Alabama Football: Just how much has LSU improved?

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports /

In surprising fashion, the Alabama football game in Baton Rouge is a big deal. The SEC West representative in Atlanta could be determined by the outcome of the game.

Following the LSU implosion under Ed Orgeron, expectations were not high for Brian Kelly’s first season in Baton Rouge. It is not easy to follow a 15-0, National Championship season with 5-5 and 6-7 records. LSU and Orgeron perpetrated one of the biggest collapses in recent college football history.

With Brian Kelly’s arrival at LSU, an exodus of players chose to transfer. Much of Kelly’s rebuild for this season has been possible because he added impact transfers. Arguably the most impactful has been former Arizona State QB, Jayden Daniels.

It took the 2022 Bengal Tigers a month, but after beating Auburn, LSU cracked the AP Poll, Top 25, barely at No. 25. At that point, LSU had one credible win over Mississippi State, but at 4-1, LSU had recovered from the opening loss to FSU.

LSU beat Auburn while only scoring 21 points. Jayden Daniels had been mostly a one-read, QB, quick to tuck the ball and run. Since Daniels is a serious rushing threat, called runs for him were also a big part of the LSU offense. Rumblings out of Baton Rouge claimed more than one LSU receiver was dissatisfied with the offensive schemes.

What came next was a Tennessee blowout in Baton Rouge. Daniels threw 45 passes against the Vols and ran 16 times. LSU scored only 13 points. Long before the game ended at 40-13, there were more empty seats in Tiger Stadium than fans.

The Tennessee game marked another ‘new low’ for LSU. Somehow, Brian Kelly turned things around quickly. Two LSU wins have come since. LSU exploded for 45 points in Gainesville to beat the Gators. Early in the second quarter last Saturday, Ole Miss led LSU 17-3. The rest of the way the Bengal Tigers out-scored the Rebels 42-3.

What happened to LSU and is it real?

Almost magically the LSU offense is clicking; running and passing. Jayden Daniels can no longer be termed a one-read QB, and unlike earlier in the season, he is also throwing long passes and connecting. LSU is currently averaging over 450 yards of offensive production. Jayden Daniels’ completion rate has climbed to almost 70%. Daniels continues to run the ball often, but the LSU offense has become more than Daniels.

The result is LSU may actually be better than its current No. 18 ranking.

What must Alabama Football do?

Jayden Daniels must have a monster game for LSU to upset the Alabama Crimson Tide. Most important for the Alabama defense will be to force Daniels to make multiple reads. The emergence of Eli Ricks should mean, as good as LSU receivers, Malik Nabers and Kayshon Boutte are, Alabama has corners that can cover them. Daniels has other guys to choose, Jaray Jenkins and Brian Thomas Jr., but if they are his third read, the Tide pass rush should have him under pressure.

Daniels is a naturally creative playmaker and makes plays with his feet. The Alabama defense must be careful to not over-run him, allowing a quick sprint from the pocket. Noah Cain has been LSU’s most productive running back. Cain is a threat, as is Josh Williams, but the LSU running backs are not going to beat the Crimson Tide.

Next. Three thoughts from the Tide's open week. dark

Tiger Stadium will be a madhouse Saturday night. Alabama Football will need a more consistent performance than in earlier road games.