The 2012 BCS Championship Game between Alabama and LSU is more than just a title game. Of course, both programs want nothing more than to hoist the crystal football, but this game has so much more meaning than that.
LSU and Alabama aren't just rivals on the field, they're rivals in everything. Nick Saban is the former LSU coach, and Les Miles is the only coach they've had since his departure.
The two programs compete in every aspect of college football, and it is only fitting that the two best teams in the country—and yes, they are the two best teams—get to play for the title this year.
Where: Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
When: Monday, Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN/ESPN 3D/ESPN 3
Key Storyline: Rematch
Rather self-explanatory, but these two stepping back on the gridiron together to decide this year's national champion is extremely controversial.
The first time these two met in the "Game of the Century," they scored a combined 15 points in Tuscaloosa.
With Oklahoma State's thrilling overtime victory over Stanford fresh in our minds, the question of whether or not Alabama belongs in this game will not go away...unless they win the game, of course.
Betting Line: Alabama (-1)
The Tide lost the first game against LSU—at home—but are still the favorite. Plain and simple, they left at least 12 points on the board. That said, this game couldn't be much closer because Alabama's kickers are still the same kickers.
Who Might Not Play (via College Injury Report)
Alabama—Will Lowery, S—Out (Knee)
LSU—Eric Reid, S—Probable (Leg)
What It Means for Alabama
This would be the Tide's second national title in the last three years.
Nick Saban revitalized the Alabama program only five years ago, and now they'll have played in three BCS bowls in that five-year span.
It also holds a huge edge in terms of recruiting, as these two programs routinely fight for top recruits. There is no telling how impactful a win in the national championship could be.
What It Means for LSU
This would be LSU's third national championship in less than 10 years. The Tigers have been surprisingly resilient since the Nick Saban recruiting era ended, and Miles has been more than up to the task.
A win would be a huge boost to keeping their recruiting classes at the top. It could also be a stepping stone for a potential NFL move for Les Miles.
What They're Saying
Tommy Deas of the Tuscaloosa News talks about the remarkable run Nick Saban has had with the Tide:
Nick Saban will step off a plane onto the tarmac at Louis Armstrong International Airport today, five years to the day after being introduced as head football coach at the University of Alabama. In that span, Saban has returned the Crimson Tide program to heights not seen in three decades as he leads UA into final preparations for the chance to win a second national championship in his short tenure. Under Saban's watch, Alabama has won 47 of its 53 games over the past four seasons going into Monday's BCS National Championship Game against LSU.
Chris Low of ESPN.com talks about the importance of defensive coordinator John Chavis to LSU's defense:
Chavis, who has 17 seasons under his belt as a defensive coordinator in the SEC, will get a chance to win his second national championship. He was the defensive coordinator at Tennessee in 1998 when the Vols went 13-0 and won the first BCS national title. Chavis, just as he was for Phillip Fulmer at Tennessee from 1995-2008, has been there for Miles every step of the way. There was something missing on defense when Chavis arrived at LSU in 2009. The Tigers had talent but had lost their edge.
"John Chavis is just what we needed," Miles said. "The reason his defenses play with so much heart -- and I remember thinking the same thing when I was coaching against him -- was because of how much heart he puts into it. The players love playing for him, and that was obvious from the beginning.
Player to Watch for Alabama: Courtney Upshaw, DE, No. 41
The Crimson Tide defensive end rises to the occasion on the grandest of stages. He was the one who pounced on the fumble that sealed the last Alabama national title, and he's become one of top pass rushers in all of college football.
As this will be his last game for the Tide, Upshaw will certainly bring everything he's got.
He's a potential first-round pick and a playmaker off the edge with a knack for wreaking havoc.
Alabama is going to take away LSU's run game, and if/when they drop back to pass, don't be surprised if Upshaw is in the backfield.
Player to Watch for LSU: Tyrann Mathieu, DB, No. 7
The sophomore defensive back is undersized, but is all over the football field. The Heisman finalist may not be the NFL prospect that his teammate Morris Claiborne is, but he's a scary playmaker with the ability to affect the game in a myriad of ways.
Mathieu is always around the football and is consistently getting his hands on it.
He's the Tigers' leading tackler, as well as their most dynamic player when the ball is in his hands.
Nick Saban will be sure to know where Mathieu is on every play, and he'll do everything in his power to make sure his players do too.
Key Matchup: A.J. McCarron vs. LSU Secondary
This is simple: McCarron has to play better than he did in the Nov. 5 game or Alabama is in trouble. LSU's secondary is supremely talented, and he chose to challenge the wrong players in the last go-around.
The sophomore quarterback has take what is given to him and make sure not to force the ball to anyone.
The Tide defense is too talented to put them in a bad position on the field where they can't do anything but hold the Tigers to field goal tries. If McCarron didn't try to test Morris Claiborne from the far hash, we'd be talking about a completely different game.
A.J. McCarron is the key to this game.
Prediction: Alabama 24, LSU 14