Which Game More Likely Determines National Champion: LSU-Alabama or Oregon-USC?

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterSeptember 4, 2012

Oct 30, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks running back LaMichael James(21) is stopped by USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley (7) and Shane Horton (23) in the second half at Los Angeles Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

The Pac-12's big matchup between Oregon and USC is going to be the most critical game of the year in determining who wins the national championship. Except, of course, if the Alabama Crimson Tide's game in Baton Rouge against LSU is the most important game in providing us with an eventual national champion.

The truth is that we're at the start of Week 2, and if either team is thinking about the game ahead, they're doing it wrong. If fans of either team are looking that far ahead, they're doing it wrong. People expecting to forecast the future, of a violent game played by 17-23-year-old young men, are doing it wrong.

Sure, you could say Alabama-LSU because of what happened a year ago and due to the SEC's stranglehold on the title. As it stands now, the Tigers and Tide both look to be worthy of the praise.

Alabama disposed of Michigan in tremendous fashion, beating the Wolverines into a bloody, deflated pulp. LSU handled North Texas like they were supposed to, shoving the run game down the throat of the Mean Green.

But Alabama still has tests leading up to November 3rd. It's no cake walk. We know Arkansas, in Fayetteville, is going to test that secondary more than Denard Robinson could ever dream. Tennessee, thanks to Friday's coming-out party for Cordarrelle Patterson, is looking forward to hosting the Tide and seeing if Tyler Bray and sling it around on the defense.

LSU has a string of SEC games, starting with Florida on the road, South Carolina and out at College Station, before they get to the bye week before the Tide.

Florida isn't great. They have quarterback issues. But if history has taught us anything, the Bayou Bengals had better be ready for a fist fight, because Florida intends to have one. The Gamecocks are a tough out, and going to College Station is going to be a new experience for Les Miles' team.

So, perhaps it's too early to call the SEC game the most likely to determine the champion—especially with an SEC Championship game on the horizon. Perhaps the Pac-12 is more your flavor.

The conference, aside from USC and Oregon, did not look good at all in the opening weekend. Washington and Stanford limped to less-than-impressive wins. Arizona State, Arizona and UCLA are not selling anyone just yet.

The issue with the Pac-12 is, while the league appears easy, Oregon and USC run the risk of shutting themselves out from the title game. It's not so much the other teams they have to fear as it is what could happen when they play one another, both times.

If Alabama and LSU taught us anything in 2011, it's that beating a team twice is not the easiest thing to do. For Oregon and USC, a split might mean they are both left out in the cold as far as the title is concerned.

It's early, folks. Let's let the games come to us. As it stands right now, both games are as likely to determine the national champion as they are to halt a team's shot at the crystal football.