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The Importance of Beating Bama, Earnestly

When you exorcise those demons and enter the uncertain future

NCAA Football: Alabama at Louisiana State
Look into the face of evil.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Y’all have probably noticed I haven’t been writing as much this season. For that, I do apologize. Life catches up to us all and I’ve been busy with work, family, and kids. Also, I have been feeling more and more like I belong to a prior era, and we have passed the baton to the next iteration of the site.

Now I’m like Eric Stoltz in Kicking and Screaming (no, the other one), hanging out with the college kids long after I should have graduated. Heck, the fact y’all don’t even get that reference proves how old I am.

But this one… this one was worth it. This wasn’t just a game, this was an exorcism.

LSU-Alabama games have a certain rhythm. The Tigers hold it close early, giving us hope. The defense plays out of its mind while the offense gives us glimpses of what could be, but can’t quite put it together. LSU takes the lead and by the third quarter, the teams are locked in a dogfight. A call goes against our boys, maybe a freakish bounce, or an aggressive coaching decision goes sideways.

Then it ends in heartbreak. And we are left doing the woulda, coulda, shoulda dance.

You think I’m kidding? Hide the children or just skip past all of the hypertext. Because these postgame postmortems are burned into my brain. It’s like a wrote them yesterday. They all still hurt. Enter, if you dare:



The Game That Shall Not Be Mentioned.







Just a litany of “if only.” This game is a nightmare we keep reliving and we’d be lying if we did not admit it didn’t occupy a huge portion of the fanbase’s headspace. The Bama game is cursed. We know it. LSU was going to find a way to lose, like it always does, right?

You could be forgiven if you were having flashbacks. I know I was. At almost every point of the game, you could think back to some prior horror administered by Nick Saban’s Alabama team and think that now was the time it was going to happen again.

Crazy replay with a rule that is applied in a way no one had considered before? Check. Big plays erased by momentum killing penalties which seemed… let’s call it generous to Alabama? Check. Lead erased in the fourth quarter by a wheels off play resulting in Alabama’s best player having a veritable Heisman moment? You bet. Even coupled with the refs completely ignoring a pretty obvious penalty on our best player, too. Which only makes the highlight that more infuriating.

These are the plays, the moments, which broke previous LSU teams. And they certainly broke LSU fans. We expect that other shoe to drop. Alabama is gonna make that big play over and over, like some 80s horror movie villain repeatedly rising from the dead.

It’s long been the (accurate) belief that in order to beat Bama, you have to play a near perfect game. You need to take advantage of every opportunity and you need a moment or two of good fortune. If you take your foot of the gas, even for a moment, Bama will take advantage and your upset bid will be denied.

And here’s the thing… LSU won and it didn’t play a perfect game. LSU kept crossing midfield and seeing its drives stall out short of field goal range in the first half, leaving too many points on the board. LSU got the ball in the fourth quarter with the lead… and failed to put up that score to extend the lead. The defense tired in the fourth quarter and started giving up big plays. And of course, LSU had its obligatory special teams error, sending a kickoff out of bounds.

What’s notable is not just that LSU won, it’s that LSU won without playing its best game. This wasn’t the 2019 team going in their and dropping dimes until they marched out with a win. This was two evenly matched teams throwing haymakers at each other repeatedly. And connecting.

LSU scored its go-ahead touchdown too early. It gave the ball back to Bryce Young, an incredible playmaker. And he drove Bama down the field for the big score as time expired, just like Bama always does against LSU. The difference was that it was a field goal for a tie, rather than a touchdown for the win. That seems like a small thing, but that is everything in this series. That’s when Bama breaks our hearts, not simply prolongs the agony.

With it all on the line, Brian Kelly did what LSU coaches have frequently done against Bama. They made that aggressive call, putting faith in their team to make a play. And outside of 2010 or 2019, this is the call that always seems to backfire.

Only this time it didn’t.

LSU beat Alabama. And they did it without a huge turnover margin or gaining a bunch more yards or even having more highlight reel plays. They beat Bama because… well, in a battle of two evenly matched teams, they seemed to be the slightly better one. They didn’t get the breaks, and it didn’t matter. LSU didn’t mope. Instead, they went out and won.

That, more than anything, feels like a new era. The win matters, of course, but what matters more is how this team won. This didn’t feel like a miracle. It didn’t feel like a historically great team accepting its coronation. It was a simply a good football team beating another good football team.

We haven’t had that feeling after an LSU-Bama game in a long time. It feels pretty good. The monster isn’t just dead, it turns out that he’s not the same monster anymore.