Game of the Century - Part Deux!
NEW ORLEANS — The Southeastern Conference cordially invites you to watch the crowning of its sixth consecutive BCS champion.
No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama will meet Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to signal the end of the college football season, much as the Kings of Rex and Comus traditionally meet amid much pomp and circumstance just a few miles away to signal the end of Mardi Gras.
In this case, it is college football royalty meeting in a game for which ticket demand is greater than anyone around here can ever remember witnessing. A huge television audience on ESPN figures to tune in to watch the schools that have the most postseason appearances in New Orleans — No. 15 for the Tigers and No. 14 for the Crimson Tide.
It’s LSU and Alabama meeting for the 76th time, for the first time for a national championship and for the second time in 66 days.
“The LSU-Alabama game has become a good rivalry,” LSU safety Eric Reid said, “so why not play for a national championship?”
And why not play it in the Superdome, traditional home to the SEC champion as home team in the Sugar Bowl as this BCS title game features conference rivals — not to mention West Division rivals — for the first time?
This game will settle a score that wasn’t quite settled when the No. 1 Tigers edged the No. 2 Tide 9-6 in overtime Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in one of the most-hyped regular-season games ever.
“Nobody has played a game like we have when it comes to being up to the hype — that’s for LSU and for Alabama,” Tide running back Trent Richardson said.
“For us to be from the SEC and the same division, that tells you a lot about our football. Alabama-LSU — that’s just the powerhouse teams right now.”
LSU and Alabama. Again. For the BCS championship, what will be either the Tigers’ third in nine seasons or the Tide’s second in three.
An LSU victory would allow it to stake a claim as one of college football’s greatest teams. A Bama win would make the Tigers one of the most ballyhooed nonchampions ever and renew debate about the validity of the BCS system.
Guard Will Blackwell said the Tigers “kind of have the chip on our shoulder” about having to face the Tide again.
“We went to Tuscaloosa, and we beat them and they get another shot,” he said. “We don’t necessarily see that as fair. We kind of feel like if it were the other way around we wouldn’t be getting this opportunity. But it is what it is; you can’t change it. We’ll accept this challenge head on like we would any other team. We’re just glad we get to play them in New Orleans this time.”
Alabama won national titles in the Sugar Bowl following the 1978, 1979 and 1992 seasons, while the Tigers won BCS titles in Sugar Bowl after the 2003 season and the National Championship Game after the 2007 campaign.
“Whenever the BCS Championship Game is in New Orleans, LSU wins it,” Tigers defensive end Sam Montgomery said. “It’s tradition.”
The November meeting featured national-championship intensity and physicality — “definitely the most physical game I’ve ever been a part of,” Bama guard Barrett Jones said, echoing the sentiments of players from both teams.
A similar bruising battle is expected, though perhaps with a tad more points this time.
“We have to get in the end zone this time,” Tigers running back Spencer Ware said. “It’s a must.”
One visit to the end zone might be all either team needs to bring home the crystal football that is emblematic of college football supremacy.
Bama has the No. 1 defense in the country, LSU has the No. 2 defense and both defenses set the tone in the first meeting. The inability of either team to get in the end zone left it to the place-kickers to handle the scoring, and LSU’s Drew Alleman was 3-for-3 while Bama’s Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster were a combined 2-for-6 in the most glaring difference in the first meeting.
“If you want a game that’s going to be 45-to-something, put somebody else in the game,” Richardson said, “but if you want a close ballgame that’s going to be well played and be a slugfest — the one thing you’re always going to get out of us is hard-nosed football.”
These teams mirror and respect one another, but they don’t particularly like one another.
“Not at all,” Blackwell said. “They’re Alabama, and we’re LSU. We have to go through each other to win the division. We have to go through each other to win the SEC. This year, we have to go through each other to win the national championship.”
The Tigers (13-0) were the only undefeated team in the regular season and beat eight ranked teams, including the No. 2 Tide and two No. 3s — Oregon and Arkansas. The Tide was dominant in 11 victories and worked its way back to No. 2 after the loss to LSU, thanks to losses by Stanford and Oklahoma State.
“I feel like, if we win this game, we’ll be one of the best teams there ever was,” Blackwell said, “just because of the strength of schedule and the simple fact of having to play them twice in one season.”
These teams have seemed destined all along to meet in this game, in this building, guaranteeing the SEC its sixth consecutive BCS title as soon as the pairing was announced 36 days ago. A rematch was discussed before the first game was even played.
“I guess, if you had to pick two teams for that particular scenario, there would be no two better than LSU and Alabama,” Blackwell said. “There’s a lot of tradition and pride and honor that goes into winning this game.”
