'Best of the best': LSU and Alabama set for another massive meeting

John Zenor
Associated Press
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow

Tuscaloosa, Ala. — Alabama and LSU are ready for another 1 versus 2 November get-together.

It took eight years, seismic offensive shifts and two Heisman Trophy-contending quarterbacks, but they’re back for another massive meeting between the nation’s two top-ranked teams in the AP poll.

No. 1 LSU (8-0, 4-0 SEC, No. 2 CFP) meets No. 2 Alabama (8-0, 5-0, No. 3 CFP) Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, just like the so-called Game of the Century in 2011. Well, not just like it since those comparatively plodding offenses never reached the end zone and now the Tigers and Crimson Tide have two of the nation’s best.

Even President Donald Trump is expected to attend.

“It’s very exciting, 1 vs. 2, it’s the best of the best,” Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy said. “Everybody wants to play their best game because it’s 1 vs. 2. You want to go out there and show that you’re the best. So there’s a lot of excitement, a lot of anxiety, just ready to go out and play.”

The big question leading up to the game is the status of Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and his surgically repaired right ankle. Coach Nick Saban has said that will be “a game-time decision,” but Tagovailoa has been practicing and ‘Bama remains a 5½-point favorite.

If he’s healthy, it has the makings of an epic quarterback showdown: Tagovailoa and LSU’s Joe Burrow rank among the top three nationally in completion percentage and passing efficiency. Burrow is second in passing yards per game and Tagovailoa is seventh.

The offenses bear scant resemblance to those in the 2011 field goal festival, won 9-6 by LSU in overtime. Alabama won the rematch 21-0 in the national championship game and hasn’t lost to its SEC West rival since then  an eight-game win streak.

Both teams again have their sights set on SEC championships and playoff berths. LSU has polished its resume with three wins over Top 10 teams, and perhaps could overcome a loss in Tuscaloosa or the SEC championship game. Alabama hasn’t faced anybody currently ranked, and might not have that luxury.

“We went on the road and (played) a really good Texas team, played Florida, Auburn,” Burrow said. “So we’ve been challenged, and I think that’s going to help us a lot this week, facing the adversity we’ve had this year … We have a really mature team.”

Saban has been cautious, or maybe just coy, in public comments about Tagovailoa’s status. The 2018 Heisman Trophy runner-up has missed the past six-plus quarters since getting injured against Tennessee and had a surgical procedure on his right ankle.

Mac Jones took his place.

“Tua’s worked hard to try to get back where he has an opportunity to play,” Saban said this week. “He’s been able to practice some. We still don’t know what his status for the game is going to be. We’ll make it when the game comes. We don’t know what kind of setbacks he’s going to have and how he’s going to continue to progress. So, there’s nothing else I can really say about it.”

Alabama’s Najee Harris and LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire are still threats, even if they’ve been overshadowed by the quarterbacks and wide receivers. Edwards-Heilaire has run for 683 yards and eight touchdowns while Harris has gained 642 yards with five scores. Both are also receiving threats out of the backfield.

President Trump is visiting his third sporting event in recent weeks, having attended Game 5 of the World Series and an Ultimate Fighting Championship match in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The president’s decision to attend Alabama-LSU, Tide receiver Henry Ruggs III said “shows the magnitude of the type of game that this could be.”

Added Burrow: “Regardless of your political views, that’s pretty cool, having the president at the game.”

LSU at Alabama

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.


Records: No. 1 LSU 8-0, 4-0 SEC; No. 2 Alabama 8-0, 5-0

Line: Alabama by 5½