At long last, the waiting and the hype are over. After more than a month of waiting, the LSU Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide take the field tonight for their long-awaited rematch. This time, the Tigers and Tide are playing for all the
Tostitos insurance: the winner of tonight's Allstate BCS National Championship Game takes home the crystal football of power and calls itself the national champion.
One thing is for sure: we will have a national champion from the SEC for the sixth consecutive year. LSU will try to win its second BCS title during that span and its third overall since the inception of the BCS. Alabama is trying to win its second BCS national title in three years.
Tonight's clash of titans is, of course, a rematch. These teams met on November 5 in Tuscaloosa, where the visiting Tigers escaped with a 9-6 overtime win in a game in which neither team scored a touchdown. LSU coach Les Miles anticipates another physical game -- "big boy football," he calls it -- so perhaps we are in for another low-scoring affair. But don't expect it to be quite as low scoring as the first meeting. Or so says SB Nation's premier SEC blog, Team Speed Kills:
Part of this might be wishful thinking, but I honest believe that the game will be a little higher-scoring this time. Again, I don't think the lack of points made the game any less interesting, but at least we don't have to hear griping from the Pac-12 and Big 12 types if the offenses put some points on the board.
There were clearly times in the first game when both coaches were simply trying not to lose. I think the stronger incentive in a national championship bout is to try to win. The offenses will also have a lot of game tape to review to try to decide what will work and what won't.
The defenses won the day the first time around. They will almost certainly decide the game again on Monday. But they'll be going with offenses that will hopefully be challenged by their coaches to have a more productive day in New Orleans than was the case in Tuscaloosa.
The teams certainly have the talent on offense to make this a higher scoring affair. Alabama's Trent Richardson, the Doak Walker award winner and Heisman Trophy finalist who rushed for 1,583 yards and 20 TDs this season, will try to improve upon his 89-yard touchdownless performance in the first game against LSU. Richardson finished the season on a roll, rushing for 505 yards in the last three regular season games.
The LSU offense has its share of firepower. The Tigers average 215 rushing yards per game (17th in the country). They also appear to have a good thing going with the quarterback tandem of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, who combined for over 60% completion percentage and 24 touchdown passes (against only four interceptions). The player to watch on LSU, however, might be cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu, a Heisman Trophy finalist, was one of the most dynamic all-around players in the country this season: as a cornerback, he had two interceptions, forced six fumbles, returned two fumbles for touchdowns, and tallied six tackles for loss; as a punt returner, Mathieu averaged a gaudy 16.1 yards per return and returned two punts for touchdowns (including a 92-yarder).
In light of this game being a rematch, Team Speed Kills offers an intriguing question. Could there be a split national title under certain circumstances? More specifically, if Bama squeaks by, might LSU have a case to remain the AP national champion?
First, let's be clear about something that might be misinterpreted: I don't think that any Alabama win means that the championship should be split. The way I see it, there are three scenarios that we have to talk about when dealing with the outcome of the game Monday:
1. An LSU win
2. A narrow Alabama win
3. An Alabama rout (by more than one score)
In cases (1) and (3), the winner should absolutely be the unquestioned national champion. If LSU wins, it has two wins against Alabama, the only undefeated record in college football and one of the most impressive resumes in recent years. And if Alabama defeats LSU by more than a score, it has essentially "canceled out" the loss to LSU in the first game and has a slate impressive enough that it ought to be considered the champion.
But what if we are instead faced with the second scenario? Alabama wins by three points, for example, in a closely-fought game and no major officiating controversy or blunder helping either team.
Under the BCS contract, the coaches' poll has to recognize Alabama as the national champion -- and no one is really challenging that. It's the AP poll we're talking about, and they have no arrangements with anyone requiring them to give their No. 1 votes to the winner of the game. So if you're a sportswriter with a ballot, what might you consider aside from the results of Monday's game? The respective resumes of the two teams.
Talk about all the action here. This is your BCSNCG open thread. Celebrate tonight's love fest with the SEC. And if you hate the SEC, look at it this way: an SEC team will lose tonight.