BATON ROUGE — One has to go back to 1992 to find the last time LSU entered an Alabama football game with as little chance of winning.
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- The last time LSU trailed in a game this year came in the third quarter of the Auburn contest on October 26. In a Game (227). In 2019 and three in 2018. The school record for QB-to-WR TD.
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The Tigers (3-4) are 28.5-point underdogs to No. 1 Alabama (8-0), according to BetMGM, for tonight's game at 7 on CBS in Tiger Stadium. Other lines have Alabama favored by as many as 29 and 30.
The previous largest spread for LSU at home in history was 28 points for No. 1 Florida State on Oct. 26, 1991, according to ESPN Statistics and Information. LSU (3-3) lost to the 7-0 Seminoles, 27-16.
Among reigning national champions, LSU is the largest underdog in 40 years, according to ESPN, and the first 20-plus-point underdog since Auburn was 7-4 when it lost at home to No. 2 and 10-1 Alabama, 42-14, in 2011 after Auburn won the 2010 national title.
Video:This week's look around the SEC
CU Games of the Day – September 26th — September 26th CU has an 3-1 record on this date over the past 40 years. The loss, in 1981 to No. 11 BYU featured two famous Cougar quarterbacks, Jim McMahon and Steve Young.
It is the most Alabama has been favored to beat LSU since a 25-point spread in 1993 that was 28 earlier in the week when LSU was 3-5 and No. 5 Alabama was 7-0-1. But LSU won that game, 17-13, as 'pigs flew' in Tuscaloosa to snap the defending national champion Tide's unbeaten string of 30-0-1.
Game 227: October 26 2018 The Initials Game On
Some gave LSU a chance to win that one, though. The headline over Dave Moorman's column in the Baton Rouge Advocate said, 'LSU could catch Tide coasting.' Moorman correctly pointed out that LSU's schedule was much more difficult as all the Tigers' losses were to winning teams, and all of Alabama's wins were over losing teams. Alabama finished 9-3-1, while LSU finished 5-6, which was then-coach Curley Hallman's best season.
In 1992, Alabama was only a 16-point favorite going into LSU. But the No. 3 Tide was 8-0 and on an 18-game winning streak. LSU was 1-7 and had lost six straight. There was no way, and I wrote that in the Alexandria Town Talk before that game. Alabama won, 31-11, and went on to win the national title. LSU finished 2-9 for its worst season in history.
Every year since then, I felt LSU went in with a chance. Even during the six straight losing seasons from 1989-95, the Tigers had the upset in '93 and often played Alabama close, or stayed close for a while. During Alabama's 8-0 run over LSU from the national championship game on Jan. 9, 2012, through 2018, the Tigers could have or should have won in 2012 (21-17 loss) and in 2014 (20-13 overtime loss). Several other games were close into the second half. LSU's 10-0 loss in 2016 was 0-0 entering the fourth quarter.
Install certificate windows 10. But this year. No way.
LSU has never recovered from its season-opening loss to Mississippi State, when the Tigers were No. 5 in the nation. They have taken baby steps forward, followed by giant leaps backward. Another one of those will be tonight.
Here are three things to look out for in tonight's game:
1. Alabama has 3 Heisman Contenders
LSU had two wide receivers better than Alabama senior DeVonta Smith of Amite, but they both quit the team – junior Ja'Marr Chase before the season and junior Terrace Marshall Jr. just last Sunday. Chase's departure at least was before the season and gave his team a chance to regroup. And his could be considered an 'opt out,' though in reality it had little to do with COVID-19 and more to do with the fact that he already was considered a No. 1 pick. Marshall quit for the same reasons, and nothing to do with COVID-19.
Funny, Smith is considered a No. 1 pick, too, as he is No. 3 in the nation with nine catches a game and in receiving yards with 1,074 on 72 receptions. And he stayed for his senior season and will stay through all of his senior season. Maybe this is more proof why Alabama wins big year after year, including after national championship seasons, and LSU does not.
Mac Jones will be the best quarterback LSU has faced this season, and the Tigers are already No. 11 in the SEC and No. 105 in the nation in pass defense efficiency with a 153.32 rating. Jones is No. 2 in the nation in efficiency at 208.0 on 173-of-227 passing for 2,728 yards and 23 touchdowns with three interceptions.
Alabama tailback Najee Harris is No. 10 in the nation in rushing with 893 yards on 148 carries. Look for him to finish off the game, as Tide coach Nick Saban does not intentionally run up scores. At least, not until now, but he may remember the aftermath of LSU's 46-41 win last year.
2. LSU offense has been opting out
The Tigers' offense has been gradually diminishing ever since it lost junior starting quarterback Myles Brennan to an abdomen injury during a 45-41 loss at Missouri on Oct. 10. True freshman TJ Finley has performed well at times, and he will start Saturday despite two interceptions in the loss at Texas A&M last week. He and the rest of his teammates sure could use Terrace Marshall Jr., who caught 10 passes last week.
LSU's real problem is its offensive line, which played much better early in the season. There is only one returning starter from last year in right tackle Austin Deculus. But there are several here with experience, including left guard Ed Ingram, who started all of 2017 and played a lot in 2019 with three starts. Graduate transfer center Liam Shanahan started three seasons at Harvard. This group has not developed well under offensive line coach James Cregg.
LSU vs. Alabama: 'We have to come together with a better plan,' says LSU guard Ed Ingram
Meanwhile, look for pass game coordinator Scott Linehan and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger not to return in those roles or at all next season.
3. Improving LSU defense
Had LSU played Alabama on Nov. 14 as originally scheduled, the score could have been 65-6. LSU's defense has improved since then, as it is coming off two very good games at Arkansas and at Texas A&M.
All that means is LSU will keep the score down and hope there are no more 'opt-outs.'
Alabama 49, LSU 10
Game 227: October 26 2018 The Initials Games
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Opinion: For first time in decades, LSU enters Alabama game without the slightest chance