As Stanford closed out USC last Saturday, for the fourth year in a row, the chatter started. The media's beloved USC, the team sure to play spoiler in the national title race, the team most qualified to end the six consecutive national titles won by the SEC, fell flat. Gone were the hopes for a non-SEC champion. Sure, Florida State became a trendy pre-season pick by Phil Steele and Kirk Herbstreit, but did anyone really expect that to happen? Sure, Oregon, with their flashy offense and even flashier uniforms could put together a season good enough for a trip to Miami, but much like the 2010 BCS National Title game and their season-opening defeat to LSU in 2011, surely the talent discrepancy would rear it's ugly head again.
For the world, a USC loss may as well been the chisel that etched into stone, LSU and Alabama into the National Title. Hope is dashed. Our deepest fears are being realized. The wretched, dirty, dominant SEC will once again rule the national college football scene on it's way to a seventh straight national title. Frankly, for LSU, this is the worst possible form of good news.
Nick Saban is the best coach in America. Alabama is the best team in the nation. Maybe not this year. Maybe not two years ago. But from a year-to-year basis, there is no denying the reality that is unfolding before our eyes. The Dark Lord of Victory's empire is so large, so dominant and so all-encompassing they lose only battles (like vs. LSU in 2011) and not wars (like the 2012 BCS National Championship). They are the program everyone else aspires to be. They are the very model of a modern college football team.
These are not welcome thoughts for LSU fans. Last season, arguably the most dominant and impressive in LSU football history, remains marred by a disastrous performance in the MNC. No matter how many times Les Miles, or anyone else, wants to claim they want "game three" from 2011, LSU proved to be slightly better on November 5th and in a class beneath in the National Championship.
Once again in 2012, LSU fields an immensely talented team. But is it better than Alabama? That is the burning question. On November 3rd, in Baton Rouge, LSU gets the opportunity to prove they are the best team in the nation. Odds are, the betting line will remain narrow. Alabama may be the favorite, but only by a small amount. Disregarding any other college football game this season (and presuming both LSU and Alabama make waste of all the other wannabe teams on their schedule), this becomes a must-win game for both squads, right?
Truly, it's a nightmare scenario for LSU. If they are able to overtake Alabama at home, and then continue on through the SEC Championship and back into the National Title Game, who then will they face? The loss of USC throws it into further doubt. USC is talented enough to beat Oregon. Hell, Florida State could lose to Clemson this weekend. Clemson could lose to, well, anyone, cause that's such a Clemson thing to do. Suddenly, the losses are accruing and one-loss Alabama is sliding up and up and up the polls. Suddenly, the media has no choice, but to choose an SEC re-match. Suddenly it's January and LSU and Alabama are playing again.. in the re-re-re-match.
Nightmare. Dread. Terror. Horror. It's not that LSU fears playing Alabama twice in one year. It's simply that, NO ONE would ever choose that fate. Even if you are talented and well-coached enough to slip by the first go-round, Nick Saban will get you. He will figure you out. You will go down. I'm not sure a coach in America would volunteer to play Alabama twice.
LSU fans have every reason to cheer Oregon or Florida State or Clemson or Oklahoma or whoever can remain undefeated. Frankly, good as those teams may be, LSU remains in a class above. A class that may be, may be, is a step below Alabama.
There is no way to explain the level of dominance of these two programs. They've always recruited well. They've most always been amongst the most prolific programs in the NCAA. They've almost always fielded competent, tough, successful teams. Regardless of your feelings on Les Miles, LSU and Alabama are the gold-standard of college football. The nearer your program is to theirs, the better.
Yet, for all the sweetness that can be gained by beating Saban twice in one season (once regular, once in the post-season), there's also the reality that that doesn't happen much... if at all.