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NCAAF

Nov 08, 2019

LSU at Alabama

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No. 1 LSU Tigers at No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide

Venue/Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Time/TV: Saturday, Nov. 9, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Alabama -6, Total 63

Head-to-Head Meetings (2014-2018)

2018 - Alabama (-14) 29 at LSU 0, Under 51.5
2017 - Alabama (-20.5) 42 vs. LSU 10, Under 46.5
2016 - Alabama (-7) 10 at LSU 0, Under 46
2015 - Alabama (-7.5) 30 vs. LSU 16, Under 46.5
2014 - Alabama (-7) 20 at LSU 13, Under 46.5


Since a 2011 regular-season meeting when LSU won 9-6 over Alabama in overtime at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Crimson Tide has beaten the Tigers eight times in a row, including a revenge beatdown to win the national title in New Orleans two months after losing by a field goal in OT.

Nick Saban’s team is 6-2 against the spread in those eight victories, with six of them coming by double-digit margins. Only three of the eight games have been played in Tuscaloosa (four in Baton Rouge, one in The Big Easy), but Alabama won each of those by 14 points or more. However, LSU did take the cash in its last visit here, losing 24-10 as a 20.5-point road underdog in 2017.

When these teams met at Tiger Stadium last season, Alabama (8-0 straight up, 4-4 against the spread) rolled to an easy 29-0 victory as a 14-point road ‘chalk.’ Although star quarterback Tua Tagovialo was playing at less than 100 percent with an ankle and knee injury, he was healthy enough to complete 25-of-42 passes for 295 yards and two TDs with one interception. Also, he scored on a 44-yard TD run midway through the third quarter that basically clinched the game and gave the Tide a 22-0 lead.

Najee Harris ran for 83 yards on six carries, while Jerry Jeudy had eight receptions for 103 yards. Henry Ruggs III had four catches for 55 yards and one TD, while Jaylen Waddle had four grabs for 44 yards. Alabama enjoyed healthy advantages in first downs (29-13) and total offense (576-196).

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron revealed this week that QB Joe Burrow played that game with a separated shoulder. The grad transfer from Ohio State connected on just 18-of-35 throws for 184 yards with one interception. The Tide blanked the Tigers on the ground, allowing only 12 rushing yards on 25 attempts.

What’s different about this year’s meeting? Well, for the first time in more than a decade, LSU brought back an experienced QB that had proven he could win big games. The Tigers also went out and hired Joe Brady away from the New Orleans Saints. Brady spent two years on Sean Payton’s staff before Orgeron hired him as LSU’s wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.

The 30-year-old Brady has been given much of the credit for LSU finally opening up the offense. After all, offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger has been on the staff for 10 years. The Burrow-Brady combination has produced more offensive fireworks through nine games than LSU fans have seen since the days of Tommy Hodson under center in the late 1980s.

When the initial College Football Rankings were released earlier this week, LSU and Alabama were second and third, respectively, behind top-ranked Ohio State. However, LSU can lose Saturday’s showdown and possibly work its way back into the top four. It owns wins over Florida (No. 10) and Auburn (No. 11), and the Tigers won 45-38 at Texas in Week 2 before a rash of injuries on defense sent the Longhorns’ season into a downward spiral.

As for Alabama, it has zero wins over teams currently in the CFP’s Top 25. With a loss here, it won’t be able to add a quality victory over sixth-ranked Georgia in Atlanta. Therefore, even by winning out, the Tide would only have a win at Auburn (which might take a third loss when it hosts Georgia next weekend) to boast about as a quality victory. They did win at Texas A&M, though, but it’s unlikely that the Aggies can win at Georgia or at LSU in the coming weeks (they’re currently double-digit ‘dogs in both spots at the Westgate SuperBook).

For Alabama to lose vs. LSU and still make the CFP, it would need Auburn to beat UGA and for Texas A&M to win at UGA and and LSU. Even in that scenario that’s extremely unlikely, the Tide still might need more help. Those are the stakes for Saban’s program, which hasn’t been left out of the CFP since its inception, on Saturday when the Tigers come calling.

