Next Saturday May Be Last Hurdle Between Another Alabama-LSU De Facto Title Bout
Alabama and LSU have effectively played in many a de facto national title game in recent years, and they seem headed toward another such titanic clash on November 9 in Tuscaloosa, two days after supremacy in the west may be decided when Oregon travels to the "the farm" to play at Stanford. Those two games may well be de facto national semifinal games.
But next Saturday may determine whether Alabama and LSU will play this year with everything on the line--again.
LSU plays at Georgia, and because Florida lost quarterback Jeff Driskel for the year and has looked shaky, Georgia may be LSU's toughest hurdle before Alabama.
Likewise for Alabama, Ole Miss is likely to be their toughest opponent before LSU.
Alabama beat Colorado State 31-7 on Saturday, but the score was deceiving. Alabama's offense really "scored" 10 points. Dillon Lee scored a touchdown on a blocked punt. Alabama scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter after Colorado State fumbled in their territory. And another touchdown effectively came in garbage time. That accounted for 21 of Alabama's 31 points. Alabama could not convert on third down and showed many vulnerabilities on both sides of the ball that Ole Miss could exploit next week at Alabama.
Alabama will have to play a complete game next week against the Rebels, one of the hottest programs in the nation, or they will not even be the top team in their division let alone the country. Ole Miss has an array of weapons on offense--a mobile quarterback in Bo Wallace, a dynamic running back in Jeff Scott, and powerful receiving threats in Laquon Treadwell, Donte Moncrief, and Evan Engram--that will give Alabama's secondary fits. But Wallace must get them the ball. On offense, Alabama will face an Ole Miss line that may disrupt an offensive line that is still learning how to play as a unit to pressure Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron unlike he has been this year.
LSU will play Georgia between the hedges in Athens. Les Miles, with Cam Cameron as his offensive coordinator, finally seems to have a legitimate passing and rushing attack with one facet of the offense not being dramatically better than the other, as has been in many years. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger and running back Jeremy Hill is leading a balanced attack. On defense, LSU is raw but ferocious. But LSU has not played a team as complete as Georgia. LSU's young secondary and linebackers have been aggressive to date, but that is something Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and running back Todd Gurley can exploit. LSU's offense will also get its first true against a talented and raw Georgia defense that will match up, on paper at least, against LSU unlike the teams LSU has played to date.
Here is my power 10 for this week:
1. ALABAMA — Alabama did not have dynamic wide receiver Amari Cooper and corner Deion Belue against Colorado State. A letdown was expected after their victory in the game of the year to date last week against Texas A&M. But Alabama played like they were hungover for the whole game against the Rams, and their talent and physical superiority got them through. Alabama better wake up next week against an upstart Ole Miss team that arguably played them as physically as any team did last year. And this year's Ole Miss team is twice as good as last year's team with a lot more swagger.
2. STANFORD — Stanford beat Oregon at hostile Autzen last year when Stanford's front seven shut down Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Ducks' high-flying offense. Both teams essentially return the same teams and one can make the argument that Stanford has progressed offensively more than Oregon has (Oregon's offense can only get so much more dynamic and explosive than it has been in recent years) with a more mature Kevin Hogan, a feature back in Tyler Gaffney, and more explosive threats downfield. For those reasons, Stanford remains ahead of Oregon even after an unsatisfying win over Arizona State that saw them jump out to what seemed like an insurmountable lead until some questionable coaching decisions by Stanford coach David Shaw let Arizona State back into the game.
3. OREGON — A bye week to recharge their batteries.
4. CLEMSON — The Tigers beat Georgia in the first week of the season and return nearly the same team that beat LSU last year in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, so they remain ahead of LSU--for now--after their win at NC State.
5. LSU — The Tigers could not finish the game against Auburn as strongly as they would have liked against at Death Valley. The college football world will find out how much of a national title contender they will be after next week's showdown at Georgia.
6. OHIO STATE — Kenny Guiton may be a better quarterback than Braxton Miller, especially an injured Miller. A big test against Wisconsin next week will a gauge of how good the Buckeyes really are.
7. LOUISVILLE — Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the early Heisman frontrunner, but a weak schedule may keep his squad out of the title game.
8. FLORIDA STATE — Quarterback Jameis Winston continues to make Mack Brown and Texas regret not pursuing him more seriously.
9. GEORGIA — Their win over South Carolina after a heartbreaking loss at Clemson may have saved their season. A huge showdown with LSU in between the hedges next week in Athens looms. The game will test how good Georgia's explosive offense is in addition to seeing how well their young defenders can hold up against what seems an LSU offense that looks more dynamic than it has been in recent years.
10. TEXAS A&M — Johnny Football and Texas A&M rebounded against SMU, and he and the Aggies proved again against Alabama that they are more than legit. Manziel may have convinced a lot of scouts that he could play at the next level by shredding Nick Saban's defense for the second consecutive year.