In arguably the biggest game of the regular season, No. 2 LSU went to No. 3 Alabama and won in Tuscaloosa 46-41, marking the first time the Tigers have won in the rivalry since 2011. LSU had scored a total of 73 points in the previous eight games of the series, all losses, but it scored 33 before halftime on Saturday, then added 13 in the second half.
Here are our takeaways from the game.
Joe Burrow’s Heisman moment
Joe Burrow has been excellent all season but to keep up that high level of play on the road against No. 3 Alabama in primetime goes in a different category, especially since he was sharing the field with Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
Burrow completed 31-of-39 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns.
With LSU’s remaining schedule of at Ole Miss, home against Arkansas and Texas A&M, this was Burrow’s biggest remaining regular season game and he should have the opportunity to continue putting up big numbers, especially against Ole Miss and Arkansas.
Tua Tagovailoa didn’t look completely healthy
To no huge surprise, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa didn’t look like he was at 100 percent on Saturday. The game’s opening drive ended with Tagovailoa fumbling the ball at LSU’s 8-yard line despite not being touched. The fumble wasn’t directly due to his ankle injury but likely one of the ripple effects of his ankle injury – not having much experience in the last two weeks where he was running as fast as possible with multiple defenders chasing him in a high-pressure situation. He switched which hand he was holding the ball with and the ball simply slipped out.
Later in the first half, LSU’s defensive line chased him out of bounds on third down, forcing him to throw the ball away, and Tagovailoa’s stride looked choppy.
The CBS broadcast showed backup quarterback Mac Jones warming up on the sideline during the middle of the third quarter so Alabama was preparing for the possibility that Tagovailoa might be too hurt to finish the game.
He finished with a respectable stat line of 21-of-40 passing for 418 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Mishaps on both sides but especially by Alabama
In addition to Tagovailoa’s costly fumble, the Crimson Tide botched a punt after punter Ty Perine bobbled a perfect snap, giving LSU the ball at Alabama’s 40-yard line. On the very next play, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow threw an interception but Alabama had 12 players on the field and Burrow wisely snapped the ball, triggering an illegal substitution infraction, giving the Tigers an additional five yards.
Two plays later, Alabama was called for offsides and LSU ultimately settled for a field goal.
Two Alabama possessions later, Alabama was stopped on 4th & 1 as the Crimson Tide ran a wildcat look with Slade Bolden, who was stopped just about one chain length short of a first down.
When Alabama did score a touchdown on its next drive, kicker Joseph Bulovas missed the PAT.
At the end of the first half, Tagovailoa was picked off by LSU linebacker Patrick Queen, Alabama’s Landon Dickerson was flagged for a cheap shot that resulted in the Tigers getting the ball half the distance to the goal line, and Burrow threw a touchdown pass to running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the next play.
It gave LSU a 20-point lead at halftime.
In the middle of the third quarter, Waddle waved for a fair catch near Alabama’s 10-yard line, only to back up and catch the ball near his team’s goal line, pinning his team deep in its own territory.
Jerry Jeudy dropped a potential touchdown catch in the third quarter and Tagovailoa later sailed a crossing route to Waddle.
Alabama just looked a half-step off for much of the first half and made several uncharacteristic errors.
LSU wasn’t perfect in its own right, allowing a punt return for a touchdown by Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle, having a PAT blocked and having coaches on its sideline calling the attention of cornerback Derek Stingley, who then looked to the sideline as the ball was snapped and got burned on a 64-yard touchdown reception by DeVonta Smith.
Maybe the names and brands of LSU and Alabama prevent us from viewing those mishaps as we would if the names on the front of the jerseys said Michigan State and Northwestern, for example, but this still felt like a high-level game – just one with its fair share of preventable mistakes.
A monster game from Najee Harris
Saturday is why Najee Harris was the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2017 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings. He finished with 190 total yards and two total touchdowns, including 146 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Given the stakes, the stage and the production, this was arguably the best game Najee Harris has had in an Alabama uniform. He had gone over 100 yards rushing three times before Saturday but those were against Southern Miss, Texas A&M and Tennessee, with none of the rushing totals surpassing 115.
After sharing Alabama’s backfield with Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris last season, it felt like Harris finally came into his own with a truly dominant performance in Tuscaloosa, including a one-yard touchdown run that cut LSU’s lead to 33-27 after the PAT.
Alabama could (actually) be in trouble for making the playoff
We’ve seen Alabama get the benefit of the doubt from the selection committee in the past, most notably in the 2017 season when the Crimson Tide finished in second place in the SEC West at 11-1 but still made the playoff as the No. 4 seed. But that season, Alabama had two wins over opponents that finished the season in the CFP rankings – LSU and Mississippi State.
Right now, Alabama’s only hope for a win over a ranked opponent is Auburn, which could finish the regular season at 8-4 and might only be ranked in the No. 17 to No. 20 range. Losing at home, even to a really good LSU team, and likely not having a great resume in terms of opponents beaten is a dangerous combination for a playoff hopeful.