There were plenty of things to talk about after LSU’s 19-3 victory against Mississippi State.
What did players think of the targeting foul called against star linebacker Devin White? How did the offense bounce back from an abysmal start? How did the defense manage to put together its most complete performance of the season?
But in spite all that one topic proved to be at the center of nearly all questions asked to head coach Ed Orgeron and the players made available to the media.
“What about Alabama?”
The Tigers will enjoy a long-awaited and much-deserved open date before its marquee game against the now-unanimous No. 1 team in the country. But that didn’t keep the media from immediately jumping ahead two weeks to ask how the Tigers plan to prepare for the Crimson Tide, who have looked virtually unstoppable between its typically stout defense and its atypically efficient offense led by sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
It’s hard to blame anyone for looking ahead. The “We want Bama” chants around Tiger Stadium began when students and fans rushed the field after LSU’s 36-16 victory against then-No. 2 Georgia.
The fact that Saturday’s most consequential play had more of an impact on the upcoming game two weeks away then the one played under the lights that night only led to more curiosity about the upcoming showdown.
And the Tigers seem as positioned as ever to take down Alabama for the first time since 2011.
Alabama enters the game looking as dominant as it ever has, defeating teams by an average of 38.25 points with their closest margin of victory being 22 points against Texas A&M.
Without having played a fourth-quarter snap this season, Tagovailoa has already thrown for 2,066 yards and 25 touchdowns, completing 70.4 percent of his passes without a single interception in 152 attempts.
And despite this, LSU seems has primed as it ever has been to take down the Crimson Tide for the first time since 2011’s “Game of the Century.”
The Tigers haven’t looked as dominant as Alabama, but the opponents they’ve beaten and their tendency to play their best football when labeled an underdog make them an intriguing test the Crimson Tide have not faced yet this season.
Orgeron grew a bit frustrated with the line of questioning, particularly about how he would address the Devin White situation, before eventually asking if he and the Tigers could enjoy the 16-point victory against the Bulldogs.
Shortly after that, he went on to explain how vital the 24-hour rule is to his team, giving examples of low and high points this season to illustrate his point.
“I’ll give you an example,” Orgeron said. “We didn’t play good against Florida, and the natural tendency was to think about Georgia right away. Well we’re not going to do that. We’re going to digest it because we need to learn from that lesson.
“Then, when we beat Georgia, the natural tendency was to savor it for about three days, and you can’t. We need to go through the process. We’re going to look at what we did wrong. We need to fix us, first. This week is going to be about fixing us.”
This bye week will allow the Tigers to decompress ahead of its biggest game of the season after a brutal first eight games in which they out-performed even the most optimistic fan’s expectations.
The Tigers have beaten four Top 25 times in their first eight games, including three teams ranked in the Top 10 when the games were played.
Now sitting at 7-1 with four games left on the regular season schedule, LSU still controls its own destiny with its toughest game under the lights at Death Valley during a season in which it entered with many believing it was a “rebuilding year” with question marks all over the field.
Needless to say, but a win against Alabama would thrust LSU firmly into the the College Football Playoff picture and make them a favorite to win the Southeastern Conference West Division.
It would cement the Tigers as one of the top teams in the country with no more questions to ask.
“It doesn’t get much bigger than this one,” said LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. “We’re going to go into the bye week. This was a good win for us. I need a breath. Our team needs a breath. We’re going to start preparing early, but it’s going to be nice to take a break.”
As big as the game is, Burrow added that he can’t make it out to be bigger than it actually is.
If the Tigers were to take down Alabama, Burrow’s name would be etched in the programs history as the first quarterback to lead LSU to victory against the Tide in eight attempts, and he’d have done it against one of Alabama’s most dominant-looking squads.
“You can’t really think about that,” he said. “You just have to focus on what you need to do. You can’t focus on that because then it gets too big for you; bigger than yourself, bigger than your team. You just have to think about executing every play.”
It would be very easy for the Tigers to immediately put this Mississippi State game right behind them and start preparing for an Alabama game they want to win more than anything.
But Orgeron’s right. They need time to digest the sloppy 19-3 victory. In fact, they need time to digest everything they’ve experienced this season.
Because LSU will need to pull from every lesson it has learned this season. From its dominance of Miami in Week 1 to its struggle against Mississippi State in Week 8 and everything in between (which includes highs like wins against Auburn and Georgia and lows like a loss to Florida and struggling to put Louisiana Tech away), the Tigers have plenty of things to look back on and learn from.
Now it’s time to take a couple weeks to put it all together for the most important game the Tigers have played yet this season.