ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said that the Saturday night showdown between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa “is like having a Super Bowl in midseason. Everywhere I go in the country” says Herbstreit, “people are talking about it, including the coaches.”
In his October 20 column in Sports Illustrated, syndicated radio talk show host Paul Finebaum said that the game will be “Ali-Frazier, Borg-McEnroe, Yankees-Red Sox all wrapped into one.”
Ken Gaddy, Director of the Paul W. Bryant Museum and Alabama football historian, told al.com’s Don Kausler that he expects as many as 20,000 to 30,000 people to come to Tuscaloosa this week without a ticket to the game just to be a part of the atmosphere.
Can the game itself live up to these lofty expectations? Both teams are undefeated and have beaten the pulp out of the only quality opponents they’ve faced. Both teams have potent offenses and ferocious, nation-leading defenses. Both teams have capable quarterbacks and star playmakers. You would think that the game will be 60 minutes of close, physical football with the outcome in doubt well into the fourth quarter. Some have suggested that it might come down to the final possession.
But highly touted matchups like this often don’t live up to the hype. The 2008 SEC Championship was billed as a “Game of the Century” with Alabama and Florida meeting as the two top teams in the country. The winner would play for a national title; the loser would settle for a BCS Sugar Bowl berth. But Alabama just had no answer for Tim Tebow, who carried his team in the second half to a double-digit win. In the BCS Championship Game a year later, Texas had no answer for Defensive End Marcel Dareus, who broke the Longhorns’ Quarterback and scored a defensive touchdown en route to Alabama’s 13th National Championship.
While the first ever No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in the SEC regular season is certainly a game worthy of the media and fan attention it’s getting, there’s a good chance that one team or the other delivers a wrinkle, an approach or an edge that the other team just can’t stop. It might be the speed of the LSU front seven. It might be the ferocity of the Alabama Linebacker corps. It might be the unstoppable Trent Richardson or the ball hawking Tyrann Mathieu. It could be a couple of early turnovers that lead to quick scores, forcing one of the two titans to abandon its game plan.
If the game does turn out to be the slobber-knocker it’s being billed as, it will go down in history as one of the greatest college football games of all time. It will be talked about for generations and it will be used as a measuring stick for future showdowns between highly touted teams. But if it doesn’t live up to the hype, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Exit Question: A convincing outcome ends the silly speculation about the loser earning a rematch in the BCS National Championship Game, doesn’t it?