In the beginning, the can’t-miss game in college football was Florida-Tennessee. Then it was Oklahoma-Texas. For stretches of years, the Bowl Championship Series race pivoted on those encounters.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
These days, it’s Alabama-LSU.
The SEC titans meet for the third time in 12 months on Saturday, and every contest shakes the college football landscape. How could it not with the teams combining for three BCS titles in the last five years, including last season’s all-SEC West championship game, won by the Tide over the Tigers 21-0?
“I don’t think there’s any question about it,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “These games played over the last three, four years have all had some significance not only on the conference level but on a national level.”
The four teams atop the BCS standings are in action on Saturday, and three meet ranked opponents. Besides the SEC showdown, Kansas State, second in the BCS, plays host to No. 24 Oklahoma State, and No. 4 Oregon visits No. 17 Southern California. Also, No. 3 Notre Dame entertains Pittsburgh.
But Alabama-LSU will command the most attention nationally for its rankings and subplots. LSU won on this weekend last year in Tuscaloosa … the Tide dominated the rematch in New Orleans … Saban spent five years at LSU … this could be Alabama’s best chance to lose this season, including in the BCS title game.
About that last one: An LSU victory would open the door for undefeated teams to keep the SEC out of the BCS National Championship Game, although the Tigers would have a strong argument to be considered among the nation’s top teams if it knocks off the Tide and wins out.
Does LSU, a nine-point underdog, have a shot Saturday? The Crimson Tide have played at a high level all season. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley thought his Vols had a shot when they played the Tide two weeks ago at home before losing 44-13.
“They really have all the parts of a great football team, starting with being extremely talented at every position,” Dooley said. “They’re very deep, which promotes competition and that helps everybody be the best they can be.”
The teams don’t have a common opponent for comparison. The Tigers have played more ranked teams, losing to Florida and beating South Carolina and Texas A&M, so perhaps LSU is a bit more battle-hardened.
But the Tide has been tremendous on the road, beating Arkansas, Missouri and the Vols by an average score of 46-8.
Alabama lost at LSU in its last visit, in 2010, but as Tigers coach Les Miles essentially said Wednesday, that — and the two games of 2011 — was then.
“I’ve got to be honest, that was more a last year issue than it is a this year issue,” Miles said. “We’re not looking back to last year. This is a different LSU team.”
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.