TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 2 LSU ended an eight-game losing streak to its SEC West rival with a stunning 46-41 victory over No. 3 Alabama under the lights at Bryant-Denny Stadium. For the first time since 2011, the Tigers have beaten the Crimson Tide, and it was a game that felt entirely different than the one these teams played the last time LSU beat Alabama, 9-6.
The win not only got the proverbial Alabama monkey off LSU's back, but it put the Tigers firmly in the driver's seat in the SEC West. It likely cements Joe Burrow in front of the Heisman Trophy race as well. The LSU quarterback threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns, completing 31 of his 39 passes. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire combined for 180 total yards and four touchdowns (three rushing) in a star-making performance of his own.
The 46 points Burrow and the Tigers put on the board against Alabama were the most any team has scored against Alabama since Oct. 25, 2003, when Tennessee scored 51 points against the Tide. Of course, that game went to five overtimes and was only 20-20 at the end of regulation.
The game seemed over when Edwards-Helaire scored to make it 46-34 LSU with only 90 seconds remaining, but Alabama responded right away with an 85-yard touchdown to Devonta Smith to cut the lead to 46-41. LSU held on to win in a rare Game of the Century that managed to live up to the hype.
Let's break down the game with some takeaways from LSU's stunning, season-defining win over Alabama.
1. LSU is the best team in the nation: There, I said it -- and I won't apologize to Ohio State either (despite the thorough dismantling of Maryland on Saturday). What LSU did to Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium was historic. No, history shouldn't matter when discussing which team deserves the No. 1 ranking. But LSU just walked into the belly of college football's beast, ripped its heart out, stomped on it on the ground and threw it out like a used paper towel.
The 33 first-half points by LSU were the most in the the opening 30 minutes against a Nick Saban-coached since 1999, when Purdue -- led by quarterback Drew Brees -- dropped Saban's Michigan State squad 52-28. Burrow and passing game coordinator Joe Brady have transformed LSU's offense from the punchline of a very bad college football joke into the most prolific offense in the country. That's not what sets this team apart, though. The Tigers defense -- which hasn't been great all year -- rattled quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, confused coordinator Steve Sarkisian and created havoc in the backfield thanks to creative pressure dialed up by defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. K'Lavon Chaisson was the star of the show, including a thunderous third-and-short stop of Najee Harris on the Crimson Tide's first drive of the second half.
2. Burrow made a clear statement ... The senior signal-caller for the Tigers entered as the front-runner for the most prestigious individual award in sports and left the field with a grip on the stiff-arm trophy as tight as a bite from Mike the Tiger. Burrow stood tall in the face of enormous pressure and delivered strike after strike in tight windows all game long. He opened the game 9 of 9 and hit Ja'Marr Chase for the first score of the game in the blink of an eye. LSU never looked back. Burrow brought the fight to Bama and forced it to counterpunch. The only person who has done that in the last two years is Clemson's Trevor Lawrence … and we all remember how that worked out. That's the company Burrow keeps now. He's no longer the scrappy graduate transfer who changed a program; he's a transcendent college football legend with more in the tank.
3. ... but Edwards-Helaire put the Tigers on his back, too: The junior tailback was a star through the air and on the ground two weeks ago in the win over Auburn, and he shined even brighter on Saturday. Sure, his 103 rushing yards were great, but his heart was his biggest asset. With LSU up six on third-and-10 early in the fourth quarter, he caught a pass 8 yards shy of the sticks and willed his way to the Alabama 25 to keep the drive alive. That drive ended four plays later when he hit the circle button to spin past an Alabama defender and waltz into the end zone from 5 yards out. Burrow gets credit for the Tigers' turnaround this year, but Edwards-Helaire deserves his share for willing his team to a win when it counted most.
4. Don't forget Ed Orgeron: Take a moment to appreciate what it took for Orgeron to get here. In his first opportunity as a head coach at Ole Miss, he went 10-25 over three seasons and didn't win a single SEC game in 2007. He was given an opportunity as interim coach at USC when Lane Kiffin was fired in 2013 and led the Trojans to a 6-2 mark but got passed over for the full-time job in favor of Steve Sarkisian, who lasted just over one season. When LSU needed someone to fill in after it retained and then fired Les Miles, it was Orgeron who stepped up, again going 6-2 as an interim coach. The Tigers were on their way to passing over Orgeron for the job but wound up -- for lack of a better term -- stuck and gave him the opportunity after Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman passed. So what has Orgeron done since? He's led the Tigers to a 28-7 record the last three seasons, has LSU 9-0 and among the top two teams in the country in 2019 and improved his record against top 10 teams to 8-1 as coach of the Tigers. Can you say 2019 national Coach of the Year?
5. Tagovailoa's ankle wasn't an issue, but his sloppy play ... Tagovailoa's surgically-repaired ankle was the talk of the college football world for the last three weeks, but that quickly disappeared when he took the field on Saturday. This loss wasn't on his ankle. It was on Alabama's sloppy play, including his own miscues. His state line appears stellar. After all, he went 21-of-40 passing for 418 yards with four touchdowns. But he inexplicably fumbled without being hit inside the 10-yard line on the first drive of the game and threw an ill-advised interception near the end of the first half. Both led to touchdowns and were massive momentum plays in a game in which momentum was gold. Yes, Tagovailoa kept Alabama within arm's reach with his arm -- even until the bitter end when he hit Smith on the 85-yarder with under 2 minutes to play -- but that doesn't absolve him from blame. His ankle didn't stop Alabama from beating LSU. His play did.
6. It's time for Alabama to pray to the football Gods: Alabama has to win out and have LSU lose twice in order to win the SEC West. That's a problem considering the Tigers have Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M on the schedule. Let's make the safe assumption that LSU doesn't completely melt down. What does Alabama need in order to make the College Football Playoff? Chaos, plain and simple.
It made the CFP two years ago without a division title, but that was due to the lack of any other reasonable option. Conference championships and strength of schedule matter to the committee, and Alabama will likely have neither on its side on Selection Sunday. Undefeated Clemson will be in. Etch it in stone. The Big Ten champion will be in. Etch it in stone. The SEC champion will be in. Etch it in stone. Will a one-loss conference Big 12 or Pac-12 champion get in over the Crimson Tide? It's very likely. Pray to the football Gods, Tide fans. It happened once. It needs to happen again.
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