It’s been 92 years since LSU and Alabama played a football game in December.

Weird, I know. A post-rivalry week showdown is expected to be lopsided with Alabama entering as a 4-touchdown favorite against the defending national champs. Of course, it almost feels weird to still call LSU that when nearly that entire starting lineup is gone. The latest LSU starter from that national championship team to bow out was Terrace Marshall, who had himself an All-SEC season despite all of the moving pieces in Baton Rouge.

This game in itself is a moving piece. Hence, the first December game between these 2 teams in 92 years.

LSU is no longer dealing with the same number of COVID issues it had a few weeks ago, but the Tigers are still relying on a bunch of true freshmen to contribute Saturday night. Alabama, on the other hand, is looking to improve to 9-0 and continue its streak of 3-score wins. Oh, and Alabama hasn’t lost to a non-top 15 team since 2010.

That’s not “something’s gotta give.” That’s “we have a pretty good idea what’s gonna give.”

But nonetheless, here are all my thoughts (and a prediction) ahead of Saturday night’s showdown:

1. No Terrace Marshall vs. Patrick Surtain matchup bums me out

Marshall opting out ahead of easily his toughest matchup of the year is … nope. I’m not gonna say it. The timing of this is unfortunate because Surtain is playing at an All-American level this year. Watching Surtain and Marshall go back and forth would’ve been a treat. I’m not convinced that Surtain would’ve shut him down for 60 minutes, but we would’ve gotten a few of those 50-50 plays.

Given how prolific Marshall has been this year — DeVonta Smith and Kyle Pitts are the only Power 5 players with more touchdown catches — I can’t say I blame him for recognizing the writing on the wall. That is, he’s going to cash in on this season and with LSU out of the division title race, it might not be best for him personally to risk a dip in production with the LSU quarterback situation in flux.

Selfishly, yeah, it bums me out. There aren’t many receivers who have been better than Marshall dating to when he returned from injury in the middle of last season. LSU fans know that.

Will we perhaps see Surtain line up on Arik Gilbert? That would make for an interesting matchup, though he’s not quite as polished as a route-runner as Marshall. Oh well. Maybe we’ll get to see Marshall vs. Surtain in the NFL next year.

2. One Alabama streak died last week, but another lived

Alabama allowed a touchdown for the first time in 193 minutes and 11 seconds. It was the Crimson Tide’s longest streak since that historically good 2016 defense dominated the month of November.

But in November 2020, Alabama didn’t allow a single passing touchdown. Dating to the 3rd quarter against Tennessee, Alabama has now gone 197 minutes and 52 seconds without allowing a passing score. Surtain, Malachi Moore and the rest of this Alabama secondary have been phenomenal. It also helps to have a healthy Christian Barmore rushing the passer from the interior defensive line spot.

And yeah, Alabama’s opposing quarterbacks during that stretch won’t get Heisman buzz anytime soon. But that’s still bad news for an LSU passing offense that’s been wildly unpredictable since Myles Brennan went down. Whether it’s TJ Finley or Max Johnson, this is an uphill climb, especially with Marshall opting out.

3. Man, the LSU ground game has been a major disappointment

It won’t surprise anyone to know that LSU is No. 103 in FBS in rushing offense. Outside of that South Carolina game, the Tigers have been completely ineffective running the ball. They’re coming off a game in which they gained 36 yards on the ground. In 5 of 7 games, they failed to exceed 80 rushing yards, and in 1 of the 2 games in which they exceeded that mark, it was when they had 3.0 yards per carry against Arkansas. That South Carolina game was the only time all year that LSU had multiple rushing scores.


It seems like a lifetime ago that Clyde Edwards-Helaire went into Tuscaloosa delivered one of the best games I’ve ever seen a running back have at the collegiate level. This year, the Tigers have 4 runs of 20-plus yards, all of which came from Tyrion Davis-Price. Quite simply, if LSU can’t run the football, it doesn’t really have much of a chance. At least that’s been the case post-Myles Brennan injury.

A lot of this, of course, comes back to the play of the LSU offensive line. The group that won the Joe Moore Award as the best offensive line in America last year has been anything but that in 2020. The Tigers have been dominated up front in 3 consecutive games, especially against Texas A&M. The Aggies had 9 quarterback hurries and 3 sacks all while holding LSU’s tailbacks to 37 rushing yards on 18 carries.

It’s hard to envision LSU coming anywhere near the 166 rushing yards it had against Alabama’s depleted front 7 last year.

4. Has the LSU defense turned a corner?

While LSU’s offense was alarmingly bad against Texas A&M, the defense actually played its best game of the year against real competition. Kellen Mond, who came into Saturday playing the best ball of his career, was completely shut down by the previously horrendous LSU passing defense. The Tigers had broken up 17 passes in the 6 games before A&M, and then they went out and broke up 11 passes against the Aggies.

