive coordinator, same result: LSU can’t score on the Tide.

LSU had just 3.3 yards/play against Alabama, which had its best defensive effort of the season by far. Oh, and also zero points.

But those stats don’t really tell the whole story of the game.

Sixty-five percent of LSU’s yards came on just its final two drives, once the tide were already up four scores. LSU’s first nine drives netted just 93 yards, or barely a first down per drive.

1. LSU had no turnovers, no touchdowns, and no field goals. Just nine drives and nine punts before Alabama pulled the starters.

I absolutely love what LSU has with its freshmen receivers, but they weren’t ready to pass this test. They were dominated all game, sometimes running right into coverage. LSU did not have a pass of 25-plus yards to a receiver.

It didn’t help that Joe Burrow looked like what his stats said he was: a decent QB, nothing special, and not a miracle worker. Nor that LSU’s offensive line got manhandled. Alabama nose guard Quinnen Williams simply dominated LSU up front, getting penetration right up the gut on seemingly every play. LSU’s running backs had 19 yards on 13 carries.

It was boring to watch.

LSU tried some tempo, which I don’t think hurt LSU’s defense as much as the broadcasters thought it did, but it was still not effective.

Granted, LSU is supposed to have a good offense. It has improved from recent years in some ways, but this was a really bad matchup for the Tigers. In the last five games of this series in Louisiana, the Tigers have scored just 30 total points. That is an average of less than a touchdown per game.

2. The real chess match of the game was Alabama’s offense against LSU’s defense.

This was as fun to watch as Alabama suffocating LSU’s offense was dull.

LSU was without superstar linebacker Devin White, who was suspended for the first half due to a targeting call in the prior game that I believe could have been prevented. In response, Alabama immediately went to work making LSU’s backup linebackers chase horizontal flow by using all sorts of jet motion. The Tide would hand the ball off on the jet to both running backs and speedy receivers like Jaylen Waddle, and then after a while they would throw play-action off of it.

The Tide then continued to build their offense with the RPO. Devin White is excellent at making the reads for the QB pretty muddy. Without him, the Tigers struggled to contain the Tide at times.

In the first half, LSU held Alabama to just 6.9 yards/play. That might not sound impressive, but consider that Alabama has been over the 7.0 mark in every full game this season, which consists of a ton of plays in garbage time while running out the clock. Holding this Alabama defense under 7.0 yards per play is solid, especially without Devin White.

The Tigers were also without safety John Battle, who was injured on the first series. LSU would operate out of a three-down look with an overhand defender and five or six defensive backs for most of the game.

3. For the first time this season, a team made the Tide work for its points.

It felt like Alabama didn’t get many cheap points in this game. LSU aggressively challenged Alabama’s receivers. There were few to no receivers running wide open down the field, like has seemingly happened in every Alabama game this season. Yes, the concerns about Alabama’s schedule are overstated, but the Tide had not yet seen a good secondary.

In LSU, it faced one of the nation’s best secondaries. Cornerbacks Greedy Williams and Kristian Fulton were every bit the equal of the Alabama’s receivers. And safety Grant Delpit was in on a number of plays.

But Alabama was up to the challenge. It earned its points. Tua Tagovailoa was 25-42 for 295 yards, two touchdowns, and gasp, an interception. He made several elite throws, including a great ball to tight end Irv Smith over the aforementioned Delpit.

LSU’s defense forced Alabama to beat aggressive coverage, to pick up blitzes, and identify different formations. The Tide did it. Fun battle.

4. Oh, and Alabama ran the football extremely well.

I was very surprised that Nick Saban, upon quickly recognizing that his defense would easily control LSU’s offense yet again, didn’t elect to run the football even more. It has to be tempting to chuck the ball all over the field with Tua and the Alabama receivers, but Alabama was finding running success almost whenever it wanted.

And the LSU rushing defense has been suspect this season. Florida ran for 215 yards, Mississippi State 201, and Ole Miss 150 against the Tigers. Alabama ran its split zone play well with backs Damien and Najee Harris, and tight end Hale Hentges kicking out.

5. LSU had great punt coverage

I wasn’t going to include this in the wrap-up, but it really was good. Waddle had very little room to operate all night.

6. Only two teams could do what LSU’s defense did against Alabama, but also maybe score some points.

Georgia’s defense, who Alabama will face in the SEC Championship might be able to do it.

More likely, though, would be Clemson. While Clemson does not have the secondary that LSU does, its defensive line is far better. And it has Trevor Lawrence and its own cast of elite receivers.

But even that might not be enough.

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