After winning a 46-41 slug fest at Alabama, LSU should be No. 1

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow made his case for the Heisman Trophy by completing 31 of 39 passes for 393 yards against Alabama.Butch Dill/USA Today
Tony Barnhart

Tuscaloosa, Ala.—With all due respect to the College Football Playoff selection committee: THE Ohio State University does not have the best team in the country.

The best team in college football represents Louisiana State University. And how do we know this? We know this because on Saturday No. 2 LSU came to Bryant-Denny Stadium and before 101,821 fans and the President of the United States, did things that visiting teams SIMPLY DO NOT DO to the Crimson Tide in this building.

Forget the final score, which was LSU 46, Alabama 41, the most points ever scored in a rivalry that dates back to 1895.

LSU led 33-13 at halftime, after which Alabama made a nice comeback to get within 33-27. Then the two traded touchdowns like two heavy weight fighters looking for knockout punch. LSU, with quarterback Joe Burrow and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the baddest dudes on the block, prevailed.

“It was a great game and this is a great rivalry,” said an emotional LSU coach Ed Orgeron. “I am so happy for the state of Louisiana. This is a much deserved win for our state. We want to bring a national back championship to Louisiana. We’ll see where this leads us.”

The score, while somewhat gaudy for SEC football, doesn’t begin to describe the monumental statement that the Tigers made here on a cool, sunny November afternoon.

Consider:

**--LSU snapped an eight-game losing streak to Alabama dating back to the 2011 national championship game, won by the Crimson Tide, 21-0.

Orgeron has maintained that the rebuild of the LSU football program would not truly begin until the Tigers finally beat Alabama. Saturday Orgeron got his wish.

“We finally have the players, the coaching staff and the quarterback to beat these guys,” said Orgeron. “And today we did it.”

**--LSU snapped Alabama’s 38-game home winning streak. In fact, Alabama had won 48 of its last 49 games at home.

**--When the day started Alabama coach Nick Saban had a gaudy record of 30-10 against Top 10 teams.

**-- Orgeron came into the game with an 8-3 record against Top 10 teams. All three losses had come to against Alabama. That's another box he can check off.

Orgeron, who radically changed the LSU offense in order to have a chance to someday beat Alabama, looks like your SEC and National Coach of the Year.

**--Burrow put at least one hand around the Heisman Trophy as he sliced and diced the Alabama defense at will. Burrow completed 31 of 39 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns. Every time LSU needed a big throw or a big run, Burrow delivered.

“He gives us a chance every time we play,” said Orgeron.

Alabama simply had no answer for Burrow and his fleet of dazzling receivers.

Edwards-Helaire, with 103 yards rushing on 20 carries, kept the moving the chains when LSU needed first downs to run the clock.

“He has the heart of a champion,” Orgeron said of his bowling ball of a running back.

So now what?

LSU (9-0, 5-0 SEC) has games remaining at Ole Miss next week and at home against Arkansas and Texas A&M. The Tigers will be heavily favored in them all. No, let’s don’t sugarcoat it. LSU will boat race those three teams and head into the SEC Championship game on Dec. 7 at 12-0.

The only question at this point is whether or not LSU will be ranked No. 1 or No. 2 when the Tigers arrive in Atlanta to play the SEC East winner.

Well, let’s look at the resume: LSU now has wins at Texas, which was ranked No. 10 on Sept. 7, No. 7 Florida, No. 9 Auburn, and No. 3 Alabama. Yes, the Texas win doesn’t mean as much as it did earlier in the season. But the fact is that the committee said it would reward teams that challenged themselves in the non-conference schedule. LSU scheduled Texas on the road and won 45-38.

CFP selection committee chairman Rob Mullens said his group was impressed by Ohio State’s overall level of play, which has been very good. The Buckeyes beat Maryland 73-14 on Saturday to make its case to remain No. 1. And truth be told, as Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote, Ohio State could beat poor Rutgers by 100 next week.

It matters not. The way LSU performed here, where the Crimson Tide is 82-7 under Nick Saban, should grab the attention of the selection committee. The Tigers should be No. 1 on Tuesday night.

Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, who was nursing an ankle injured on Oct. 19 completed 21 of 40 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Najee Harris ran for 146 yards on 19 carries. But it wasn’t enough to overcome an LSU team that would not be denied.

The only question that remains for Alabama (8-1) is whether or not it can beat Mississippi State, Western Carolina and Auburn to finish 11-1. Then it will make the case that it deserves to be chosen as part of the four-team field. In 2017 Alabama was chosen at 11-1 even though it did not win the SEC championship. Alabama went on to beat Georgia for the national title.

“We’ll just have to finish the season the right way and see how things go,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban. “We’ve been in this position before.”

But Alabama will have a tough time making that case with a non-conference schedule that includes Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Mississippi and FCS opponent Western Carolina. The Crimson Tide’s best win has come against Texas A&M (6-3).

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