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Barnhart's burning questions for Week 11

5 days ago
Tony Barnhart | SEC Network

We're going to do a something a little bit different this week.

First, I'm going to give you a quick hit on three SEC games and their significance to the conference landscape.

But I'm saving all of our Five Burning Questions for the latest Game of the Century - No. 2 LSU (8-0) at No. 3 Alabama (8-0). It's that big.

Here are three conference games and why you should watch.

Vanderbilt (2-6) at Florida (7-2), Noon, ESPN: The Gators lost to Georgia (24-17) last week but still have a lot of play for, like posting their second straight 10-win season under Dan Mullen.

Missouri (5-3) at Georgia (7-1), 7 p.m., ESPN: Georgia is coming off a huge win against Florida and now controls its destiny in the SEC East. There is a big showdown at Auburn next week. The Bulldogs cannot afford a letdown.

Tennessee (4-5) at Kentucky (4-4), 7:30 p.m., SEC Network: Huge, huge game for both teams who still aspire to go bowling.

Now on with our Five Burning Questions about Alabama-LSU:

 Is this the best quarterback/offensive matchup in the history of this game?

Well, you be the judge. Here are the major categories with the national rankings in parentheses:

Alabama.........................Category................LSU

338.6 ypg (5).............Passing offense...377.6 ypg (2)

48.6 ppg (2)...............Scoring offense....46.8 ppg (4)

506.6 ypg (9).............Total offense.........535.9 ypg (4)

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is No. 2 in passing yards at 350.06 yards per game (30 touchdowns). Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa is ninth at 309.40 (27 touchdowns).

The answer to the question is yes, and it's not close.

Rumor has it that Alabama is very difficult to beat at home. Can you quantify this?

With pleasure: Alabama enters Saturday's game having won 38 straight times at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Go back a little further and Alabama has won 48 of its last 49 at home. The loss in that stretch was to Ole Miss on Sept. 19, 2015, when Alabama had five turnovers.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban, in his 13th season at Alabama, is 82-7 at home as the head man of the Crimson Tide. Over his career, he is 141-19 at home.

But Ed Orgeron has proven himself to be a pretty good big game coach, right?

Yes, indeed. Consider this: After LSU's 23-20 win over No. 10 Auburn on Oct. 26 in Baton Rouge, Orgeron is now 8-3 against teams ranked in the top 10 as the head coach of the Tigers.

Those three losses, by the way, have all been to Alabama.

But the other guy has a pretty good big-game record too. Since the start of the 2008 season Saban is 30-10 against the top 10.

And here's the most impressive stat for Saban: Over his career he has won 24 games against top-five opponents. That is easily the best in FBS history. Florida State's Bobby Bowden is a distant second with 18 wins over the top five.

Can Tua go the distance?

This, my friends, is the most important question surrounding this football game.

If Tagovailoa, who hurt his ankle against Tennessee on Oct.19, is completely mobile and can stay out of harm's way, then I predict that Alabama will win the football game.

One of the things that makes those great Alabama receivers almost impossible to stop is Tua's ability to hit them while they are going full speed. It is a skill that few college quarterbacks can match.

Saban has said all week that Tau's availability for Saturday will be "a game-time decision."

"What I always say to the player is 'I know you want to play, but can you do your job?'' Saban told The Tuscaloosa News. Expect Tua to start the game. But will he finish?

Now that the first set of College Football Playoff numbers are out, what does this game really mean?

Glad you asked. The winner controls its destiny, meaning that if it wins out and wins the SEC championship, it will be in the College Football Playoff as a 13-0 SEC champion.

The loser, however, is not done.

Should No. 2 LSU lose a close game on the road and finish 11-1, there is a case to be made that the Tigers should still get in. They will have gone on the road to beat Texas and will have posted wins over Florida and Auburn, which were top-10 teams when the games were played.

At 11-1, No. 3 Alabama would not have as a strong of an argument. Its best wins will have been over Auburn and Texas A&M with a very weak non-conference schedule (Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Miss, Western Carolina).