Rapid Reaction: Alabama pounds LSU, leaves no doubt who is the No. 1 team in the country
Here’s one: Is there any doubt now whether Alabama is the best college football team in America? Not after dismantling No. 3 LSU 29-0 before a raucous capacity crowd at Death Valley to capture the SEC West crown.
LSU played nearly perfect defense in the first half Saturday night. The Tigers intercepted Tua Tagovailoa, the first time that has happened this season. They held Alabama scoreless on the Tide’s opening drive, the first time that has happened this season. They tackled the Tide’s fleet receivers, rather than allowing them to run wild. Nobody had done any of that.
The result? Tagovailoa still threw for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first 30 minutes — putting him on pace for his first career 400-yard game. No. 1 Alabama absorbed LSU’s best shot, its Super Bowl effort, and went into halftime ahead 16-0. The Tide’s defense yielded 67 total yards, just 5 first downs and, most important, zero points.
And that was the rub entering the SEC’s Game of the Year: Even if the Tigers’ NFL-talent laden defense could slow down Tagovailoa, could its offense score enough to make it matter?
It couldn’t. For the eighth consecutive time, it couldn’t.
It wasn’t easy. But considering the number of future NFL players in this annual showcase, it never is. There’s a reason Alabama had only topped 40 points three times in this series.
Tagovailoa shook off his first interception of the season by directing a 2-play, 54-yard touchdown drive on his next chance. He found Jerry Jeudy for 29 yards and hit Irv Smith Jr. for a 25-yard touchdown to make it 16-0. It was the eighth consecutive game in which Tagovailoa threw at least 2 TD passes in the first half.
Devin White, suspended for the first half, returned for the second half. It didn’t matter much.
Even when LSU pushed Alabama behind the chains, Tagovailoa answered. Usually with his arm, but his career-long 44-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-8 made it 22-0. He outgained LSU on that carry alone.
LSU slowed down Alabama’s offensive juggernaut. But it didn’t matter. Not on a night where Alabama’s defense played its best game of the season.
The Tide limited LSU to negative rushing yards for three quarters. Nine of the Tigers’ first 10 drives ended in punts. The other? A missed field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Alabama’s defense celebrated that miss, its shutout intact. Not long after, Alabama’s offense celebrated another touchdown.
Tagovailoa contributed to the 80-yard drive with a 24-yard toss to Jeudy, essentially ending his 295-yard night. Bama’s run game took care of the rest. Damien Harris capped a 100-yard night with a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 29-0.
Mack Wilson sealed the Tide’s second shutout in three years against LSU with a DB-like leaping interception in the end zone. The victory margin was the most lopsided since the Tide’s 31-0 victory on this same field in 2002.
LSU was a worthy adversary, but Alabama left no doubt Saturday night who owns the SEC West. And it erased any lingering questions about who is the best team in the country.
Well, unless you’re a Georgia fan. Fortunately, we’ll get the answer to that in the SEC Championship Game in the rematch everybody wanted.