Best ever? The 2019 LSU team would have beaten the 2020 Alabama team
The 2020 Alabama season was a lot like the 2019 LSU season.
The 2020 Alabama team was a lot like the 2019 LSU team.
The Crimson Tide won the CFP championship with a 13-0 record.
The Tigers won the CFP championship with a 15-0 record.
Both teams had Heisman Trophy winners, both teams had record-setting offenses, both teams had late-blooming defenses and both teams mostly routed the opposition in the regular season and dominated in the postseason.
Both can make compelling cases for having had as good a season as any team in college football history.
But which was better? Which had the better season? Which would prevail if the two teams were able to meet on the football field?
Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winner was a wide receiver (DeVonta Smith), but LSU had a comparable receiver in Biletnikoff winner Ja’Marr Chase.
LSU’s Heisman Trophy winner was a quarterback (Joe Burrow), but Alabama had a second Heisman Trophy finalist in quarterback Mac Jones.
Alabama had an elite running back in Najee Harris and LSU had an elite running back in Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Alabama’s offensive line was voted the best in the country, just as LSU’s was.
The most noticeable difference between the two seasons was the presence of COVID-19 for the Crimson Tide’s championship run and the absence of it for the Tigers’ championship run.
That difference was most clearly manifested in the schedules the teams played in the regular season. Alabama played a 10-game All-SEC schedule and LSU played a traditional pre-COVID 8-game SEC schedule and 4-game nonconference schedule.
The bottom line was that Alabama picked up SEC games against Kentucky and Missouri and LSU had nonconference games against Georgia Southern, Texas, Northwestern State and Utah State.
Alabama didn’t have a one-score margin of victory the entire regular season. Its smallest margin of victory was 15 points against Ole Miss. LSU had 3 one-score margins of victory in the regular season – beating Auburn by 3, Alabama by 5 and Texas by 7.
Alabama’s regular-season margin of victory was 30 points, LSU’s was 27.
Alabama won the SEC Championship Game by 6 points against Florida, and LSU won the SEC Championship Game by 27 points over Georgia.
Alabama won its CFP semifinal by 17 points over Notre Dame, and LSU won its semifinal game by 35 points over Oklahoma.
Alabama won its championship game by 28 over an Ohio State team missing multiple starters due to COVID, and LSU won its championship game by 17 points over Clemson.
The most notable difference between the teams was the degree of championship experience between the head coaches.
The Crimson Tide’s championship was the 6th at the school for Nick Saban and Saban’s 7th, counting the one he won at LSU after the 2003 season.
The Tigers’ championship was the first for Ed Orgeron.
That disparity would have given Alabama a clear advantage, but not an insurmountable one if the teams had met.
If they had played, Smith would have been covered mostly if not exclusively by Derek Stingley Jr. Smith would have made a bunch of plays, and Stingley probably would have made a few of his own.
Both offenses would have marched up and down the field and made a whole bunch of big plays.
Occasionally the defenses would have gotten stops. A mere two or three stops by either defense would have been enough to decide the game.
Probably the team with the ball last would have won.
But one way or another Burrow would have done what Burrow did during his runaway Heisman Trophy season – make as many big plays as necessary to make the difference.
LSU would have won by a touchdown.