Scooter Hobbs column: It won’t be a snooze fest
Published 12:00 pm Friday, November 3, 2023
Confession time: I honestly don’t have a clue who will win Saturday’s LSU-Alabama game.
But I will crawl way out on a limb and promise you, unequivocally, that it won’t take an overtime to reach a 9-6 final score as they conspired to do in 2011.
Remember that one?
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The rest of the nation was well into Southeastern Conference fatigue at the time. That LSU victory in the Game of the Century was widely cited by the naysayers as proof positive that the SEC, far from being dominant, in truth just hadn’t joined the offensive revolution that was getting traction at the time.
A few, of course, called it “real” football. Old-school traditionalists, the gray beards fond of honest defense and field position, enjoyed it immensely. But the rest of the world warned that, if that sort of thing caught on, college football might fall asleep.
You’d have thought the Tigers and Tide were threatening to bring back the flying wedge, maybe give the Notre Dame box a whirl in a futile effort to maybe, somehow add a real touchdown to the revelry.
What they always failed to mention was that, when not playing each other that season, LSU averaged 41 points per game and Bama averaged 39. And that was with both using, at best, pedestrian quarterbacks — Bama had A.J. McCarron and the Tigers upped the ante with a two-quarterback tandem of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson.
They needn’t worry this time around. There’s absolutely no danger of a repeat of that Defensive Game of the Century.
More likely, if you’re sniffing around for an LSU victory, it would be a replay of 2019 when the Tigers streaked their way to a 46-41 victory over the Tide. The quarterbacks in that game were Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovialoa (which I still can’t pronounce). The difference was evident, the points much easier.
After the former game, Bama, of course, got a rematch with the Tigers and won the national championship. The latter game, which was never in as much doubt as the final score might suggest — Bama never had the ball in the second half with a chance to take the lead —was still LSU’s only real remaining challenge en route to its own national championship.
This isn’t a Game of the Century. This year the winner will need help to get near the College Football Playoff — in LSU’s case, maybe more help than the selection committee allows; Bama not so much.
But it’s still LSU-Alabama and the world seems to stop in both states in anticipation.
It’s an interesting contrast this time, with LSU’s high-powered offense and a really good Bama defense vs. a good but-not-great Tide
offense and an LSU defense that has been, well, you know.
We could have some fun with numbers here, although they probably won’t mean much once the game starts and football fortune takes over.
But how good is this LSU offense?
“They’re probably one of the best teams in the country right now,” Bama head coach Nick Saban said this week. “I know they are the best team in the country on offense.”
The Tigers indeed are the No. 1 offense in the country, yes, this country, if you base it on incidentals like scoring (47.4 ppg) or yards (552.9 ypg) or third-down conversions (58 percent) or first downs (217).
Quarterback Jayden Daniels is the national individual leader in total offense (386.8 ypg) and touchdown passes (25), among other things.
“He killed us last year,” Saban said of Daniels. “He was a really, really good player and he’s a really, really good player now … Overall they execute their offense to perfection and it starts with him.”
How does that translate to Alabama? Who knows? But just take the Tigers’ five SEC games.
In those five conference games — and I did this math myself so you might want to double-check it — LSU has averaged almost double the points those five opponents normally give up — 192 percent more to be almost exact.
Warning: The biggest differential was Ole Miss, which gave up 229 percent more but still beat LSU 55-49.
Alabama will be the best defense LSU has played. But it won’t be the best Alabama defense the Tigers have ever played — The Tide defense is a averaging giving up 16.5 per game.
Run that through the LSU offensive differential meter and, rounded off, it projects to 32 points for LSU.
Maybe this is an amazing coincidence. You couldn’t make it up.
But last year’s final score: LSU 32, Alabama 31.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at email@example.com