Games — in any sport — don’t get much bigger than this. LSU (No. 1 in the AP Poll) travels to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama (No. 1 in the Coaches’ Poll) on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The winner of this game can all but punch its ticket into the College Football Playoffs. It’s a massive resume builder. It is, essentially, the SEC Championship this year and a CFP play-in game.
And the result will have a major impact on the way betting odds are set for the rest of the season.
LSU vs. Alabama odds
With the game in Tuscaloosa, Alabama is favored at -6 or -6.5 depending on the sportsbook.
The closest point spread ‘Bama has seen all season was traveling to Texas A&M, when they were only favored at -17.
The last time Alabama was only a six-point favorite was against Clemson in the national championship game in January. For a regular-season matchup, you’d have to go back to November 2017 when the Crimson Tide traveled to Auburn to find a point spread so narrow (-4.5 for ‘Bama then).
Game matchup/betting history
The Alabama vs. LSU series dates back to 1895. LSU won that game 12-6 in Baton Rouge. That was Bear Bryant’s first season as coach.
- They’ve faced each other 82 more times
- Alabama has won 53 of those meetings
- LSU has won 25
- They’ve tied five times
- Alabama has been dominant of late, winning the last eight
How pollsters view these teams vs. sportsbooks
While pollsters have Alabama and LSU flip-flopped at 1-2, oddsmakers still view the Crimson Tide as the superior side. ‘Bama are favored essentially by a touchdown, which is -3.5-4 better than the typical -3 advantage given to the home side among equals. Given Alabama’s recent (prolonged) dominance as well as historical success, this shouldn’t be too surprising.
Additionally, Alabama is the second favorite to win the national title at +275 (Clemson, which has the easiest path to the playoff of all major conference schools, is first at +200). LSU is the fourth favorite at a distant +700.
The impact on Heisman futures
The two leading Heisman trophy candidates are LSU QB Joe Burrow (+125) and Alabama QB Tua Tagovalia (+200). Burrow’s counting stats outshine Tua to date:
- Burrow: 2,805 passing yards, 30 TDs 4 INTs
- Tagovalia: 2,166 passing yards, 27 TDs 2 INTs
However, Tua has a superior QBR (95.8, 1st in nation) to Burrow (91.2, 4th).
Given how close these two are both statistically and in futures markets, the winner of this game will almost certainly solidify their status as the Heisman front-runner.
Playoff implications/title futures odds
It’s hard to envision a scenario where the winner and loser of this game (assuming it’s close) wins out and doesn’t make the CFP.
That would also require one loss from one of the following:
- Clemson (plays in ACC, so it’s not losing barring some apocalyptic event)
- Ohio State (still plays #5 Penn State, #14 Michigan, AND the Big 10 Championship potentially)
- Penn State (still plays #13 Minnesota, #3 Ohio State AND the Big 10 Championship potentially)
- LSU/Alabama would also have to avoid a loss to the fly in the ointment for the entire CFP: Georgia.
Despite Kirby Smart is doing his best Mark Richt impersonation this year, after convincingly beating Florida last weekend, Georgia controls its own destiny when it comes to the CFP. If Georgia wins its remaining games AND wins the SEC Championship game, then what?
Of the scenarios that have a greater than 0.25% chances of happening, this one would give the selection committee some real headaches: Penn State and UGA winning out (along with Clemson), coupled with an LSU defeat of Alabama this weekend, would make that final choice for the fourth spot a massive story.
If you want to have some fun, hit FiveThirtyEight’s college football predictor and play around with outcomes. A lot can still happen over the next month. Regardless, it would be hard to envision a scenario where the winner of this game does not make the CFP even if they were to lose the SEC Championship.
So who wins: LSU or Alabama?
Nick Saban can lose a regular season game. Since Saban took over, they’ve only finished undefeated once (2009). In there, Bama has suffered shock losses to Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Auburn, and LSU.
For whatever reason, the mobile QB has been an Achilles heel of Saban-led defenses. Burrow is not a total stiff, but he hasn’t rushed for more than 43 yards in a game this season. He’s a classic pocket passer, leading college football with a ridiculous 78.8% completion percentage. LSU is pretty balanced on offense as well, as Clyde Edwards-Helaire has 683 rushing yards on 5.9 ypc.
‘Bama is ‘Bama. Tua (assuming his ankle is healthy) is a proven big-game QB. Najee Harris leads Crimson Tide rushers at 642 total yards and 5.9 ypc. Jerry Jeudy is a top 5 pick in the NFL draft in 2020 and leads the team with receptions. However, DeVonta Smith is also an explosive threat for Alabama, averaging 16.8 yards per catch.
Defensively, the teams are more or less even. Alabama ranks 16th in total defense. LSU is 23rd.
At the end of the day, if you’re putting money on a game, who do you trust more: Nick Saban or Ed Orgeron?
While Orgeron has impressively grown as a coach since taking over at LSU, he’s not Saban. And this game is not in Baton Rouge. While LSU pulling out a close win here is absolutely possible, it’s not likely.
Alabama at home with Saban having an extra week to watch film and determine how to slow down Burrow will prove too much. Expect a tight game early where ‘Bama convincingly pulls away late.
Alabama vs. LSU predictions
Watch as Matt Perrault breaks down the game of the year with his thoughts on the spread, moneyline and more.