It was the matchup all 102,321 people in attendance Saturday night wanted to see.
Arguably the nation’s best quarterback, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, going head to head with arguably the nation’s best secondary in LSU.
After two weeks of anticipation, the Tigers didn’t want to keep them waiting any longer, winning the coin toss and deferring, electing to start the game on defense.
On a white board in a forlorn corner of a somber LSU locker room, someone left behind the pregame message “60 minutes of hell.”
Tagovailoa was ready.
Dropping back on the opening play, Tagovailoa looked directly at LSU cornerback Greedy Williams and fired a completion 14 yards downfield to Henry Ruggs.
LSU’s star cornerback, like so many of his teammates in the 29-0 loss, was helpless to stop the perfectly placed ball. It was the first of four straight completions for Tagovailoa, who started 11 of 15.
In the face of a record-tying crowd under the storied lights of Tigers Stadium and a smothering defense, Tagovailoa never shied away from a challenge.
It wasn’t enough for the Heisman Trophy frontrunner to throw for 295 yards and two touchdowns or to complete 25 of his 42 pass attempts.
Tagovailoa did it all while going directly at LSU’s best defenders.
He attacked Williams, he threw at Grant Delpit and he ran up the middle against Devin White.
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The result, in the end, was almost always the same: Tagovailoa won.
"It shows you the kind of personnel we have," Tagovailoa said. "The talent we have. It shows what kind of things we can do against basically anyone. The kind of talent we have is great. For someone like me to have the talent we have, I'm grateful for it."
By the time he was done slicing his way through a defense that allowed an average of only 199.8 yards passing this season, the deafening crowd dwindled to a fraction of its starting point, and the small faction of Alabama fans were heard throughout the stadium.
Even when Tagovailoa made his biggest mistake, an interception to Todd Harris on a deep ball into double coverage, it still nearly worked to Alabama’s advantage by backing the LSU offense near its own goal line. Two plays later, Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow fell within inches of a safety.
Tagovailoa made up for it on the next drive, anyway, throwing a 25-yard touchdown to tight end Irv Smith against Delpit.
"That was a good play by the DB," Tagovailoa said of the interception. "I never should've made that decision. Things happen. I'm happy for him. That was good."
Not even the return of White, who came back in the second half after serving the remainder of his targeting suspension he incurred against Mississippi State, could rejuvenate the Tigers.
With five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Tagovailoa took off for a 44-yard touchdown burst that all but sealed the victory for the surging Tide.
"We had a game plan of how we wanted to run the ball," coach Nick Saban said. "We weren't really attacking any particular person. A lot of the (run-pass options) and things we threw today were based on things they played. Sometimes we ran it, and sometimes we threw it."
It didn’t help LSU’s cause that Tagovailoa had plenty of time to find his targets, either. The Tigers registered just three quarterback hurries and one sack.
"They've just got weapons all over the field, and (Tagovailoa) just gets it to them," LSU defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence said. "We could have (got more pressure on him) and that's on us. We have to get back into pass rushing. That's big. You can't give him more than two seconds. With all the different crossing routes, he's going to eat you up."