Since the arrival of Nick Saban to Tuscaloosa in 2007, only one matchup in the country comes to mind that has had national championship implications year in and year out — Alabama vs. LSU.
This year is no different.
This Saturday night, No. 1 Alabama travels to Death Valley to play No. 5 LSU in an obvious must-win game for both teams. The Tide – who enter the game as 9-point favorites — are the near-unanimous pick to repeat this year as BCS national champions. A loss this week to the Tigers, however, would put that and any hopes of making it back to the big game to rest.
Unlike after last year’s 9-6 overtime loss at Bryant-Denny Stadium in what was hyped up as the “Game of the Century,” Alabama’s chances would be slim to none at recovering in the polls if a loss were to occur, even in the event of another close, hard-fought game.
With an Alabama loss, both teams would sit at a record of 8-1 with the Tigers gaining full control of their own destiny in the SEC West race. Additionally, they would then become the SEC team in the best position to continue the streak of six straight national champions from the SEC, yet even the chances of that occurring would be unlikely without some serious help.
Last year, the Crimson Tide benefited from the fact that LSU was the only undefeated team left in the nation at season’s end, opening the door for them at making the title game as an at-large. However, in this case, it is much different this year.
In addition to Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon all remain undefeated at this point in the season. In the cases for both Alabama and LSU, it’s hard to imagine that a one-loss SEC champion or SEC at-large could leapfrog two of those teams if all three were to remain unbeaten.
At this point, LSU would need to win out, including winning the SEC Championship game, and hope that out of Kansas State, Notre Dame, and Oregon that at least two of the three lose before season’s end to have any hope of making it to the national championship game.
For Alabama, they would need to win out, and hope that Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon all lose to return to the title game, which would appear to likely be against LSU yet again.
The odds would certainly not be in either teams’ favor, and even if both teams managed to luck out, one has to think that the pollsters do not want to see this rematch again.
With an Alabama win, the Tide remain the undefeated title favorites in control of their own destiny of making it back-to-back and 3-out-of-4 BCS national champions, while any realistic hopes for LSU making it to the national championship game, let alone the SEC Championship game, would be finished.
For ‘Bama Nation’s sake, let’s hope it’s the one that doesn’t provide a headache.