1. Overview: Beyond the SEC West implications, Alabama's eight-game winning streak over LSU, the presence of Secret Service throughout Bryant-Denny Stadium and the arrival of the president, Saturday was a historic day in Tuscaloosa.
For the first time in college football history, two No. 1-ranked teams met during the regular season: Alabama ranked No.1 in the USA Today Coaches poll and LSU ranked No.1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
The game was the re-installment of the 'Game of the Century' for a reason, depsite Alabama falling to the Tigers 46-41.
Amid the chaos and thrill that is SEC football, especially in November and beyond, but let's talk Tua Tagovailoa and his ankle. How could we not?
Early in the first half, the question was where is the Alabama offense? LSU had the Crimson Tide reeling and playing behind the chains. It flustered Tagovailoa, landing four quarterback hurries and dialing up other pressure that just fell short in the first two quarters of play, and forced him to prove that his ankle was 100%.
But a mid-second quarter drive, highlighted by a Devonta Smith 64-yard touchdown created the inclination that the Alabama offense was back and alive. And that was just the start considering their play in the second half.
But concerning the former, of course many people would look to the status of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and his return from a right ankle injury, as a possible explanation and that's up in the air.
Tagovailoa's ankle looked passable, if you want to call it that.
There were times where he climbed the pocket well and looked unbothered, and there were times where he threw some good balls, like the one to Smith.
But there were other times as well, bad times.
Tagovailoa struggled at times to drive off his back foot and deliver strikes. A majority of his misses in throughout the game were overthrows or balls thrown off target by yards-at-a-time spans.
It was clear he was uncomfortable, but it was unclear if it was due to the ankle specifically. There was a chance that is was that or the LSU defense that haunted him from the afternoon into the evening, or maybe it was the missed time, because of the ankle that produced a lack of timing between him and his receivers.
Whatever it was, it wasn't pretty. It was uncomfortable most of the night, at best and a couple of big plays and a running game that came to life out of thin air helped Alabama make this game closer than it was going into the half.
Yes, he finished with 400-plus yards passing, but to say he was on target consistently would be a fallacy in its purest form.
2: Why didn't Bama stay in the 3x1 set with a nub tight end?
Despite not scoring on its first drive of the game, Alabama did amass 63 yards on seven plays before Tagovailoa fumbled the ball scrambling and looking for the end zone.
What helped the Crimson Tide become productive, on arguably its best drive of the game, is its formation and personnel set, better known as a 3-by-1 with a nub tight end.
For those of you drowning in the football terminology, the latter is better explained as this. The 3-by-1 signifies that there are four total receivers on the field, but three of the receivers are on one side, with a lone receiver positioned on the opposite side of the formation.
It is more commonly known as trips.
The "nub tight end," simply means there is a tight end on one side of the formation by himself and inline (connected to the line of scrimmage).
On Alabama's first drive, it spent four of its first seven plays in this formation and it profited. The first play out of it was a crossing route to Henry Ruggs III for 20 yards.
The second was a 31-yard gain by Najee Harris on the right end of the line (on the nub side). And the next two plays accounted for 12 yards, putting Alabama on the LSU 8 yard-line posturing to score.
What made the formation so successful was it often left LSU out-manned in the boundary as the defense was shaded to the trips side. This explains why Harris was able to bounce off the right end and break for 30-plus, and why Ruggs III was able to cross the face of the LSU defense as defenders picked themselves off.
Unfortunately, after the first drive, Alabama returned to this formation maybe one other time Saturday night, and this is what was working for them, immediately. Why? The answer to that question remains unanswered.
Either way, their second half adjustments offensively ultimately made this point look moot, but it still deserves an in-depth look espcially concerning their first half struggles offensively.
3. Joe Burrow: Alabama's front was great, but Joe Burrow didn't throw his first incompletion until there was 5:16 to play in the first half. He finished the first half 18-for-20 with 252 yards and three touchdown passes
And though Burrow exactly wasn't in the completion column, let's make it clear that he was perfect on the field. Burrow finished the night with 393 yards passing on 31-for-39 throwing and three touchdowns.
Yet what made Burrow perfect was his ability to work the pocket, his awareness in the latter and his escapability.
