Scooter Hobbs column: LSU likes its odds at Bama
Published 9:00 am Wednesday, November 1, 2023
The Bama folks, even the rational Crimson Tiders, will probably tell you that last year was a fluke.
For LSU. For Brian Kelly, who rolled the dice and went all in, double or nothing, with a 2-point conversion in the Tigers’ 32-31 overtime victory.
A walk-off victory with nothing to lose.
Email newsletter signup
Hear them out. They aren’t wrong.
Not that there really was any wild gamble involved in Kelly shoving all his cards on the table.
In that situation — Bama had scored first in the OT and logically kicked the extra point — it’s a no-brainer if you match the touchdown to go ahead and go for 2 and win or lose right then.
Kelly got a lot of credit for having the guts to do it. And give him credit. But I don’t know why any coach in Kelly’s situation would play it any differently, even though most do. All kicking an extra point there does is get you to a second overtime, where you have to go for 2 — and you’re at the disadvantage then because you’ll get the ball first.
Just needed to clear that up. Who knows? It could come up Saturday when the Tigers and Tide go at it.
But that’s not important or particularly relevant for this discussion and why last year was indeed a fluke.
The real head-scratcher was that it happened in Baton Rouge, right there in Tiger Stadium. Maybe, just maybe, Kelly cracked the code on the Tigers taking care of the Tide at home.
History says it’s far more likely for LSU to go on the road to Tuscaloosa and handle Bama, as will be the challenge come Saturday.
Aside from having the nation’s most potent offense, that might be the Tigers’ best selling point heading into into the SEC West showdown.
Somebody thinks so. The SEC Network’s Peter Burns, not me, did the research, and noted that Alabama as a 3 1/2-point favorite this week is Vegas’ closest projected margin for a Bama victory over LSU since 2008.
As I understand, the home team for these affairs generally gets three points off the top, just for being at home.
But that might not apply here.
I’d forgotten that LSU was the betting underdog when Joe Burrow & Co. rolled into Tuscaloosa in 2019 for a 46-41 victory which, in reality, wasn’t nearly as close as the final score. Burrow clinched the Heisman and Clyde Edwards-Helaire basically pitched a tent in the Tide end zone.
It might have been different in Baton Rouge.
You see, Alabama has generally owned Tiger Stadium like it was a cheap timeshare long before Nick Saban came along.
But Alabama soil has been much kinder for the Tigers.
No explanation for it really.
Historians will note that this rivalry was once played mostly in Birmingham when the Tide were hosting. At the time, Bryant-Denny Stadium was a shell of what it has become. It didn’t even have laser-light shows. Looked more like a Texas high school stadium.
But they’ve been gussying it up ever since, upwards of 100,000 seats with all the trimmings.
The game moved to Tuscaloosa for good in 1988, either from the fear that Legion Field was about to fall down on somebody’s head or that LSU had won three consecutive games in Birmingham.
If you count those last three wins in Birmingham (1982-84, ’86), LSU is 12-8 against Tide in Alabama since then, including at least one Game of the Century won 9-6 by LSU in 2011.
That was a really good LSU team that had the misfortune of getting a national championship rematch with the Tide in Louisiana (Superdome) and it did not go well (21-0 worth of misery).
There were far more glaring examples. In 1993 a 28-point underdog Curley Hallman LSU team — which less than a month earlier had lost 58-3 at home to Florida — stumbled into Bryant-Denny Stadium and snapped Alabama’s 31-game winning streak with a 17-13 upset.
Meanwhile, Alabama went from 1969 to 2000 without ever losing in Tiger Stadium.
But for our purposes here we’ll use 1988 as the cutoff, when Tuscaloosa became the Tide’s full-time home.
Since then, LSU has a 9-8 record in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Many teams would take that. Over the same time frame the Tide is 14-5 in Baton Rouge.
Nick Saban’s arrival complicated things, of course.
He’s 11-5 against the Tigers but three of the Tigers wins came at Bryant-Denny Stadium, which already has a statute of him outside the gates.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at email@example.com