NEW ORLEANS — If LSU beats Alabama on Monday in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game, the questions will immediately begin about the Tigers’ place among the all-time great teams.
LSU would become the first team ever to beat nine ranked opponents in one season and the first team since Notre Dame in 1943 with four wins against top-five opponents (No. 2 Alabama twice, No. 3 Oregon, No. 3 Arkansas).
The Tigers would also become the first program to win three BCS championships. If Alabama wins, it would join LSU (2003, 2007) and Florida (2006, 2008) with two each. The Crimson Tide also won in 2009.
LSU has already beaten the winners of the Rose Bowl (Oregon), the Orange Bowl (West Virginia), the Cotton Bowl (Arkansas), the Gator Bowl (Florida), the Chick-fil-A Bowl (Auburn) and the Music City Bowl (Mississippi State). The Tigers, also, have already beaten the other team in the national title game, Alabama.
Youth Not Served?
The Tigers are trying to make school history as well Monday. With a win, they would become the first LSU team ever to go 14-0.
At Alabama, 14-0 was done two years ago. The school claims 13 national championships. So Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron will try to do history all by himself — so to speak.
McCarron, a third-year sophomore, can become the first sophomore or freshman to ever lead a team to victory in a BCS championship game since the BCS began with the 1998 season.
Both of LSU’s titles were won with upperclassmen at quarterback: junior Matt Mauck in the 2003 season and senior Matt Flynn in 2007.
Drew the Greek?
LSU fans have to be hoping New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is as good picking winners as he is picking apart opposing defenses.
Brees was asked after his team’s 45-28 playoff victory Saturday night over the Detroit Lions who he likes between LSU and Alabama in Monday’s Allstate BCS National Championship Game.
“I’ve got to go with LSU again,” said Brees, who threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns to scorch the Lions. “They’re the local team.”
Brees said he picked the Tigers in their Nov. 5 game at Bama as well.
“Won a little money off Roman Harper,” said Brees, referring to the Saints and former Crimson Tide defensive back. “I hope I can do that again.”
Meanwhile, Saints and former LSU wide receiver Devery Henderson will be back in the Superdome on Monday for the BCS game.
“I feel pretty confident,” said Henderson, who helped LSU win the BCS title eight years ago against Oklahoma in the 2004 Sugar Bowl.
“Hopefully, my Tigers will come to play,” Henderson said. “If that’s the case, hopefully, it will be an easy win.”
Miles, Mathieu, Moms
Alabama TV reporter Sara Jane Harris got a surprised reaction from LSU coach Les Miles at Sunday’s final pre-BCS news conference when she told him she heard Tigers cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was researching the names of the Alabama players’ mothers to try to help him get in their heads Monday.
“That would be news to me,” said Miles, whose reply drew laughter from the packed assembly of reporters and cameramen. “Gamesmanship is one thing. I think that might be a touch much.”
Saban and Dumb Luck
Alabama and former LSU coach Nick Saban rarely gets enough credit for being an engrossing storyteller when he wants to be.
One story he never tires of telling is the one he tells on himself when he was coaching the Tigers in the 2001 Southeastern Conference Championship Game against Tennessee.
With LSU trailing No. 2 Tennessee 14-7, Saban decided to go for it on fourth-and-inches at the Tigers’ 29-yard line. LSU didn’t get it, and the Volunteers kicked a field goal to go up 17-7 at halftime.
“For the next five minutes of the game, I was like in la-la land, like, ‘Why did you do that? That’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done,’” Saban recalled. “My wife (Terry) even told me, ‘That’s the dumbest call I’ve seen you make.’”
Still, LSU rallied to win 31-20 for its first SEC title since 1988. Walking off the field afterward, Saban’s seniors told him it was the most important decision of the game.
“I said, ‘Really?’ They said, ‘Yeah, because when you did that, we really thought we could win.’
“So even sometimes the dumbest things you do, you never know how people are going to respond to them. And that was one of the dumb ones. … There’s many more in between, incidentally.”
Big 12 Refs to Call Game
An officiating crew from the Big 12 Conference will call the BCS championship game.
It was also a Big 12 crew that called the last BCS title showdown in New Orleans four years ago between LSU and Ohio State.
Entergy Light Show
Entergy is planning a BCS, LSU and New Orleans-themed light show which will be projected on one side of their 28-story headquarters adjacent to the Superdome.
The 12-story-high projections will include images, a BCS welcome message and a continuously updated scoreboard during the game.
The Last Word
“I expect it to be big-boy football. And I’d expect it to be very, very physical.” -Miles on the BCS Championship Game
This game has such an epic feel to it... Geaux Tigers!!! BEAT BAMA!!! BEAT SABAN!!!