Fellow SEC fans, let's start off by congratulating ourselves on six straight national championships. Back pats and hearty handshakes all around. Now then... who's it going to be?
Here's our picks. Stick yours down in the comments. It's gonna be a great night.
R. Trentham Roberts: LSU has more firepower now than they did in the first go-round. I figure 3 players will have better numbers this time: Jordan Jefferson (if only because he'll be playing the whole game), Ruben Randle and Kenny Hilliard. Can't say the same for Alabama -- Trent Richardson should go for over 100, but he already had 89 rushing and 80 receiving the first time. AJ McCarron, Marquis Maze? About the same. So make it ... LSU 23, Alabama 13.
Peter St. Onge: Alabama 17, LSU 14: The only consolation I get out of this is that Nick Saban will likely coach his way into another NFL job.
Mike Gordon: Given that most wars have been fought and won in the time that has elapsed since either team played, it's tough to predict whether LSU or Alabama will play up to form. But for the sake of this exercise, let's assume they do.
Let's give LSU its edge in special teams. Let's stipulate that both defenses make it awfully hard to string two good plays together much less an 80-yard drive. Let's also agree that as great as Trent Richardson is, he will be largely negated by the deepest stable of running backs in college football today.
So here's where that leaves us: the quarterbacks. Jordan Jefferson didn't have to do much the first time around except be better than error-prone Jarrett Lee. A.J. McCarron threw a key second half interception and failed to find several receivers running uncovered in LSU's secondary. He has to play better. If he does, Alabama wins. The same goes for Jefferson. If he can run and throw against the Alabama defense, LSU will be very hard to beat.
My guess? McCarron makes a few more plays. That means that in this fight between two perfectly matched teams, Alabama will score a few more points. Tide, 24-20.
Tommy Tomlinson: LSU has a higher ceiling in this game, but it also has a lower floor. It's easy to imagine Jordan Jefferson imploding (and Jarrett Lee imploding right behind him) in a way that A.J. McCarron probably won't. It wouldn't shock me to see Bama run away with the title on the shoulder of a pick-six or two.
But... I wonder if, as good as this LSU team is, we're not still underestimating it. They played seven teams that are probably going to end up in the final top 25. Setting aside Alabama for a second, here's the list:
Beat Oregon (top 5) by 13
Beat Arkansas (top 10) by 24
Beat West Virginia (top 20) by 26
Beat Georgia (top 20) by 32
Beat Florida (top 25) by 30
Beat Auburn (top 25) by 35
That's six wins, over top competition, by an average of 27 points, plus that Bama.
Alabama beat Arkansas, Florida and Auburn by similar scores, and the Tide also beat Penn State by 16 (although Penn State might not finish in the top 25). That's a strong resume. But LSU, because of the teams they've beaten, has put together one of the great seasons in college football history.
I love this Alabama team. Most years, they'd win the national title. This isn't most years. LSU, 21-10.