For a team widely acknowledged as the best in college football this year, it is a bit surprising how little Alabama has been challenged. The Tide has crushed every team it has faced, and the talent level is obvious. The defense is stifling, and the offense can move the ball with ease.
This has proven true against Florida State (though the offense was not so efficient yet) and against every SEC opponent so far, perhaps save Texas A&M. The Aggies kept things close against Alabama, and now so has LSU.
There are really two ways to look at Alabama in light of this game. The first is obvious. Alabama is more talented than any other team it takes the field against. Even when LSU finds space–like open receivers down the field or forces multiple three-and-outs–Alabama is still so talented that it doesn’t matter. The margins against the Tide are so tiny that even talented opponents who create tiny opportunities can’t take advantage of them.
The other way to look at this is far more interesting, and could be borne out in the weeks to come. Maybe Alabama’s opponents really aren’t that good, and the Tide is vulnerable. Of course, vulnerable is a relative term. If LSU has played the game perfectly, the Tigers still would not have scored more than 31 points. If Alabama’s defense has some holes–and the secondary might, seeing how often D.J. Chark got open–then it still takes a great team to exploit it.
To the game itself. The Tide established itself early, going 90 yards over nine plays on its second drive of the game. Alabama added another touchdown shortly after, following an interception in LSU territory. Those two drives were the difference in the game. LSU played the Tide completely even from there, with each team adding ten points.
It was a defensive battle, and each team put up only 278 yards of offense. The Tigers earned a field goal after a 13-play drive halfway through the second quarter, but they couldn’t punch it in the end zone on three chances from inside the five.
The second half was very similar to the first. Alabama had two extended drives–the Tide earned a touchdown and field goal on consecutive drives–but every other offensive opportunity in the second half lasted only three plays. The pass protection could not handle Arden Key, and the rushing game was never able to establish itself. In the first half, Alabama had two scoring drives, but no other drive lasted more than five plays.
LSU managed to cut the lead down by scoring a touchdown two plays a huge run out of the wildcat–the type of play that you rarely see the Tide give up.
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) November 5, 2017
It wasn’t enough, though. Even though LSU never felt out of the game in the second half, it also never felt like Alabama was in danger. That, perhaps, is the real story of Alabama’s dominance. Even when the Tide faces teams that it cannot really blow out or put the game away, there never is any real danger of an upset either.
Ultimately, how Alabama looks going forward depends on how you view the quality of its opponents. If you think that LSU is a very good team, then the Tide clearly are dominant and untouchable. But if LSU is mediocre, then Alabama might be vulnerable.
We’ll find out more next week against Mississippi State (who may have been looking ahead, as the Bulldogs struggled against UMass this week), and then Auburn and Georgia to close the season. If the Tide is vulnerable, we’ll find out–because Alabama gets its two biggest games at the very end of the year.