No. 3 Alabama holds on to beat huge underdog LSU, 20-14

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama was living dangerously, with a missed extra point, a nonexistent running game and a lead repeatedly in jeopardy.

The third-ranked Crimson Tide’s defense kept turning away heavy underdog LSU late and Bryce Young passed for 302 yards to survive for a 20-14 victory on Saturday night.

“Sometimes we have an expectation that we’re going to win easy, but sometimes it’s not so easy,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

The Crimson Tide (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference, No. 2 CFP) preserved their national championship hopes in a game that was as tight as some meetings when both were nursing such ambitions. The injury-depleted Tigers (4-5, 2-4) and lame-duck coach Ed Orgeron didn’t act like 29.5-point underdogs, which they were according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

It certainly wasn’t this time for a team left with no margin for error after a loss to No. 13 Texas A&M.

It wasn’t over until the final play, a Hail Mary that fell incomplete in the end zone. The Tigers came up empty in three fourth-quarter trips into Alabama territory, including that quick venture to the 30 in the final minute.

Young, the Heisman Trophy front-runner, completed 24 of 37 passes with a couple of touchdowns, including a 58-yarder to Jameson Williams. Williams caught 10 passes for 160 yards. LSU harried Young all night and held Brian Robinson Jr. to 18 yards on 13 carries for a team that netted 6 yards on the ground thanks largely to sacks.

But Alabama returned the favor with Will Anderson Jr. racking up 12 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and four tackles for loss.

“Relentless effort, that’s all I can say,” Anderson said about the defensive performance. “It was relentless effort.”

Max Johnson completed 16 of 32 passes for 160 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for LSU. Tyrion Davis-Price ran for 104 yards.

Orgeron didn’t buy into the philosophy that his team had nothing to lose.

“I felt like we had something to lose, because we had the game to lose and that’s important to us,” he said.

“We should have won the game,” Orgeron added. “Our guys played their hearts out.”

Cameron Lewis gave LSU the ball back in Alabama territory after ripping the ball from Young with 3:25 left.

“At that point we knew we’ve got to have faith in our defense,” Young said. “And we have faith in our defense. They played lights out the entire night. They played tremendous. They came up big for us time and again.”

Johnson’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete, but the Tigers got another chance with 50 seconds left.

Ahead for most of the first half, LSU had pulled to 20-14 on Johnson’s 8-yard touchdown with 2:27 in the third quarter. The Tigers converted two fourth-down plays on the 14-play, 89-yard drive.

Alabama had missed an extra point earlier, so LSU later had a chance to take the lead several times late.

The Tide defense held on four straight plays after the Tigers got first and goal from the 8. Replay overturned a Johnson fumble, but his fourth-down pass sailed over the head of Trey Palmer.

Alabama had five sacks and LSU four.

“There was no way we were going to let them score at the end,” Saban said. “I think the defensive players stepped up, and that was great competitive character. It’s always good to beat LSU. I knew this was going to be a tough game. I knew they would play their best game of the year against us.”

THE TAKEAWAY

LSU: Went for broke with a fake punt that set up an opening drive touchdown and six other fourth-down attempts, converting five. It almost paid off, but the Tigers have lost 10 of the last 11 meetings.

Alabama: The defense mostly hung tough but the offensive line couldn’t protect Young or open holes for the running game. The blocking troubles continued to plague the Tide.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Despite the uneven performance, Alabama may have a chance to jump No. 2 Cincinnati, which struggled to a 28-20 win over Tulsa. The Tide seems likely to hold firm in the playoff rankings since No. 3 Michigan State (No. 5 AP) fell to Purdue.

UP NEXT

LSU: Hosts Arkansas next Saturday.

Alabama: Hosts New Mexico State next Saturday.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.