Hey, internet: Here's 1 thing I don't want to see happen for Alabama or LSU on Saturday
One thing is for certain.
Come Saturday night, the Twittersphere will be buzzing with fire takes. Conclusions will be drawn based on what we see go down on the Bayou. That’s what happens when a pair of top-4 teams meet in November.
I have no problem with that — to a certain extent. If Alabama wins by 28 in Death Valley and you want to say that this is looking like an all-time team, that’s cool. If LSU stuns Nick Saban’s squad and you want to pencil the Tigers into the Playoff and say that they’re the team to beat in college football, there’s nothing wrong with that, either.
But I fear that fans are gonna fan and we’ll see one of two awful takes flying by night’s end, depending on who wins.
One of them is obvious. That is, if Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t set the world on fire and he actually struggles, we should just chalk up his first two months to Alabama’s weak schedule.
The other awful internet take that could surface is a little bit less obvious, but it seems inevitable. That is, if LSU loses, we all go back to thinking that Ed Orgeron isn’t one of the sport’s top coaches.
I hate both of those takes on so many levels that I’m getting mad online before they even surface. Well, at least I’m not getting as mad as some of the Alabama and LSU fans who reacted to this photo:
— Justin Nails (@justinnails) October 27, 2018
Let’s start with the guy on the left because as we know, all eyes will be on the Heisman Trophy frontrunner on Saturday night.
He’s already earned this larger-than-life persona with his play dating back to the national championship game comeback. It keeps building with each week that he lights up a defense and sits for the majority of the second half. What he’s done so far is as close to perfect at the position as you can be.
That’s all the more reason for the haters to pounce on something at the first sign of weakness. Nothing gets college football Twitter riled up like Alabama looking human for 5 seconds. I can imagine how Twitter would react if Tagovailoa came out and threw and interception on the first play.
“TUA IS SHOOK.”
“Tua finally faces a real defense and he falls apart.”
“Saban should put Jalen in.”
OK, if anyone actually suggests that last one, they should have their Twitter account suspended. Jalen Hurts ain’t Tagovailoa, and one interception won’t change that. Duh. Against arguably the top secondary in the country in arguably the most raucous road venue in the country, give me Tagovailoa over anybody in college football.
Speaking of that secondary, we shouldn’t be surprised if it makes a big play or two against the Alabama passing game. Maybe Tagovailoa has his first interception of the year, or maybe Grant Delpit blitzes off the edge and the lefty is sacked for the fourth time this season. That’s not crazy. Let’s not freak out if that happens.
If it doesn’t happen and Alabama continues its rampage through college football, let’s not decide that it’s because Orgeron can’t coach. That narrative should be dead by now. Getting LSU to a potential division title game in November with that gauntlet of a schedule is proof that Orgeron is far more than a figurehead and a pregame speech.
LSU avoided the trap games and rose to the occasion at every turn. We’re talking about a defensive-minded coach who’s leading a team that has gone 18 straight games without allowing more than 27 points. Alabama can’t say that, and neither can Georgia. Yeah, having a coordinator as good as Dave Aranda is a big reason LSU accomplished a feat like that. But anyone in that locker room will tell you that it ain’t the only reason.
Whether the college football world wants to admit it or not, Orgeron is as good of a bargain as there is in the sport at $3.5 million per year. Y’all. That’s what Chad Morris is making this year. That’s just more than half of what Gus Malzahn is making with his new deal.
That’s not bad for a guy who’s 13-3 (10-2 in the SEC) with six wins over ranked teams dating back to the start of October 2017. By the way, those three losses were all to top-25 teams away from Tiger Stadium.
Win, lose or draw on Saturday night, let’s not dismiss the job Orgeron has done. If Orgeron can’t beat the greatest coach of all time who has arguably his greatest team of all time, it should by no means erase that body of work. All signs point to LSU going to a New Year’s Day 6 Bowl and returning a ton of talent for what’ll be a preseason top 5 or at least top 10 team. A whole lot of programs would kill for that.
But I know the way this works. If LSU struggles (especially offensively) and Alabama continues the streak, the questions about Orgeron will surface. Some will wonder if the same thing that doomed Les Miles — losing too much to Saban — will prevent Orgeron from ever feeling like the long-term guy in Baton Rouge.
Barring a complete meltdown in 2018, that discussion should move to the back burner for the foreseeable future.
It would be classic SEC for the Orgeron doubt or the Tagovailoa nitpicking to come out on Saturday night. Both have been revelations this college football season.
Orgeron’s seat was as hot as it could’ve been, at least according to preseason prognosticators. Tagovailoa’s spotlight was as bright as it could’ve been, at least according to anyone who followed college football.
Both will have a major opportunity to add another chapter to what has been a season of exceeding expectations. People have been waiting for both of them to trip up, and with the exception of LSU losing at Florida, those chances have been few and far between. We know that either Orgeron or Tagovailoa will come up short on Saturday night. The internet trolls will come out in full force.
My suggestion? Just sit this one out.