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Alabama coach Nick Saban, left, and LSU coach Ed Orgeron, right, meet at midfield after LSU's football game against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday Nov. 9, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. LSU won 46-41.

At his pre-Masters news conference Tuesday morning, former Alabama golfer Justin Thomas was asked if early tee times for Sunday’s final round was a problem for him if the LSU-Bama game would be played Saturday evening.

“I mean, we’re going to beat them by about 70 if we play them,” Thomas said with a smirk, “so I don’t think it really makes a difference.”

A really mean comment, one that fans are likely to remember the next time Justin shows up in New Orleans for the Zurich Classic. But Thomas might not have been wrong. As it happened, the game was officially postponed Tuesday afternoon because of a coronavirus outbreak on the LSU team that left the Tigers below the Southeastern Conference-mandated 53-scholarship player requirement to play the game.

Going into the week I was thinking the only chance the Tigers had to beat the Crimson Tide, barring a bushel of Bama turnovers, was a coronavirus outbreak among Tide players that left the visitors badly depleted but still forced to play just above the available player threshold. Like Alabama being down four offensive line starters plus quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris, and three or four defensive backs. LSU was at least going to be without quarterback Myles Brennan, who may be done for the year anyway with an abdominal injury, a contributing factor to the Tigers going rapidly from a three- to four-touchdown underdog from Sunday to Tuesday.

The potential for Alabama to cover and for LSU to be embarrassed, in front of a post-Masters third round national TV audience, was extensive. We’re talking Florida 58, LSU 3 in 1993 kind of embarrassment. And for that reason, it probably comes as a relief for a lot of Tiger fans that the game was not played.

But it should be played. The SEC needs to do some major schedule juggling to get this game in.

It really would not be all that difficult based on where we are now. As I wrote Monday, LSU-Bama could get played in three chess moves:

1. Have Alabama come to Baton Rouge next Saturday, Nov. 21.

2. Move LSU’s game currently scheduled for Nov. 21 at Arkansas to Dec. 19.

3. Move Alabama’s game currently scheduled for Nov. 21 against Kentucky to Dec. 12.

Dec. 19 is the date of the SEC Championship Game. No one wants to play regular-season games the day of the league’s showcase, but the integrity of the regular-season schedule should be important enough to make that work. It should also be vitally important that LSU worry not about losing but losing yet another home game in this pandemic-impacted season, leaving the school with just three after the Missouri game was moved for Hurricane Delta. Yes, Tiger Stadium is still only at 25% capacity, and according to LSU athletic director Scott Woodward is likely to remain at that percentage the rest of the season. But LSU’s department, like athletic departments everywhere, is strapped for cash. So every ticket dollar counts.

Lastly, despite all the problems and shortcomings facing LSU this season, the Tigers are college football’s reigning national champions. Potential spankings or not, to pick some words from Herm Edwards’ “You play … the game.” You play. LSU might get run over like pothole filler on Alabama’s road to championship glory, a road the Tigers blocked last season with their watershed 46-41 win in Tuscaloosa.

But you don’t duck a game no matter what the circumstances. LSU coach Ed Orgeron, to his credit, said as much Monday when asked about playing Alabama:

“Gotta fight,” Orgeron said. “Gotta fight like Tigers. We're going to put 11 men on the field and we'll fight like Tigers. We're playing. This is LSU-Alabama. We ain't blinking. We're going after it.”

Going down fighting, and potentially getting pummeled, is preferable to just going away. Orgeron knows that. Everyone who supports LSU football should know that, too.

Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com