The good news for No. 3 LSU: its defense defended No. 1 Alabama as well as can be expected. The Tigers held Alabama scoreless on their opening drive for the first time all season, snatched Tua Tagovailoa‘s first interception of the season and forced him to play in the fourth quarter for the first time since last season’s national championship game.
The bad news: it didn’t come close to mattering. Alabama’s defense swallowed LSU’s offense and cruised to a 29-0 win over the Tigers in Baton Rouge.
Playing without star linebacker Devin White for the first half, LSU hung tough for the first 28 minutes, trailing just 9-0 when Todd Harris, Jr., snared an interception of Tagovailoa at his own 4-yard line. But, after a 4-yard run on first down (LSU’s longest of the first half), LSU elected to pass on 2nd-and-6 from their own 8, and Anfernee Jennings planted LSU quarterback Joe Burrow at his own 1. After a punt, Alabama took over at its own 46 with 1:29 to go, and needed less than half of that.
Tagovailoa, the odds-on Heisman favorite, all but ended the game himself at the 5:14 mark of the third quarter, scampering for a career-long 44-yard touchdown run. He tossed a 15-yard score to Henry Ruggs III to open the scoring in the first quarter, and ended the game 25-of-42 for 295 yards with two touchdowns and an interception plus three carries for 49 yards and another score.
But perhaps the other quarterback’s stats were more indicative of how this game played out. The Tigers, who beat Alabama on the ground 151-116 a year ago, mustered just 12 yards on 25 carries. Given that, Joe Burrow would need to make like Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel and Deshaun Watson did and beat Alabama by himself. Joe Burrow is not any of those players. He completed 18-of-35 throws for 184 yards and an interception, numbers that were plenty good to beat Mississippi State but stood no chance against Alabama.
In fact, the Tigers (7-2, 4-2 SEC) have not so much as scored on the Tide in Baton Rouge since a 20-13 overtime loss in 2014. They were blanked 10-0 in 2016 and held scoreless again on Saturday, as two late attempts to break the ice came up empty. Cole Tracy‘s 33-yard field goal with 10:45 left was no good, and Burrow was intercepted by Mack Wilson inside the Alabama end zone with 3:35 to play.
The win clinches Alabama’s (9-0, 6-0 SEC) fourth SEC West championship in five years and 12th overall. The Tide will meet No. 6 Georgia, a 34-17 winner at No. 9 Kentucky earlier Saturday, in a rematch of the 2017 CFP National Championship in the same stadium as that game.