Alabama may be next in line for a College Football Playoff spot of one of the top four teams falter, but the Crimson Tide may have their own tough battle vs. LSU Saturday.
Death Valley is never an easy place to visit on a Saturday night and the team trying to get into the College Football Playoff may be about to find that out when those Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1, 2-1 away), ranked 5th on this week’s Playoff rankings, pay a visit to the LSU Tigers (7-2, 5-1 home) at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA at 8:00 ET in a game televised nationally on CBS.
The posted line at Pinnacle Sports for this contest is LSU +6½ at current odds of -103.
Both Teams Come off Bye
This was the annual “Game of the Year” in the SEC until a few years ago when the SEC West stopped being a two-horse race, but that does not diminish the importance of this 2014 version. And neither team should have an excuse either with both coming off of a college football picks bye week, giving whatever walking wounded each team may have time to recuperate in time for this Big Game.
After the Tide suffered their only loss at Mississippi and then perhaps still felt a hangover from that in a narrow 14-13 win at Arkansas the following week, we finally saw a vintage Alabama performance in a 59-0 annihilation of Texas A&M at home, followed by a handy 34-20 win at Tennessee before the bye. LSU meanwhile seems to be getting better as the season has gone on as it has won three straight including an upset of Mississippi here in Baton Rouge last game.
Jump to Playoff Spot with a Win?
With Alabama fifth in this week’s College Football Playoff Rankings, the conventional wisdom is that it would need a hiccup from one of the top four teams to have a chance to crack a Playoff spot. However, there is also a possibility that an impressive victory here in Death Valley, which is one of the toughest venues in the country for visiting teams, just might be enough to leapfrog Oregon for fourth given Alabama’s stronger schedule in the SEC.
With that being said, is an impressive victory likely here? We would think not despite what the rankings say. Alabama is one of those teams that have struggled in this stadium in the past with perhaps stronger teams than this one, and we do not expect a walk in the park here either.
After all, LSU is ranked 16th in the Playoff Rankings in its own right, and while Alabama has a devastating defense as usual ranked fourth in the country in total defense allowing 276.8 yards per game, the LSU defense is not chopped live either as it is ranked 15th nationally and better than that at home, allowing 284.4 yards per game at Tiger Stadium, which is even less than the 347.0 yards per game the Crimson Tide are allowing on the road.
LSU Could Enter Playoff Conversation
And besides, it is not far-fetched that LSU can semi-miraculously crash the Playoff if it wins out, as winning the last three regular season games vs. Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M could enter the Tigers in the conversation, and if those three wins result in a West Division title and are followed by a win in the SEC Championship Game, it would be hard to leave LSU out.
But first things first and the Tigers’ defense was in vintage form while handing Mississippi its first loss of the season 10-7 before the bye two weeks ago, holding the Rebels to 313 total yards and limiting Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace to 14-of-33 passing for 176 yards and a critical interception in the final seconds with the Rebels just about in field goal range.
And despite scoring just 10 points themselves, the Tigers did total 406 total yards with 264 of them coming on the ground on 4.8 yards per carry, as they were hindered by four turnovers. As long as LSU plays its typical defense and runs well again as it has usually done while ranking 26th in the country with 225.7 rushing yards per game, it could very easily stay in this game right until the end and can even pull the upset provided it stops turning the ball over.
Alabama Burning Money on Road
And interestingly, Alabama has played just three road games so far this season and the Crimson Tide are 0-3 ATS in those games! The Tide are actually on an 0-5 ATS road skid going back to last season, and also a then undefeated and top-ranked Alabama team needed a score in the final minute to escape with a non-covering 21-17 win on its last trip to Baton Rouge two years ago.
Expect a similarly tight game again this year that should go right down to the wire, so these points certainly seem worth taking with LSU at home Saturday night.
College Football Pick: LSU +6½ (-103)