The New Orleans Superdome has hosted a series of big football games over the past few days, including the Sugar Bowl, a Saints playoff game, and now the BCS national championship game tonight.
Back in November, we provided extensive coverage of the first meeting between Alabama and LSU, which we dubbed the de facto national championship. Thanks to three missed Alabama field goals and strong quarterback play by Jordan Jefferson, who came on in early relief of Jarrett Lee, LSU took the first game 9-6 in overtime. The first game received so much attention because the teams widely were believed to be the two best teams, but because they play in the same division of the same conference, it seemed unlikely that they would meet in the actual BCS championship game.
Not much has changed since that last meeting. Both teams finished their seasons, of course, and both were undefeated outside of this game. LSU has played an extra game, a drubbing of Georgia in the SEC championship game. In addition, since all the other college football games are over, we now can compare the strengths of the wins of each team. While Alabama’s schedule was not too difficult (their best win, by far, was a home victory over mixed-bag Arkansas), LSU’s undefeated season becomes that much more impressive upon examination of their schedule. Their thirteen wins include: Oregon (eventual Rose Bowl champs, at a neutral site, 40-27); West Virginia (eventual Orange Bowl champs, at Morgantown, 47-21); Alabama (at Tuscaloosa, as mentioned); Arkansas (eventual Cotton Bowl champs, 41-17); and Georgia (in Atlanta, 42-10).
The only personnel change of note really isn’t a change, but LSU is planning to go with Jefferson at QB right from the start in this one.
The other obvious difference this time around is that these teams have played each other once. Specific memories of the game seem to have faded from the general consciousness, replaced by SEC non-fans chirping that the game was boring and that tonight’s meeting will be the same. The general consciousness also seems to place a high value on LSU’s victory in this game. While not inappropriate, that view might be overstated. It was a road win, but LSU was the beneficiary of three missed field goals, which is a big deal in a low scoring game that saw no touchdowns from either side.
Still, LSU’s quality wins support their position as
themy favorite tonight. (Apparently Alabama is a 2.5-point favorite on Pinnacle. I’m not going to rewrite the previous paragraph though.) Alabama is unlikely to match the volume of critical errors they committed in the first game, but I don’t think that means they win tonight, as there was plenty in that game to motivate Les Miles’ team. In other words, I don’t think the Tigers overvalued the win. I predict a higher scoring game with the same outcome.
All of the preview material from the first meeting, the de facto national championship game, still largely applies to tonight’s game and is linked below for your review. In addition and for something slightly different to read before or during the game, I direct you to Jack Dickey’s Deadspin profile of radio host Paul Finebaum.
* If you’re wondering why Nick Saban chose helmet number 13 for the photograph above, I think this post probably contains the answer.