Alabama Beats LSU 30-14 — Impact On The College Football Rankings

When the College Football Playoff (CFP) selection committee ranked the 7-1 Alabama Crimson Tide at No. 4 last Tuesday, many were critical of the decision, claiming that Alabama was ranked too high, given their loss to Ole Miss. But after a dominant win over No. 2-ranked LSU, it seems very likely that Alabama will be ranked even higher this coming Tuesday.

Going into Saturday’s game, the Alabama defense knew that they had to stop the nation’s leading rusher, Louisiana State’s Leonard Fournette. Not only did the Crimson Tide give the LSU Tigers their worst running game of the year, but they managed to render LSU quarterback Brandon Harris incapable of posing a serious threat.

As ESPN reported, the Alabama defense was prepared for Leonard Fournette. When asked about the opposing running back who went into Saturday’s game averaging almost 200 yards per game, Reggie Ragland, Alabama linebacker, summed up the Crimson Tide’s mentality.

“The whole week, leading up to it, the guys in the locker room [were saying], ‘Man, I’m tired of hearing about this guy. We got to go out there and do something.’ He’s a heck of a player. It’s hard to stop a guy like that. I’m glad I got the guys I have in the locker room. They held it to themselves, the guys up front, ‘we’re not going to let him do this.'”

The focused attitude worked. As noted by Yahoo! Sports, Alabama held Leonard Fournette to just 31 yards on 19 carries. In fact, until his 18-yard run on LSU’s final possession, Fournette only had 13 yards on 18 carries, an average of less than one yard per carry. Fournette’s inability to penetrate the Alabama defense put a lot of pressure on LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, who also failed against the Crimson Tide.

In one of his worst performances of the season, Harris completed just 6 of his 19 pass attempts. He only threw for 128 yards and tallied his first interception of the year.

Alabama’s Derrick Henry, however, had a very different experience on Saturday. Compared to Heisman trophy front-runner Fournette, Henry had twice as many carries (38) and out-rushed the LSU back in total yards 210-31. Where Fournette only averaged 1.6 yards/carry, Henry averaged 5.5. Fournette rushed for a single touchdown; Henry had three. Before this game, there was little debate that LSU’s Leonard Fournette was the most likely candidate for the Heisman. Alabama’s Derrick Henry just changed the conversation.

As noted, to compliment Henry’s impressive game, Alabama all-purpose back Kenyan Drake had 68 yards on 10 carries.

After a scoreless first quarter, the game remained close through halftime. Four minutes into the second quarter, Alabama kicker Adam Griffith hit a 22-yard field goal. In a little more than two minutes of game play later, Henry rushed for his first touchdown of the game, giving Alabama a 10-0 lead. LSU would respond with a touchdown and a field goal of their own to tie things up. With fourteen seconds remaining in the half, Griffith nailed a 55-yard field goal, and Alabama would never look back.

Derrick Henry would go on to score two unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter, and Griffith hit his third field goal early in the fourth. Fournette’s touchdown with nine minutes to play was too little, too late — especially when the Alabama special teams blocks your extra point attempt.

LSU Tigers coach Les Miles described his team’s performance bluntly: “This football team is much better than they showed tonight.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban had plenty of great things to say about Derrick Henry, as ESPN recounted.

“I can’t say enough about Derrick Henry. We could have ‘good,’ ‘better’ and ‘best.’ Or ‘special,’ ‘specialer,’ ‘he’s special,’ I don’t know. The guy’s having a great year. He had a great game today. It couldn’t have happened at a better time against a very good defensive team.”

Perhaps the biggest question is: how will the result of this game impact the College Football Playoff selection committee’s rankings on Tuesday? At the very least, one can expect Alabama to pass LSU in the rankings. But how will the No. 1 and No. 3 ranked teams (Clemson and Ohio State, respectively) get placed?

No. 1 Clemson hosted No. 16 Florida State, and sent the Seminoles packing when the Tigers won 23-13. It’s hard to imagine that anyone will take Clemson’s spot this week, since the No. 1 team remains undefeated after beating a ranked team, and the No. 2 ranked team suffered their first loss. No. 3 Ohio State hosted and defeated unranked Minnesota 28-14. The real question for the CFP selection committee is whether or not the one-loss Crimson Tide have proven they are better than the undefeated Ohio State. Also, with Baylor and Oklahoma yet undefeated, will LSU even remain in the Top 4?

All of these questions will be answered on Tuesday, when the College Football Playoffs selection committee announces their new college football rankings, which will almost certainly include Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State somewhere in the Top 4.

[Photo by Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images]

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