LSU did its part earlier in the day. A couple of hours later, Alabama did the same, setting the stage for the latest edition of The Game of the Century in college football.
Despite one of the best players in the sport out of uniform and prowling the sidelines in a walking boot, Alabama had little problem dispatching overmatched Arkansas, laying waste to the 31-points underdogs in a 48-7 woodshedding that was even more eviscerating than the final score would indicate. The Crimson Tide, which extended their record winning streak over unranked opponents to 89, scored on each of their first five possessions and six of their first seven; before the offense got the chance at an eighth offensive possession, Trevon Diggs returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown with less than 10 seconds left in the first half to give the Tide a 41-0 lead at halftime.
That was one of four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble) in the first half for the Razorbacks, with the Tide scoring 24 of their 41 first-half points off those Hog miscues.
With Tua Tagovailoa sidelined because of a second surgery for a high-ankle sprain in less than a year, Mac Jones made the first start of his collegiate career. Playing the role of game manager very effectively, the sophomore completed 16-of-20 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns… in the first half. Playing just a few minutes into the third quarter, Jones would add another touchdown pass on a pair of completions to finish the day 18-22 for 235 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Jones was replaced early in the third quarter by the injured starter’s younger brother, true freshman Taulia Tagovailoa, who went 6-of-8 for 45 yards.
Offensively, the Razorbacks had few answers for a stifling Tide defense that held the visitors to 216 yards of offense — 107 passing, 106 rushing. They averaged just 4.1 yards per pass and 3.5 yards per carry on the night.
Now that Alabama has, as expected, taken care of its Week 9 business, all eyes immediately turn to Nov. 9.
With both teams coming off a bye, No. 1 Alabama will play host to No. 2 LSU in Week 11 for what some view as essentially a play-in game for a spot in the College Football Playoff, although Oklahoma’s stunning loss earlier Saturday has certainly opened the door for two SEC teams to (again) earn semifinal berths. Almost eight years ago to the day this latest renewal of the SEC West rivalry will be played, No. 1 LSU’s three three-run homers were enough to top No. 2 Alabama’s two three-run shots in what marked the first-ever 1-2 game in SEC history.
In between this latest 1-2 regular-season matchup and the last, though, the Crimson Tide has had the Bayou Bengals’ number. To say the least.
- 2018 — No. 1 Alabama 29, No. 4 LSU 0 in Baton Rouge
- 2017 — No. 1 Alabama 24, No. 19 LSU 10 in Tuscaloosa
- 2016 — No. 1 Alabama 10, No. 15 LSU 0 in Baton Rouge
- 2015 — No. 7 Alabama 30, No. 4 LSU 16 in Tuscaloosa
- 2014 — No. 4 Alabama 20, No. 14 LSU 13 in Baton Rouge
- 2013 — No. 1 Alabama 38, No. 10 LSU 17 in Tuscaloosa
- 2012 — No. 1 Alabama 21, No. 5 LSU 17 in Baton Rouge
- 2012 — No. 2 Alabama 21, No. 1 LSU 0 in BCS Championship Game
A major factor in Alabama’s ability to extend that winning streak over LSU to nine straight is the health of the elder quarterbacking Tagovailoa, whose recovery from surgery now becomes the overriding storyline in the 14 days from now until the 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff that second Saturday of November. It’s believed that this high-ankle sprain is not as serious as the one he suffered last year, and it’s expected that the Heisman Trophy contender will be healthy enough to take the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Until he gets the all-clear from the football program’s medical team, though, expect near-daily Tua updates ahead of the latest playing of The Game of the Century.