The Alabama-LSU game has been circled for months now by anyone with even a passive interest in college football. It certainly delivered today, too, with LSU going to Bryant-Denny Stadium and coming away with a 46-41 win.

The first half featured a ridiculous sequence, as LSU scored twice in the last two minutes in part thanks to an astounding catch from Thaddeus Moss. That play featured a controversial rules application, confirmed on replay in part thanks to a picture perfect pylon cam shot.

LSU took a 33-13 lead into halftime, but Alabama climbed back into the game in the third quarter, with Najee Harris taking over for stretches.

Alabama scored again at the start of the fourth quarter, appearing to set up either a shootout or even a trademark come-from-behind easy victory:

Instead, LSU decided to open up the offense again, trusting Heisman frontrunner Joe Burrow to move the Tigers back down the field. Burrow delivered, too, finishing the night 31-39 for 393 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Some of those yards came on this drive, which put LSU back in front by two scores:

After LSU failed to convert a two-point try, Alabama went back the other way, culminating in this clutch fourth down score to keep things close:

The task, then, seemed simple: if Alabama could stop LSU, or even hold them to just a field goal, they’d have a shot to win or force overtime. They couldn’t stop them.

And so, up 46-34 with less than two minutes left, LSU cruised to an easy wait, no, what happened on Alabama’s drive?

With two timeouts left, a three-and-out would mean Alabama could get yet another chance to win the game. This is the kind of moment that a Nick Saban Alabama team lives for, and knowing the stakes, they were absolutely up to the challenge oh wait damn it LSU got a first down on their first play to seal the game.

And that’s how we got to 46-41. Those 46 points, by the way: the most ever given up by a Nick Saban Alabama team, and they were all well-earned (with the possible exception of that pylon cam play, but that’s a different story and they may have scored anyway.) LSU, meanwhile, is now fully in control of their College Football Playoff hopes; they’ll almost certainly be ranked #1 this week by that committee, and with Ole Miss, Arkansas, and a home game against Texas A&M remaining, they may as well book their flights for the SEC Championship game now.

Alabama, meanwhile, is facing a more uphill task. They still have a chance to make a statement against Auburn in the Iron Bowl, but other than that they wouldn’t have a win over a team currently ranked. They’re also, you know, really good; LSU had basically everything go their way today, seemed to dominate on just about every play, and still just won by five points.) Clearly a lot can happen, and one-loss Alabama still deserves a lot of consideration. (There’s also very much a non-zero chance that we end up seriously debating 12-1 Minnesota vs. 11-1 Alabama, and frankly I couldn’t be more excited about that possibility.)

But at this point, this season looks like the first real chance in a the playoff era that the Tide won’t be playing for a national title. Pity their Sugar Bowl opponent if they don’t make it.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.