Does LSU need divine intervention to end its eight-game losing streak to Alabama?
This certainly won’t help.
Senior linebacker Michael Divinity is not only out for Saturday’s No. 1-versus-2 showdown at Alabama, but is gone from the program, LSU coach Ed Orgeron confirmed Monday at his weekly news conference.
LSU linebacker Michael Divinity has left the team for "personal reasons," coach Ed Orgeron said Monday, which means the Tigers will be without…
The official word is Divinity is gone for personal reasons. But it isn’t hard to imagine that Divinity, who was held out of three of the Tigers’ first five games — non-conference tilts against Georgia Southern, Northwestern State and Utah State, which is telling — is gone because he broke one too many rules.
LSU is notoriously tight-fisted when it comes to compliance, but in this case that doesn't appear to be what brought Divinity down. The full story of Divinity's departure may never truly come to light, but the core issue here is that a young man did something foolish and he had to pay a significant price.
However it happened, the fact remains Divinity is off the roster, and with him goes one of LSU’s most dangerous defensive playmakers on the eve of the program’s biggest game in years.
LSU has depth on defense. The Tigers wouldn’t be the nation’s No. 1-ranked team if they didn’t. Orgeron mentioned Andre Anthony and Ray Thornton as the proverbial next men up at Divinity’s position. And up-and-coming freshman Marcel Brooks, who backs up K’Lavon Chaisson at the opposite outside linebacker position, will probably also have to play a more involved role.
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But in a game that projects to be this even, with the degrees of separation already being measured in how many percentage points of healthy is Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s ankle come Saturday, any loss or return of a key player could swing the pendulum.
In Divinity’s case, LSU has other defenders just as or even more important. Defenders like safety Grant Delpit, cornerback Derek Stingley and Chaisson, who becomes an even more pivotal player and will have to finally cash in on some of his potential for production.
In his role, Divinity wasn’t an every down player, but he did make important plays. On a team that is middle of the Southeastern Conference sack pack with 20 (1.88 per game, good for sixth in the SEC), Divinity led the Tigers with three sacks. Only Breiden Fehoko, Patrick Queen and Chaisson had more tackles for loss than Divinity’s four. And only Chaisson and Neil Farrell are credited with more quarterback hurries than Divinity’s three.
LSU fans’ minds will reel unpleasantly back to last year’s Alabama game. That’s when All-American linebacker Devin White served a first-half suspension against the Crimson Tide because of a controversial targeting call against Mississippi State.
Alabama star quarterback and Heisman contender Tua Tagovailoa is still a game time decision, coach Nick Saban said Monday afternoon.
As important as the Butkus Award-winning White was to LSU’s cause, his play in the first half against Bama would not have been enough to change what ended up a 29-0 Alabama rout. Losing Divinity for this entire game (and beyond) may not make a big difference, either.
But again, there is so little daylight between these two teams, one player or one play, may make the difference. If that’s the case, for LSU losing Divinity may turn out to be the classic “For want of a nail” situation, especially if Tagovailoa plays something close to his full ability (I can’t imagine he will be 100%, but I can’t imagine he will sit it out).
For want of a nail, the shoe, the horse, the rider, the battle and ultimately the kingdom was lost. Divinity won’t be there to make that play — that sack or tackle for loss or short-yardage stop — that someone else will have to make.
Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t.
“Players have got to make plays,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who didn’t rule out the possibility of Divinity returning to the team at some point down the road. Divinity himself posted Monday on Instagram that he hopes to graduate in December and return to play, presumably at whatever point LSU is in its postseason plans.
That seems a tall task given that Divinity is a senior and LSU could be down to as few as five games including a bowl. But no taller than beating Alabama.
A win that LSU must try to pull off at the end of this momentous week after overcoming a loss to start it.