As of early Friday evening, most books had Alabama listed as a six-point favorite with a total of 62.5. The Tigers were +190 on the money line.

The key to this game is going to be the health of Tagovailoa, who injured his ankle in a 35-13 home win over Tennessee. He had tightrope surgery on his ankle the next morning. We should note that’s it not the ankle he uses to plant his foot before throwing. That ankle needed the same procedure after last year’s SEC Championship Game. Tagovailoa had more than 30 days to recover in that instance, and he still didn’t play up to his lofty standards in the 44-16 loss to Clemson.

Tagovailoa is listed as ‘questionable’ or as a game-time decision. Barring some sort of setback in the next 18 hours, though, there’s no doubt that he’s going to try to play. The question is how effective he’ll be and if he’s able to last after taking hits to his lower body.

I spoke with one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the Southeast earlier this week. Dr. Michael Gilmore, who was a three-year starter at safety for the Florida Gators from 1991-94 and had nine interceptions in ’93 and ‘94, performed three of these tightrope ankle surgeries last week.

Remember, Tagovailoa’s procedure was done on the Sunday morning (Oct. 20) after the UT game. Therefore, 20 days will have passed by kickoff Saturday afternoon. I asked Gilmore what sort of expectations there should be for an elite young athlete 20 days removed from this surgery. Gilmore told VegasInsider.com, “I’ll tell you it’s really hard to be back to full speed at three weeks playing with that medical condition. I know he is being tended to like a King 24/7 and they have a great medical staff at Alabama, but it’s still tough to get back so quickly. I would be extremely surprised if he were back playing full speed this week, and I guess that’s why we keep hearing “game-time decision.”

When pressed on a percentage in a best-case scenario, Gilmore said, “Seventy, maybe 75 percent. Maybe that’s enough for him to be effective, though. What’s going to be an issue is scrambling around. I just don’t think it’s possible for him to be moving around at full speed this soon.” Alabama is only 2-3 ATS in five home games this year, but it was favored by at least 34.5 points in all three non-covers. The Tide has won each home contest by 22 points or more.

Tagovailoa missed the second half against the Volunteers and sat out a 48-7 home win over Arkansas two weeks ago. Back-up QB Mac Jones hit 18-of-22 throws for 235 yards and three TDs without an interception. However, most of those passing yards came on YAC (yards after catch) by Alabama’s sensational set of wideouts. Jeudy had seven receptions for 103 yards and two TDs, while DeVonta Smith caught four balls for 67 yards.

Harris rushed 13 times for 86 yards and two TDs against the Razorbacks, while Ruggs had four catches for 47 yards and one TD.

For the season Tagovailoa has completed 74.7 percent of his passes for 2,166 yards with a 27/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also has a pair of rushing scores. Tagovailoa’s career stats are absolutely insane! They look like this: 22-1 record in 23 starts, 81/10 TD-INT ratio and nine rushing TDs.

Harris has run for a team-best 642 yards and five TDs, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Brian Robinson has 356 rushing yards, four TDs and a 4.7 YPC average.

Smith has 43 receptions for 721 yards and nine TDs, while Jeudy has 52 catches for 682 yards and eight TDs. Ruggs has 26 grabs for 513 yards and six TDs, and Waddle has hauled in 21 receptions for 297 yards and one TD. Harris also has 16 catches for 171 yards and four TDs.

Alabama’s defense isn’t as salty as it’s been for most of Saban’s dynastic 13-year tenure. Nevertheless, the numbers still stack up well nationally, but let’s remember how the Tide’s schedule has been soft. Whatever the case, Alabama is ranked 16th in the country in total defense, 12th in pass defense, 33rd at defending the run and ninth in scoring ‘D’ (15.2 points per game).

