In a rematch of a regular-season thriller, top-ranked LSU (13-0) face SEC-rival Alabama (11-1) in the BCS title game at the Superdome in New Orleans on Monday night.
In the much-anticipated match up of No. 1 versus No. 2 on Nov. 5, the Tigers won a defensive game against the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, 9-6. LSU's Drew Alleman kicked a 25-yard field goal to cement the Tigers' status as the best team in college football.
Alabama will be looking to avenge the loss in New Orleans, where LSU will have several players returning to their hometown for the biggest game of their lives.
Aside from their loss to LSU, the Crimson Tide handily defeated every opponent this season. Georgia Southern was the only team to score 20 or more points on Alabama, and even then, the Crimson Tide defense only surrendered two touchdowns in a blowout victory, 45-21.
Alabama's defense is the best in the nation in points allowed per game (8.8) and have done an excellent job in limiting opponents' total offense. In the Crimson Tide's last game, the defense held defending champion Auburn to just 140 total yards. In the game against LSU, the Alabama defense held the Tigers to just 239 yards, which included the overtime session.
While Nick Saban's defense has been key to the team's success, the Crimson Tide's running game was among the best in the nation. Junior Trent Richardson rushed for 1,583 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2011. Against LSU, Richardson rushed for 89 yards on 23 carries.
The Crimson Tide also have an efficient passing game behind the play of AJ McCarrron. The sophomore quarterback completed two-thirds of his passes, and threw just five interceptions on the season. McCarron has been particularly effective in his last two games, having completed 76 percent of his passes, without an interception, to go along with a total of six touchdown passes.
McCarron had a solid game against LSU, but his lone interception, which came in the third quarter, was very costly. The Tigers were able to tie the game with a field goal on the following drive in what turned out to be the last score in regulation.
LSU has been dominant this season, and have put together one of the most convincing performances by a top-ranked team in quite some time. Along with the road victory against Alabama, LSU began the season with a win over then-No. 3 Oregon, and then followed that up with wins over several other Top-25 teams: Mississippi State, West Virginia, Florida, Auburn, Arkansas, and Georgia.
Like Alabama, LSU boasts an excellent defense. The Tigers held six opponents to single-digit points, and finished second in average points allowed (10.5).
Head coach Les Miles's offense lacks one player that clearly stands out among the rest, and instead relies on a large collection of talent.
Quarterback Jordan Jefferson will start the game, with Jarrett Lee as the backup. The duo combined for 1,990 passing yards and 20 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Jefferson also started against Alabama, but completed just six passes on 10 attempts for 67 yards.
To some, it's a surprise that Lee, who has been the starter for most of the season, will be on the bench.
I'm the backup, Lee plainly said, earlier this week. I'm just staying prepared.
The running game is the main weapon for LSU. The Tigers were ranked 17th in the country in average yards per game (215.2). LSU received strong seasons from sophomore running backs Michael Ford, who rushed for 755 yards and seven touchdowns, and Spencer Ware, who rushed for 700 yards and eight touchdowns.
Wide receiver Rueben Randle is a top receiving target, as the junior caught 50 passes for 904 yards. Randle had just two catches for 19 yards against Alabama.
LINE: LSU is favored by one point.
OVER/UNDER: 41 points.
PREDICTION: This may very well be a special teams' game, as punting, field goal kicking, and returning will be vital to the final outcome. LSU is excellent in the second half of games, and could wear out Alabama. The Tigers are capable of throwing the Crimson Tide off their game by taking out Jefferson and replacing him with Lee. Saban will rely on Richardson to get him first downs, but LSU's hard-nosed defense will likely prevent the star rusher from surpassing 100 yards on the game. Expect the LSU offensive line to have a big game and open a hole for a big rushing play.
PREDICTED SCORE: LSU over Alabama, 17-6