The Alabama front was awesome all night long. They stuffed the run game, for the most part, and got after Burrow all night. They were zealous in their rush all afternoon.
Simply put, they were an relentless challenge for Burrow and his offensive line, but their aggression and Burrow's elite feel for the pocket ultimately made them pay.
During the times was Alabama was overzealous in its rush, rushing too far upfield, Burrow was able to climb the pocket and deliver an on-target pass, or scramble underneath them for a decent gain. Other times, he was able to break contain and do the same.
Alongside his first half 250-plus throwing performance, Burrow scrambled for 55 yards and showed his feet, clean and crisp under pressure in a collapsing pocket, are just as dangerous as his arm.
— Andre Toran
Rushing offense — C: Was basically non-existent in the first half, and majority of the night. An LSU defense that only surrenders 97.9 rushing yards per game, one of two teams in the SEC, played as expected. However, the rushing attack, like the rest of the offense looked better in the second half.
Rushing defense — A: Gave up over 100 yards, but from the eye-test, they were well-improved from week's prior. The front seven is finally relying on one another to manufacture chaos, and they looked dominant Saturday. Defensive linemen maintained gap-control and beat LSU's front off the snap off, allowing Crimson Tide backers and safeties to flow downhill and make big time tackles.
Passing offense — B: Rusty in the first half, but as the game went on it improved. Tua struggled hitting the target most of the night, however.
Passing defense — C: Joe Burrow did his thing, but honestly, the Alabama secondary didn't play as bad as you'd think. They were physical, per usual, with Je'Mar Chase and Justin Jefferson and the rest of the LSU receiving corps, but they were taken advantage of with good route schemes and combinations that resulted in coverage breakdowns, but ultimately outplayed.
Special teams — C: A first quarter 77-yard punt return by Jaylen Waddle, plus a blocked extra point were highlights. Lowlights included dropping a snap on a punt and a missed extra point.
Coaching — B: Alabama's second half adjustments on offense put them back into a game they had no business being in, after the way the played the first two quarters.
Overall — C: Alabama wasn't the team that shut out LSU a year ago, and started extremely slow. But they were a different team in the second half and that's what saved this overall grade.
No. 1 LSU 46, No. 2 Alabama 41
LSU—Chase 33 pass from Burrow (York kick), 9:15
LSU—FG York 40, 4:54
BAMA—Waddle 77 punt return (Bulovas kick), 1:14
LSU—Marshall 29 pass from Burrow (kick failed), 13:03
BAMA—D.Smith 64 pass from Tu.Tagovailoa (kick failed), 6:43
LSU—FG York 45, 4:20
LSU—Edwards-Helaire 1 run (York kick), :26
LSU—Edwards-Helaire 13 pass from Burrow (York kick), :06
BAMA—N.Harris 15 pass from Tu.Tagovailoa (Bulovas kick), 4:51
BAMA—N.Harris 1 run (Bulovas kick), 14:33
LSU—Edwards-Helaire 5 run (pass failed), 10:07
BAMA—Jeudy 5 pass from Tu.Tagovailoa (Bulovas kick), 5:32
LSU—Edwards-Helaire 7 run (York kick), 1:37
BAMA—D.Smith 85 pass from Tu.Tagovailoa (Bulovas kick), 1:21
Time of Possession;34:34;25:26
RUSHING—LSU, Edwards-Helaire 20-103, Burrow 14-64, Davis-Price 3-4, (Team) 3-(minus 5). Alabama, N.Harris 19-146, B.Robinson 3-3, Bolden 1-0, (Team) 1-(minus 2), Tu.Tagovailoa 3-(minus 5), Perine 1-(minus 19).
PASSING—LSU, Burrow 31-39-0-393. Alabama, Tu.Tagovailoa 21-40-1-418.
RECEIVING—LSU, Edwards-Helaire 9-77, Jefferson 7-79, Chase 6-140, Moss 6-46, Marshall 2-45, Davis-Price 1-6. Alabama, D.Smith 7-213, Jeudy 5-71, Ruggs 3-68, N.Harris 3-44, Waddle 3-22.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.