LSU (8-0 SU, 5-3 ATS) is 3-0 both SU and ATS on the road, winning at Texas, at Vanderbilt (66-38) and at Mississippi State (36-13). The Tigers also own home scalps over Florida (42-28) and Auburn (23-20).

LSU is ranked fourth in the nation in total offense, second in passing yards and fourth in scoring with its 46.8 PPG average. Burrow, who is currently the ‘chalk’ to win the Heisman Trophy at all betting shops (more on this in Nuggets below), has completed 78.8 percent of his passes for 2,805 yards with a 30/4 TD-INT ratio. He also has 125 rushing yards and three scores.

Justin Jefferson has 55 receptions for 819 yards and nine TDs, while Ja’Marr Chase has snagged 43 catches for 749 yards and nine TDs. Despite missing three games, Terrace Marshall Jr. has 22 grabs for 333 yards and seven TDs.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire has run for a team-best 683 yards and eight TDs, averaging 5.9 YPC.

Dave Aranda’s LSU defense is ranked No. 23 in the country in total defense, 14th against the run and 23rd in scoring ‘D’ (20.0 PPG). This unit is led by junior safety Grant Delpit, who garnered first-team All-American honors in 2018 when he had 74 tackles, five sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, nine passes broken up, five interceptions and four QB hurries.

Delpit has missed a lot of practice since injuring his ankle against Auburn two weeks ago, but he was upgraded to ‘probable’ on Friday. He’s recorded 43 tackles, four PBU, 1.5 TFL’s, one QB hurry and one interception this year. True freshman CB Derek Stingley has emerged as one of the nation’s best shutdown corners, living up to his five-star billing all year. Stingley has 22 tackles, nine PBU and four interceptions.

LSU senior LB Michael Divinity left the team on Monday for personal reasons. He is ‘out’ at Alabama and most likely done for the season, although Orgeron seemingly suggested that there was a slim possibility he could return later in the season. Without question, it was an inauspicious start to game preparations for the Tigers. Divinity had missed three games this year, at least two of which were clearly related to disciplinary matters. In five games, he had 23 tackles, a team-best three sacks, three QB hurries, one TFL and one forced fumble.

Since Orgeron took over for Les Miles in October of the 2016 campaign, LSU has thrived in SEC road games with a 9-4 SU record and a 10-3 ATS mark. As a road underdog on Orgeron’s watch, the Tigers have compiled a 4-0 spread record with two outright victories.

Totals have been an overall wash for ‘Bama (4-4), but the ‘under’ is 3-2 in its home games. The Tide has seen its games average combined scores of 63.9 PPG.

The ‘over’ is 5-3 overall for LSU, 2-1 in its road assignments. The Tigers have seen their games average combined scores of 66.8 PPG.

The ‘under’ has cashed in five straight Alabama-LSU meetings and is on a 9-1 run in the last 10 encounters. The highest previous total over the past decade was 54 points in 2013, when ‘Bama won 38-17 and the 55 combined points inched ‘over’ the number.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET. on CBS.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Alabama is listed as 24.5-point favorite at Mississippi State for their Week 12 matchup at The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. Jay Kornegay and his staff’s new Iron Bowl number this week had the Tide down to single digits (-9.5) for the first time this year. LSU is a 20.5-point home favorite vs. Texas A&M at the Westgate.

-- Alabama owns a 10-2 SU record and an 8-4 ATS ledger against LSU in the past 12 meetings dating back to 2008.

-- During its eight-game losing streak to Alabama, LSU hasn’t scored more than 17 points once. In fact, the Tigers have been shut out three times, and they’ve only score 10 total points in the past three encounters.

-- There’s a ticket on Burrow to win the Heisman Trophy available for sale at PropSwap for $8,600. The ticket was purchased for $300 at 75/1 odds to pay out $22,500.