It helps when your preseason All-American plays his best game of the season:

The question now is if the Tigers have turned the corner or if it was just a one-off. Stingley and Eli Ricks are better players than the numbers would indicate, though obviously they haven’t always been put in the best spots by Bo Pelini. Jay Ward provided a major boost against Texas A&M, as well.

Again, there’s talent there. Nobody has questioned that. We rightfully questioned the communication and the effort level of Pelini’s defense. If things have clicked, perhaps that suggests this won’t be a total doormat down the stretch.

Then again, you can be a decent secondary and still get torched by Alabama. I’d argue that happened to LSU last year. This year? It feels like it’ll start with BJ Ojulari and Jabril Cox finding ways to get pressure on Mac Jones, which will be much easier said than done. He’s only been sacked 3 times in the last 4 games.

Either way, LSU is surely thankful to have a quality defensive showing under its belt heading into this one.

5. We’re due for a “feed Najee” game

If you’re an LSU fan fearing the worst, this won’t sit well with you. Najee Harris is arguably the best back in America right now. In the entire month of November, he got 24 carries (for 179 yards). That included just 11 carries in a blowout Iron Bowl win last week.

What am I saying? Don’t be surprised if Steve Sarkisian feeds him early and often. There should certainly be fresh legs for the Alabama tailback, who leads the nation with 17 rushing scores. By the way, Harris is just hitting his stride:

If Alabama blocks like that, forget about it. Harris will end the day with 175 yards and multiple walk-in touchdowns in a 30-point Alabama victory. If that happens, this won’t wind up being a 25-carry day because the game will be over by halftime.

My guess? Harris pounds LSU like Isaiah Spiller did last week and winds up being the offensive star of the game.

Bold, right?

6. Nick Saban revenge stats!

Last week when Saban tested positive for COVID, I realized that I had a bunch of revenge game stats to throw away. Don’t get me wrong, I still had them in mind. But if we’re discounting Auburn as a revenge game, well, don’t mind me while I copy and paste these Saban era revenge game stats from last week!

  • 12-2
  • No revenge game losses since 2015 Ole Miss
  • Only other revenge game loss was 2011 LSU
    • That was followed by 8 consecutive wins vs. LSU

Go figure that we actually got a pretty candid assessment of how Saban feels about revenge games:

“I never try to use that as a motivating factor,” Saban said. “Every season is different, every team is different. But do I think it is a motivating factor with individuals and players, I absolutely think it is. I think that awareness of what happened in last year’s game and all that is always something that players remember, think about how they felt after the game last year or whatever.”

This is the revenge game for Alabama. LSU had the dream season. LSU had the best offense in college football history. LSU had the Heisman Trophy winner. LSU rolled into Tuscaloosa and all but ended Alabama’s Playoff hopes.

Ed Orgeron’s viral postgame comments will be on the minds of many in that Alabama locker room. Nobody could’ve predicted then that LSU would have an exodus this massive, but here we are. If this goes Alabama’s way, don’t be surprised if you get those revenge game reminders in the postgame.

7. Ed Orgeron revenge stats!

I always forget that Orgeron is 12-0 coming off a loss at LSU. That’s darn good. Sure, he’s never had to face Alabama coming off a loss, but 12-0 in preventing a tailspin is impressive. Orgeron’s team did respond to the Florida loss by pounding Georgia in 2018, and LSU responded to that 7-overtime loss against Texas A&M by beating UCF in the Fiesta Bowl.

In those 12 revenge games, only Texas A&M (2016) and UCF (2018) exceeded 26 points. Again, none of those offenses were anywhere near the level of 2020 Alabama. That, we know. What we don’t know is if this will be a more competitive LSU team having experienced a deflating A&M performance.

It’ll take more than a humbling “Tell the Truth Monday” in order for LSU to continue that impressive post-loss streak in the Orgeron era.

Prediction: Alabama 52, LSU 17

Ugly. That’s how I think this one winds up looking.

I don’t think LSU’s pass defense improvements will be enough to slow down the Crimson Tide offense for 60 minutes. It’s too balanced. There’s a reason this group hasn’t been held under 35 points since the start of 2019. I’m not banking on Bo Pelini being the dude to change that.

I’m also not banking on an LSU true freshman quarterback turning things around against a scorching-hot Alabama defense. This Alabama secondary does too good of a job capitalizing on mistakes. The fact that Marshall won’t be there to provide LSU with that key mismatch makes me even less optimistic about the Tigers sustaining drives. This has the makings of a long day for the LSU starting quarterback, who will struggle against an Alabama pass rush that only needs to send 3 to be effective.

The all-important question will end up being how much Saban wants to run it up. After LSU came into Tuscaloosa and did what it did last year, will we see Jones still throwing in a lopsided game in the 4th quarter? How long will Alabama keep its foot on the gas? There will certainly be opportunities for Alabama to remind LSU about the balance of power throughout the 2010s. Don’t expect those opportunities to go to waste for Saban’s squad.

Bold, right?