Here we go again

Kyle Riviere

Every season, LSU's schedule comes out and the first thing people usually ask is, "When do they play Alabama?"

Ever since that depressing night in 2012, when the Tigers had their hopes of immortality crushed by Alabama in an ugly 21-0 blowout in the Superdome, that game has come to define every LSU football season. 

It has reached the point where it doesn't matter what the Tigers do before the first week of November or what they do after the first week of November. They will always be judged by what happens when they meet Alabama.

Whether they win or lose that game will determine if the season was a bust, and for the past seven years, the perception is that LSU has underachieved as a program. And most of that has to do with their performances against Alabama.

They have lost eight straight. Ever since they went to Tuscaloosa and beat the Tide, 9-6, in the "Game of the Century," they are 0-7 against Alabama during the regular season.

Still, there have been many times when Tiger fans confidently declared "this is the year we beat Alabama." And they have come close a few of those times, but it still hasn't happened.

In 2012 and 2014, the upset looked imminent as they played at home and held late leads, just to have their hearts ripped out.

Many thought the undefeated 2015 team with Heisman front-runner Leonard Fournette would end the streak, but they were pummeled, 30-16, and Fournette was held to 31 yards on 19 carries.

Enter 2019.

Here we go again. There has been a buzz building ever since the season started, and Tiger fans are again declaring that this will be the year they finally beat the Tide.

I want to share their optimism and believe that declaration, but after eight straight losses, I have to see it before I can actually believe it.

Outside of having to play on the road, LSU does actually have some things working in its favor this year. 

The biggest thing is that they actually have an offense that can score some points against Alabama's defense. Alabama won't be able to just load the box and cover two receivers in the secondary like they have for years.

LSU now has the kind of offense that has given the Tide fits. They have a quarterback that is playing at an elite level, and they have a receiving corps that is probably only second to Alabama's, when it comest to pure talent.

Also, Alabama's defense isn't as dominant as they have been in years past. Their defensive line isn't as deep, and due to some injuries, they have two true freshmen starting linebackers.

We also don't know how healthy Tua Tagovailoa will be at quarterback after sustaining a high ankle sprain and having surgery on it just three weeks ago.

Regardless of what happens, this is not win or bust for LSU. Even with a loss, there is still a good chance they could make the four-team playoff.

They would have to win their remaining three games, but that's certainly doable. They'll be double-digit favorites against both Ole Miss and Arkansas, and they'll get Texas A&M at home in front of a very hostile crowd--in the wake of what happened in last year's meeting.

If they go 11-1 with their only loss being at Alabama, they would likely be the most attractive one-loss team to the playoff committee.

And with Oklahoma losing against Kansas State, only three teams would most likely finish undefeated: Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. That final spot would go to a one-loss team. LSU would be the leader in the clubhouse for that spot. 

There is one scenario that would hurt LSU: Georgia goes 11-1 and beats an undefeated Alabama team in the SEC Championship Game. In that case, Georgia would get in over LSU.

And even with a loss, Joe Burrow's Heisman chances are still in play, barring a nightmare performance and/or blowout.

Burrow is currently the overwhelming favorite.

If LSU loses a close game, Burrow is stellar in defeat and Tua doesn't dazzle in victory, Burrow will still come out of the game in good shape.

If he would then finish the regular season with three victories and three strong performances in those victories, he'd have a great chance of being LSU's second-ever Heisman Trophy winner.