Must-win 2016 game: LSU Tigers

Leonard Fournette gets perhaps his final crack at Alabama on Nov. 5 in Baton Rouge. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The margin for error is thin.

Just look at last season: if Alabama lost to Auburn on the final week of the regular season, then the Tide wouldn’t have played for the national championship. Thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker, Ole Miss would have represented the West in the SEC title game and there’s a chance that no one from the conference would have reached the playoff.

You see, sometimes it comes down to one game.

Predicting that must-win game isn’t easy, but that’s what we’re attempting to do this week on the SEC Blog. Up next: LSU.

Must-win game: Nov. 5 vs. Alabama

It has been five years. Five long years since LSU last beat Alabama. And if you’re wondering what that means to folks in Baton Rouge, just look at how the Les Miles hot-seat drama played out down the stretch last season. If not for Alabama (and Nick Saban), none of that backroom talk plays out, LSU continues to be hailed as a powerhouse program and Miles a top-tier coach.

But that’s not the world we live in. Until Miles beats Saban and gets the Alabama monkey off his back, there will be a contingent of LSU supporters who won’t be content with 10-win seasons and want to see him gone. So, like last year and the year before it, this year’s game against the Tide is a must-win, especially since it comes at home and in what’s likely the final season of a once-in-a-generation player in Leonard Fournette.

The matchups for the Tigers are there. Not only is Fournette a star, there’s a solid offensive line to work with, a potentially lethal group of receivers and arguably one of the most talented defenses in the country. But of course the real question is whether LSU’s passing game will develop under coordinator Cam Cameron. It’s not just the key to the game but the entire season. If Brandon Harris doesn’t get better, we’re likely to see a repeat of 2015 when the Tigers pounded and pounded and pounded the ball with Fournette and Derrius Guice and had nothing to show for it, losing by two touchdowns in a game that was hailed as a play-in for the SEC Championship.

If winning big and winning with more style is the key to LSU regaining its spot in the national spotlight — and thus ensuring Miles sticks around — then the Tigers have to prove it against rival Alabama.