LSU vs. Alabama betting preview and pick: Saban owns Tigers but total offers best value on oddsboard

November 2017
Alabama's Nick Saban and LSU's Ed Orgeron (AP Photo/ Brynn Anderson)
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No. 3 Alabama is a 6.5-point home favorite against No. 2 LSU in Saturday’s blockbuster battle between two of the country’s top national title contenders (3:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. CT, CBS).

Junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is expected to suit up for the Crimson Tide after a speedy recovery from ankle surgery. Throughout the week, the market price has reflected that Tagovailoa is likely to start instead of backup QB Mac Jones.

Saturday’s spread opened Alabama -6.5 at most sportsbooks, and although the line dipped to as low as 5.5 at some shops, it settled back at the opening number midweek. The total opened as low as 62.5 offshore but has since made its way up to 63 during early trading.

There is no sugarcoating the importance of this pivotal SEC matchup. The result will have far-reaching implications on the college football landscape, as the nation’s top teams continue to jockey for position on the College Football Playoff rankings while the regular season enters its final stages.

Also read: Big Ten Saturday betting primer

The first College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday evening. Ohio State is perched in the top spot out of the Big Ten, but LSU and Alabama – both sporting 8-0 records – are next at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Whoever wins Saturday’s matchup has a great chance to jump the Buckeyes for the No. 1 spot and cement themselves as an odds-on favorite to make the playoff.

The loser of Saturday’s marquee game could still be alive and well in the playoff hunt, but a blowout defeat may go a long way in shaping voters’ thoughts once the final selection day arrives on December 8. For that reason, both programs figure to enter Saturday’s tilt with a certain level of conservatism, especially early on in the game. Both teams know they cannot afford to lose by a large margin.

Alabama (8-0 straight up, 4-4 against the spread) has won eight consecutive games against LSU and is 4-1-1 ATS in the last six matchups between these two teams. Simply put, coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide have owned the Tigers in recent years.

On the other side of the ball, LSU (8-0 SU, 5-3 ATS) is used to being the underdog against the Crimson Tide. But the Tigers are the more experienced team in this matchup, particularly on defense, where Alabama features more freshmen (albeit very talented ones). Coach Ed Orgeron’s side is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 road games.

The Alabama defense is again one of the nation’s best units, but it is not as dominant as it has been in the past. The Crimson Tide are about to face a caliber of offense, led by LSU QB Joe Burrow, that it has yet to see this season. The senior quarterback is a leading Heisman candidate and can strengthen his case to win the award with an upset victory in Tuscaloosa this weekend.

Also read: Notre Dame vs. Duke betting preview

Bettors may find the UNDER to have the most value on Saturday, particularly in the first half. Both teams are ranked in the top 15 in opponent yards per play, and the two defenses are rested off their bye week. On top of that, there is a strong possibility that the coaches elect to call plays conservatively early on.

For those looking to take the points with LSU, then an LSU and UNDER parlay offers slight correlation. Not only are the Tigers more likely to cover the number in a lower-scoring game, but Alabama also tends to methodical with its play-calling, averaging over 30 seconds in between plays.

Saturday’s total is the highest of the last 11 times these teams have squared off (the highest of the previous 10 was 54). UNDER bettors have cashed in eight of the last 10 matchups between these two programs and in four of the last five.

Pick: Half-unit position on 1st Half UNDER at 31.5 or better (full position at 34)

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