Pick-6: Can LSU end streak? Can Alabama survive loss? Week 11's biggest storylines in SEC
It feels like we’ve been building toward this for 3 years.
Ed Orgeron finally gets his wish: a fair fight vs. rival Alabama.
Orgeron has the QB he wants running the offense he needed. The results have been historic.
Today in Tuscaloosa, we will get the definitive answer on exactly how much LSU has changed.
LSU scored 9 points the last time it beat Alabama, in 2011. Since then, LSU has been shut out 3 times in its 8-game losing streak against the Tide.
The moment is here.
Obviously it’s the biggest of the 6 storylines I’ll be following closely today in and around the SEC in Week 11.
1. Joe Burrow was built for this
We’ve written plenty about Burrow this season and even more this week.
This is his stage. If he doesn’t play well, it won’t be because the moment was too big. He buried that possibility long ago, beginning with last year when he got up off the turf and led a severely depleted Tigers team past an undefeated UCF team riding a 25-game winning streak in the Fiesta Bowl. He’s since beaten 3 more teams ranked in the top 10.
That’s 4 wins vs. top 10 teams in his past 9 starts.
Want to know something even more incredible?
He overcame deficits each time.
- Down 11 vs. No. 8 UCF, won 40-32.
- Down 4 at No. 9 Texas, won 45-38.
- Down 7 vs. No. 7 Florida, won 42-28.
- Down 3 vs. No. 9 Auburn, won 23-20.
Adversity is just a stage prop, not a dream-dasher.
2. Did LSU learn anything from Clemson?
I’ve written this several times, that LSU has put so much emphasis on this game that it essentially builds Alabama into this perfect, practically unbeatable machine.
Clemson doesn’t do that. The Tigers twice have beaten undefeated Alabama teams to win the national championship. Last year, they took a hammer to the Tide’s pride, shattering its aura of invincibility.
Clemson respects Alabama but doesn’t believe it has to play the perfect game. It just has to play like Clemson.
But Clemson wasn’t alone in how it attacked the Tide last year. Alabama finished last season by allowing 300 yards passing in 3 consecutive games.
Jake Fromm did it in the SEC title game. Kyler Murray did it in the Playoff semifinal. Trevor Lawrence sealed with 347 yards and 3 TDs in the championship game.
There is no reason LSU, with its NFL stable of wideouts and potential 1st-round QB, can’t produce similar numbers today.
Since Saban arrived, Matt Flynn is the only LSU QB to top 300 yards against the Tide, and he threw for 353 in Saban’s first year.
Zach Mettenberger is the only LSU QB to even reach 200 yards passing during this 8-game losing streak. Burrow only had 184 last year.
3. Can Jerry Jeudy take over?
Tua Tagovailoa’s ankle is the biggest storyline of the game and potentially the rest of the season. Everyone is assuming he will play.
He put up big numbers last year against LSU, but the Tigers’ DBs made him work for it.
Alabama’s longest pass play was 30 yards. LSU’s DBs stayed stride-for-stride with Bama’s receivers and all but eliminated the yards-after-catch.
Jerry Jeudy is being mentioned as a potential early 1st-round pick. He moved the sticks last year, but he didn’t have a single explosive play.
Alabama’s strength is that it has 4 eventual NFL receivers. But LSU will counter with just as many eventual NFL DBs, including 2 of America’s best in Grant Delpit and Derek Stingley Jr.
The Tide don’t necessarily need Jeudy to take over, but this is the kind of game where next-level stars show why. Julio Jones averaged 110 receiving yards in 3 games vs. LSU.
4. Don’t forget about Najee Harris
He’s the X-factor. If LSU stays small in the back end with 7 hybrid linebackers/DBs protecting the pass, Harris could be an effective tool rushing or receiving.
I particularly like his impact on swing routes, where he can get outside containment and use his physical gifts against slower OLBs or smaller DBs.
He rushed for 83 yards on just 6 carries in last year’s win.
LSU will have to decide what it wants to stop, and that, coupled with Michael Divinity’s absence, will create opportunities outside the tackles for Harris.
5. Bye-bye, Gophers
Minnesota’s Playoff dreams — overhyped that they are — will meet reality today against visiting Penn State.
Penn State is nearly a touchdown favorite, on the road.
The reason I’ll be paying attention is I want to see how well Penn State stacks up against Ohio State. Whoever wins that game in 2 weeks will be a heavy, heavy favorite to win the Big Ten championship and secure a Playoff spot.
6. Can Tennessee finish 5-3 in the SEC?
What a crazy thought, right?
It’s possible. The Vols have had 1 winning season in the SEC since Phillip Fulmer was fired. Butch Jones’ 2015 team went 5-3. That’s it.
The Vols’ first step to rejoining the Big 3 in the SEC East is to pound the Other 4.
That task continues today against a Kentucky team that still thinks it’s capable of winning 8 games.
Kentucky and Vanderbilt, historically, are part of the Other 4. (Missouri started hot as an SEC member but hasn’t posted a winning record in league play since 2014.)
These used to be automatic Ws under Fulmer. Nothing will cool Jeremy Pruitt’s seat faster than helping the Vols own November again.