If things play out as they should, Alabama should beat LSU on Saturday and continue their march toward an SEC West title and possibly more.

But things don’t always work out as planned, right?

Bama lost to Texas A&M in an October upset, but the Crimson Tide didn’t really lose anything except its margin of error. They can’t lose again and feel confident that they could make the College Football Playoff. If Bama wins the rest of its games, it’s business as usual. They’ll go on to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta to play Georgia and, if Bama wins, they’ll be playing in the college football’s Final Four. That pretty much ends any notion that Bama might not be fully motivated to play LSU.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which LSU pulls the 28-point upset and beats Alabama this weekend, especially since the game is in Tuscaloosa. If Alabama takes care of their end of the deal, this should be an easy, perhaps even stat-padding, win for the Crimson Tide. Who would have ever dreamed we would have said that just last year when LSU ended the 2019 season with a perfect 15-0 record and a national championship?

LSU had seemingly caught Bama way back then. There was reason to believe that LSU and Bama could split the series instead of seeing it dominated by one side. The latter had certainly been the case previously. Before losing to LSU, Alabama had won 8 consecutive games against the Tigers. That’s a hard streak for LSU fans to swallow considering the Tide had the coach who led their Tigers to a national championship in 2003. After a brief stopover in the NFL, Bama grabbed Nick Saban and the rest is, well, historical.

LSU’s season has been an implosion to rival all others. Rumors swirled about off-field incidents and coach Ed Orgeron’s job security before the season started. The NCAA had come snooping around. It has only gotten worse since.

LSU floundered on the field early in a loss to UCLA followed by SEC losses to Auburn, Kentucky and Ole Miss. Other than UCLA, all of those teams were ranked at the time. One could also make the argument that the UCLA loss was understandable. The 38-27 loss came as many LSU players were displaced and the Tigers had to move practice to Houston because of Hurricane Ida. Injuries were also a factor in the poor showing earlier this season. However, the whole situation had gotten untenable.

When even more rumors leaked out about Orgeron, the Tigers decided to make a move. Even if you didn’t believe Orgeron could be a national-championship winning coach, it was hard not to root for a great character that got his dream job and made the SEC more interesting as a whole.

Alabama will most likely beat LSU on Saturday, but that’s not the future that Crimson Tide fans should be concerned about. Their greater concern is who will LSU hire to replace Ed Orgeron. Michigan State’s Mel Tucker is the flavor of the day after he led the Spartans to a win over rival Michigan last week. However, Tucker, once an assistant coach at LSU, is just one of many who could have success in Baton Rouge and challenge Saban, if he does indeed coach 10 more years as he said recently.

The state of Louisiana is 4th in the nation if NFL players produced per capita according to a report in October by The Clarion-Ledger and there is a certain loyalty to that program that is rarely seen in recruiting. Typically, if LSU wants an in-state prospect to play football for the Tigers, he’ll play football for the Tigers. Saban has changed that a bit since his time at Alabama. However, if LSU can win again, they should keep most of the in-state prospects they want.

LSU is a program to keep an eye on despite how messy things are now. More than any other school in the current SEC West, the Tigers have the potential to change a one-sided series into a rivalry again. Other states, like Mississippi, which was No. 1 in the nation in NFL players per capita, have elite high school talent like Louisiana but no team currently has the facilities and the in-state talent to compare to Alabama, which happens to be No. 5 in the nation in NFL players produced per capita. Texas A&M would certainly be in the argument for teams that can consistently rival Alabama, but the Aggies have always played second fiddle to Texas in that state.

On the field, injuries and complacency with a season in the dumps will almost assuredly undermine LSU’s chances against Alabama. The only real hope for LSU is that some of their players continue to work and play hard in order to showcase their talent against the nation’s elite program. That, however, is a stretch to think that a little bit of motivation could lead to an LSU upset. Bama fans should be watching something else in addition to the game on Saturday. Who will LSU hire?

If LSU doesn’t make a strong hire to replace Orgeron, then LSU could slip into the abyss as they had before Saban was hired before the 2000 season. It’s hard to believe, but LSU only won 7 games in 2 seasons combined before Saban arrived in Baton Rouge. Yes, you read that right — combined. LSU need look no further than to Tennessee to see what a bad hire — or 3 — can do to the program. However, if LSU makes the correct hire, the school can look at their opponent on Saturday to see what could be.