LSU is in the driver’s seat in the SEC West.
The No. 10 Tigers knocked off No. 6 Alabama 32-31 in overtime after Jayden Daniels hit freshman tight end Mason Taylor on a game-winning two-point conversion.
Alabama scored first in overtime on a short Roydell Williams TD run. LSU then scored on its first play of overtime on a 25-yard TD run by Daniels. After a timeout by LSU to find its best two-point play, Daniels rolled to his right and found Taylor just inside the pylon.
“It just felt like the right time,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said of going for two.
Taylor, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Jason Taylor, caught a TD pass from Daniels to give the Tigers a 24-21 lead with less than two minutes to go in regulation. Alabama drove down the field to get into field goal range as Will Richard’s 46-yard kick tied the game with 21 seconds left.
LSU’s defense played well Saturday night, especially in the first half as it held Alabama to two field goals. The Crimson Tide didn’t score their first TD until there was 12:37 left in the game when Williams scored on a 2-yard run.
That run gave Alabama its first lead of the game at 15-14 and then the Crimson Tide took a 21-17 lead with 4:44 to go in the fourth when reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young made a Houdini-like escape from a blitz and found Ja’Corey Brooks for a 44-yard TD.
But LSU responded to each of those Alabama TDs. And Daniels was a massive reason why. The Arizona State transfer was 22-of-32 passing for 182 yards and two TDs while rushing 18 times for 95 yards and a score. Daniels has thrown 14 TDs to just one interception so far this season after throwing 10 TDs and 10 interceptions a season ago with the Sun Devils.
Alabama’s playoff hopes are very likely over
The chances of the SEC getting three teams in the playoff have gone from slim to closer to none with Alabama’s loss. The Crimson Tide and Tigers are now both 7-2 overall. No two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff.
And with plenty of undefeated and one-loss teams remaining in college football, it’s not easy to envision a two-loss team making the College Football Playoff in 2022.
LSU, meanwhile, is likely in the SEC title game for the first time since 2019 with wins over Arkansas and Texas A&M. If Alabama beats Ole Miss next week, just one win will be good enough for LSU as it has the tiebreaker over both the Rebels and Crimson Tide.
If Alabama misses the playoff, it’ll be just the third time in nine seasons that the playoff was held without the Crimson Tide.
LSU’s growth in 2022
The Kelly era at LSU got off to a rocky start with an opening week loss to Florida State after a host of special teams blunders, including a blocked extra point that would have tied the game. Perhaps that extra point was in the back of Kelly’s mind as he called for the game-winning two-point conversion.
But things quickly got better in Baton Rouge, even if the progress hasn’t been linear so far. LSU beat Mississippi State in Week 3 by 15 and then held on to beat Auburn by four. After getting blitzed by Tennessee at home, LSU went on the road to beat Florida and then dominated Ole Miss a week ago in a 45-20 win.
Daniels’ improvement has been a big reason for LSU’s four-game win streak. He has 24 total TDs over nine games and leads the team in rushing while completing 70% of his passes. Fourteen of those 24 TDs have come in the past three weeks. Daniels had five TDs against Ole Miss and scored all six of the Tigers’ TDs in the win over Florida.
If Daniels keeps playing at this high level, LSU isn’t going to be as overmatched as you may think in a potential SEC title game against Georgia.