LSU hasn't scored a win over SEC West rival Alabama since 2011. Thanks to a rebuilt Tigers offense, and an injury that may hamper Crimson Tide Heisman hopeful Tua Tagovailoa, this could be the year that Alabama's eight-game winning streak in the series is snapped.
Tagovailoa will almost definitely miss this weekend's game against Arkansas. That shouldn't be a major issue for the Tide, as backup Mac Jones should be good enough to get past a Razorbacks team that is struggling mightily in year two under Chad Morris.
With a bye week following this Saturday's game, it is believed that Tua should be able to play against the Tigers on Nov. 9.
What is unclear is how mobile he will be on his sprained ankle, and how effective he'll be against an athletic if susceptible LSU defense.
Earlier this week, FS1's Joel Klatt expressed concerns about Tagovailoa in that matchup. His ESPN counterpart Kirk Herbstreit shares many of the same ones. If the Alabama quarterback isn't able to play up to his normal standard, this could be the year that Alabama is upended en route to the College Football Playoff.
He discussed as much on this week's episode of "The College Football Podcast with Herbie and Pollack." Via BamaOnLine:
“After this week, it’s the bye week,” Herbstreit said. “He’s so talented he can take mental reps in that bye week and study LSU and really get tuned in. You hope to get a day or two of practice out of him the week leading into the game. Here’s the concern, though. You’re going to throw him out, potentially, in what I think is going to be a shootout. I don’t think Bama will stop Joe Burrow. I just don’t. I think LSU, if Tua is healthy, has a hard time stopping Tua and that offense. So, the game means you need Tua healthy. If he gets dinged or he has to scramble, you just hold your breath every time he’s in some kind of contact. It’s one thing to rest after a high-ankle sprain and that procedure, give it two-and-a-half or three weeks, and then you go out. You truly have not tested it until you get on the field that night.
“Now you’re hoping somebody doesn’t sack him, he doesn’t have to scramble, there isn’t some kind of collision that forces him instinctively to use some kind of extra effort. Now he’s pushing to get that extra yard. Now he’s straining that ankle. Now he’s back to square one. High-ankle sprain, anyone who has ever had one know, if you force it a little early to come back, you’re just a slight tweak away from going all the way back to where now you can’t even walk on it.”
This year's LSU team, with one of the country's most explosive offenses and a surprise Heisman frontrunner in Joe Burrow, is a much different animal than the conservative, run-first team we've seen for years in Baton Rouge. Alabama and LSU are both a bit worse defensively than normal, as well, with youth being a major factor on Alabama's side.
The Crimson Tide have not missed a College Football Playoff yet, but if they fall in a shootout to LSU and the Tigers run the table, it will be hard to sneak in without some serious help elsewhere.