What We Learned: Alabama vs LSU

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban walks the field against LSU at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA on Saturday, Nov 5, 2022.

Well, that happened. This roller coaster of a season for the Crimson Tide now has a second loss attached to it, and with it, the hopes of a national championship triumph, or even an SEC title, have all but disappeared. I’ll level with you here. I try to be as unbiased as possible, but every word I type today is painful after my first trip to Baton Rouge ended in excruciating sadness. But alas, it’s time to go over what we learned from the Crimson Tide this week in their second road defeat of the season:

Bryce Young made some plays, but was off:

Hats off to the LSU defense here without a doubt. The Crimson Tide offense had a ton of trips into the red zone that ended in field goals after the Tiger defense tightened up and got it done when it counted. That being said, Bryce Young looked a bit off on Saturday night. He didn’t have a bad game by any means, and he didn’t get a whole lot of help, but he missed some throws and made what ended up being a critical mistake on the first drive of the game by throwing a terrible interception behind JoJo Earle in the end zone.

The touchdown to Ja’Corey Brooks to put Alabama ahead late was pure Bryce Young magic on a night where he had to run for his life quite a bit, but ultimately they just needed more plays from him than they got. The rest of this season was always going to be a question of can Bryce Young win games on his own, and at the end of this one, LSU had made enough plays to overcome him.

While they put up what should have been enough points to win the game, the offense just lacked that second gear all night. Against Tennessee they felt unstoppable. On Saturday night it felt like every yard was a grind. Like I said, much of that is due to LSU’s defense performing so well, but Alabama was just off. Not finishing off drives, missing throws, third down inefficiency, really not showing up in a big way at all until the fourth quarter are all reasons the offense wasn’t good enough.

Poor coaching:

Pick a name here, it doesn’t really matter. Bill O’Brien, Pete Golding, Nick Saban, whoever. I understand LSU was also coming off a bye, but this did not look like an Alabama team that had two weeks to prepare for LSU. I actually thought the defense performed pretty well until they simply ran out of gas later into the second half then really just fell apart.

For the offense it was the opposite. They put it together later in the game after being ineffective for much of the first three quarters. Not an ideal combination. Just an incomplete game from a team that hasn’t played a complete game in all three phases the entire year. I don’t want to overreact, but it really feels like Nick Saban has to move on from Bill O’Brien and find a new offensive coordinator. I continue to believe that if not for Bryce Young, this would not be a top-25 unit in the country. It just feels like it’s time for a change.

Will Reichard was clutch:

After an up and down season from him, Will Reichard had his best game of the season and was able to be counted on when it mattered most on Saturday night. I’ll be the first to admit, I thought he was going to miss at the end of regulation, and he drilled a 48-yarder to tie the game. Obviously Alabama ultimately couldn’t get it done so it was all for naught, but it was nice to see Reichard make some big kicks after struggling lately.

Pass rush shows up, just not in crunch time:

Alabama had six sacks as a team and the front really did do their job for most of the night of making Jayden Daniels uncomfortable. Dallas Turner had a nice night, as did Will Anderson. But the offense couldn’t take advantage, and I think ultimately by the fourth quarter the defense was out of gas. Credit to Daniels, who made the plays he needed to in order to win the game including a perfect pass to freshman tight end Mason Taylor to give the Tigers the lead with two minutes left in regulation.

Overall assessment:

The fact that Bryce Young is now all but guaranteed to leave Alabama without a championship as a starter is gut wrenching. But he’d be the first to tell you that he didn’t do enough in Death Valley to get the win. Alabama at this point would need a miracle to even make the SEC championship, but I think the rest of the season should be looked at as an opportunity to evaluate the coaching staff and personnel heading into next year. I fully expect Young to sit out whatever bowl game Alabama qualifies for, so maybe we can get a look at Ty Simpson. We’ll see what happens in Oxford next week.