Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel, and Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger discuss this weekend’s top 10 matchup between No. 6 Alabama and No. 10 LSU, and debate if Brian Kelly’s first matchup against Nick Saban while at LSU will be a victory or a loss.
DAN WETZEL: LSU-Alabama-- Alabama visits LSU. Brian Kelly is in the house. This, to me, is-- obviously, Bama's got to keep winning. LSU can still win the SEC.
LSU can still go to the playoffs. LSU can win out, win the West, beat Tennessee and avenge a loss, or beat Georgia in the SEC title game at 11 and 2. Does LSU get to go to the playoff if they've got that resume?
PAT FORDE: Hoo, that's an interesting thought.
DAN WETZEL: Anyway, so Brian Kelly leaves Notre Dame to go to LSU. And to me, it is because he knew at Notre Dame he just was never going to get over that hump where he could walk into a game against-- I think Alabama was his main focus-- and be able to say, I've got the athletes that can beat Alabama. We can do this without pitching some absolute perfect game.
He had tried and tried and tried at Notre Dame. And he never could quite get there. He does not have LSU at that level that I think they will get to.
But it's sure as a heck of a lot closer in terms of just pure athletic ability and a lot of talent that he has. I don't know whether this LSU team is better than some of those Notre Dame teams. Probably not. But this is his first crack there.
How big of a game is this for Brian Kelly? How meaningful is this game for Brian Kelly? Because he gave up an extremely comfortable existence and a program that was sort of on cruise control. And he could have gone down. And he was already the winningest coach at Notre Dame, to take on this challenge.
And I think it's for nights like Saturday that he just never thought he could have at Notre Dame. This is why he left. This is what he wanted. Here it is. How big is this for him, Ross?
ROSS DELLENGER: Yeah. Yeah. It's a big one. But I do think people understand what you just said. Year 1, he hasn't amassed probably the talent and the roster that he probably needs to beat Alabama. But having said that, they've been playing a lot better.
I think it all starts with the quarterback because they have a pretty-- they've had a pretty solid defense all season. They've played pretty well in most games. They've got a pretty solid running back in Daniels. He's kind of taken off lately.
So it all starts with the quarterback. And I think Jayden Daniels and his receivers have kind of hit their stride, I guess, the last couple weeks after that rough game against Tennessee. [INAUDIBLE], he's come around and started playing better-- kind of a guy that a lot of people said he was kind of checked out, so to speak.
He's checked back in, I guess. And he's been playing well. So this one feels to me like it's not the normal one of the last-- 10 of the last 12 years when these two teams meet and you're like, well, LSU has no chance in this game. And that's what it felt like.
Probably at least eight of the last 10 have kind of felt like that. This one doesn't feel like that. And I think it's because LSU's playing better. But it's also a night game at Tiger Stadium, going to be pretty electric.
But also, it's because we've seen Alabama exposed this year. We've seen Texas almost win. We've seen Arkansas scored 23 straight points [INAUDIBLE].
We've seen A&M come within a play, and then Tennessee beat them. So there's been some holes exposed. And I kind of expect this to be a fourth quarter game.
PAT FORDE: Yeah. It's fascinating to me what the LSU fan mindset will be because I think what both of you guys are saying is right. The expectation realistically is not, all right, Brian Kelly, year 1, we're just going to go beat Alabama's ass. But at the same time, this doesn't look like vintage Alabama.
Ross detailed the struggles they've had. If you want to look at it on the negative side, they are two plays away from having three losses this year. They have not been very good on the road.
This will be a hell of an environment. And I know LSU fans, when they get one look at Saban, they just lose their minds. We got to beat Saban.
And so I think the expectation level may ratchet up beyond-- on Saturday night, it may be different than it is on Tuesday afternoon, as far as what LSU fans want to see from their team. So I expect it to be a good game. I expect it to be a close game.
I expect Alabama to win. But they've got to play a lot cleaner than they have on the road. Cut down on the penalties, cut down on the turnovers, cut down on the dumb plays and sloppy plays. So I will be watching with great interest, for sure.