Alabama’s High Noon: LSU To Win West Again In Last Year Of SEC Divisions

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Alabama’s brand is so strong, sometimes people forget when it drops a tad.

The Crimson Tide actually lost to LSU in 2022 for only the second time since 2011, and it did not win the Southeastern Conference West for just the third time since 2014. Alabama recovered to still finish No. 6 in the final College Football Playoff rankings at 11-2 (6-2 SEC). That was nine spots ahead of LSU at No. 15 at 10-4 (6-2 SEC).

The Tigers finished with the worst record of an SEC West champion since Arkansas went 9-5 in 2002. And they lost three of those four by an average of three touchdowns – 40-13 to eventual No. 5 Tennessee, 50-30 to national champion to-be Georgia and 38-23 to Texas A&M, which finished 5-7.

Alabama-LSU Will Likely Decide SEC West Again

But LSU still beat Alabama, 32-31, in overtime in Tiger Stadium, knocking the Tide out of the College Football Playoffs.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (right) is congratulated by LSU coach Brian Kelly after the Tigers defeated Ole Miss last season in Tiger Stadium. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Yet, a reporter said this during a question to LSU coach Brian Kelly on Monday at the SEC Media Days in Nashville:

“You came within one point from beating Alabama, but you still won the West.”

Kelly didn’t respond as two questions followed the above mistake and perhaps distracted him – a tired one about his fake Louisiana accent and a ridiculous one about if he is committed to senior quarterback Jayden Daniels as his starter.

Alabama’s Nick Saban To Speak Wednesday

Alabama coach Nick Saban will take his turn at the podium at 10 a.m., Wednesday along with defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry, linebacker Dallas Turner and offensive lineman JC Latham. Arkansas, Florida and Kentucky will complete the third day of SEC Media Days. Ole Miss, South Carolina and Tennessee wrap it up Thursday.

Most of the 1,200 credentialed for the SEC Media Days know LSU beat Alabama last season, largely because of Daniels. He completed 22 of 32 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 95 yards on 18 carries, including a 25-yard jaunt to tie the game at 31 with the second possession of overtime. Then he completed a daring, 3-yard, two-point conversion pass to tight end Mason Taylor for the win.

“It meant everything,” LSU running back Josh Williams said Monday. “Alabama is our rival game.”

And Daniels is back. He is one of the best returning dual-action quarterbacks in the nation, other than USC’s Caleb Williams. Daniels threw for 2,913 yards and 17 touchdowns last season while rushing for another 885 and 11 scores.

If Daniels get banged up again as he did last year, the Tigers also have sophomore backup Garrett Nussmeier.

LSU’s Brian Kelly Has Already Caught Alabama’s Nick Saban

LSU will win the West again in 2023 because it has two quarterbacks who are each better entering the season than any one quarterback Alabama has. Saban had to scramble when projected sophomore starter Jalen Milroe and freshman Ty Simpson did not exactly set the world on fire at spring drills. Alabama settled for Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner, a leftover in the portal. 247 Sports listed him as a three-star and the No. 417 overall prospect in the portal and No. 31 quarterback.

Yes, he played for Alabama’s new offensive coordinator, Tommy Rees, at Notre Dame. But he was not expected to win the starting job at Notre Dame. And Rees was not exactly a home run hire either.

Ole Miss, by the way, has three quarterbacks who are each better than anyone Alabama has entering the season, too. Those are returning starter Jaxson Dart, senior Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders and redshirt freshman LSU transfer Walker Howard.

What was Saban thinking not getting Sanders, Howard or Nussmeier via the portal last January?

Did Nick Saban Miss His Last Chance At National Title?

Saban may have missed his last chance to win a national title when he didn’t notch one with quarterback Bryce Young in 2021 and ’22. Young won the Heisman in the ’21 season, but the Tide fell to Georgia in the national championship game. Alabama failed to make the playoffs in the 2022 season for just the second time since they started in 2014. Saban will be 72 on Halloween, and he doesn’t appear to have anyone on the roster close to Young.

Maybe this is why Saban was still complaining about his team not being voted into the playoffs last season six months after the fact. He will undoubtedly vent on that Thursday.

Meanwhile, Georgia coach Kirby Smart is in position to win his third straight national championship since Saban won his last one in the 2020 season. The SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum just said that would soil Saban’s legacy.

Note to Finebaum – Kelly could be passing Saban, too.

LSU’s overall talent is equal to or at least close to the overall talent at Alabama. And Alabama probably does not have two defenders as good as LSU outside linebacker Harold Perkins and tackle Maeson Smith, who missed all but the opener in 2022 with a knee injury. Perkins was one of the best freshman defenders in the country last year.

“We had never seen nobody just come around the corner like him,” LSU junior defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo said Monday.

Crimson Tide Tends To Gather SEC Media Days Votes

But do not be surprised if Alabama is voted once again as the SEC West champion on Friday morning by reporters at the SEC Media Days. That brand is difficult to look past, or forget. Since 1992 when the SEC went to two divisions, Alabama has been picked to win the SEC 13 times, including the last seven straight and 11 since 2010. Over that span, Alabama won the SEC 10 times and the West 15 times along with seven national championships.

LSU will have a chance, though, in what will be the last division winner vote in SEC Media Days history. The SEC will not have divisions beginning in 2024 when Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC from the Big 12 just in time for the new 12-team College Fooball Playoff.

With the Media Days in Nashville, not Hoover, Alabama, the Tigers have a voting chance. The ballot boxes tended to be stuffed a bit in Hoover with so many Alabama media outlets whether the Tide deserved to be voted in or not.

The Tigers have not been picked to win the West at SEC Media Days since 2012 when reporters voted LSU to win the SEC overall crown as well. That was the season after LSU went 13-0 before losing the national championship game, 21-0, to Alabama in New Orleans. Alabama won the West, the SEC and the national title in the 2012 season.

Since then, Alabama has exited SEC Media Days as the pick to win the West and the overall title nine out of 10 times. That included last year in Atlanta with Georgia sitting there as the reigning national champion after beating the Tide by two touchdowns. LSU has been picked to win the SEC only twice – in 2007 when it did and in 2012.

LSU’s Brian Kelly Looking Championship Consistency

The Tide brand trend will fade a tad with Friday’s vote report.

The East still belongs to Georgia, though look for it to drop somewhat in 2023 as Tennessee continues to emerge. But the West is now LSU’s.

“Alabama and Georgia continue to hold that mantel of consistency in terms of playing for championships,” Kelly said Monday. “And that’s what we’ll be looking to be at LSU – playing for championships consistently year in and year out.”

Kelly topped off LSU’s West title last season with a No. 6 recruiting class by Sports 247, and he has been adept in the portal as well. He got Daniels from Arizona State and Wingo from Missouri after the 2021 season. After last season, he nabbed a much-needed running back in Logan Diggs from Notre Dame.

“I know that based upon how we’ve recruited and how we’ll continue to recruit that we’ll have a football roster that will be able to compete against Georgia,” Kelly said. “Is that right now? No, it’s not. But if we continue to do what we’re doing, we’re going to. Then it’s just a matter of getting done on the playing field, so everybody then can assess they’ve closed the gap.”

That gap closed against Alabama last year on the field. This year, LSU will pass Alabama again on the field.

Georgia would be next.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.

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