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.
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 quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and forced him to prove that his ankle was 100%.
Tagovailoa's ankle looked passable, if you want to call it that.
There were times he climbed the pocket well and looked unbothered, and there were times where he threw some good balls, like a 64-yard touchdown pass to Devonta Smith.
But there were also bad times. Tagovailoa struggled at times to drive off his back foot and deliver strikes.
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 amassed 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.
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," 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.
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.
Either way, their second half adjustments offensively ultimately made this point look moot, but it still deserves an in-depth look especially concerning their first half struggles offensively.
3. Joe Burrow: Alabama's front was great, but LSU quarterback 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. He finished the night with 393 yards passing on 31-for-39 throwing and three touchdowns.
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.
They were a 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 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 containment and do the same.
Alongside his first half 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.