-- Ohio State star DE Chase Young is ‘out’ vs. Maryland and possibly longer due to an NCAA issue. Young is the nation’s leader in sacks with 13.5 and is second in forced fumbles with five. In a post on social media, Young explained that he accepted “a loan from a family friend I’ve known since the summer before my freshman year at OSU. I repaid it in full last summer and I’m working with University and NCAA to get back on the field as soon as possible.” After recording four sacks and forcing two fumbles in a win over Wisconsin two weeks ago, Young emerged as a potential sleeper Heisman candidate and before this news broke Friday, many books had him with +800 odds to win the award.

-- Vanderbilt QB Deuce Wallace will get his first career start at Florida. Vandy signal callers Mo Hasan and Riley Neal are both ‘out’ with concussions. On the bright side for the Commodores, who are 2-6 SU and 1-7 ATS, they will get back star WR Kalija Lipscomb, who dressed out but didn’t touch the field in last week’s 24-7 loss at South Carolina. Derek Mason deemed Lipscomb’s absence due to personal reasons, but last year’s SEC leader in catches is a go against the Gators. UF linebacker Jeremiah Moon is ‘out’ with a foot injury. Florida is a 27-point home favorite at most books.

-- Bad News for Bettors: Akron is off in Week 11. The Zips are 0-9 both SU and ATS, but they do return in Week 12 with a televised MACtion showdown on Tuesday night (11/12) vs. Eastern Michigan.

-- Nebraska is mired in a 0-6 ATS slump. After starting 3-1 and then 4-2 after a home win over Northwestern, Scott Frost’s second team in Lincoln has lost three consecutive games at Minnesota (34-7), vs. Indiana (38-31) and at Purdue (31-27). The Boilermakers knocked off the Cornhuskers without All-American WR Rondale Moore, and they needed third-string QB Aidan O’Connell to orchestrate a pair of fourth-quarter TD drives. Jeff Brohm confirmed Tuesday that back-up QB Jack Plummer will miss the rest of the season. The third-year head coach added that he’s ‘not optimistic’ about the chances of starting QB Elijah Sindelar returning this year. Frost fell to 8-13 since taking over at his alma mater.

-- Northwestern has scored more than 15 points only once this season. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a more pedestrian Power Five offense in the last decade. Pedestrian doesn’t even do it justice; let’s go with pathetic instead! The Wildcats are DEAD LAST in scoring with a 9.5 PPG average that ranks No. 130 out of 130 FBS teams. Their total for Saturday’s home game vs. Purdue is 39 points. According to Jon Roser of Grind City Media in Memphis, Northwestern has zero TDs and seven turnovers in its last 44 offensive possessions.

-- Kansas State has won three in a row both SU and ATS. The Wildcats are seven-point underdogs at Texas. They’re 33-14 ATS in their past 47 games as road underdogs. Meanwhile, Texas has limped to a 4-9 spread record in 13 games as a home favorite during Tom Herman’s tenure. The Longhorns have had two weeks to prep for Kansas State.

-- Michigan State WR Darrell Stewart is ‘out’ indefinitely with a leg injury. Stewart has 47 receptions for 694 yards and four TDs. Spartans’ starting center Thomas Allen is also ‘out’ for Saturday’s home game vs. Illinois and, like we noted last week, All-American LB Joe Bachie was suspended by the NCAA last week for testing positive for a banned substance. Mark Dantonio’s team has lost three consecutive games by a combined score of 100-17. On the flip side, Illinois has won three games in a row and has covered the spread in four straight contests. Lovie Smith’s club, a 14.5-point road underdog, has produced a 4-1 spread record with a pair of outright wins in five games as a double-digit underdog in 2019. The Illini will almost certainly be favored at home vs. Northwestern in its regular-season finale. They need just one more win to secure the first bowl bid of Smith’s tenure. If he can lead his team to victory in East Lansing as a +500 money-line underdog, Illinois will probably go 7-5 this year and instead of getting fired, Lovie might end up getting an extension.

-- Indiana QB Michael Penix is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.

-- BYU QBs Zach Wilson and Darren Hall are both listed as ‘questionable’ for Saturday’s home game vs. Liberty.


Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards

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