On January 6, 2014, college football's two best teams will take the field in Pasadena, Calif., with the BCS National Championship on the line.
According to Phil Steele, the king of college football previewers, those teams will be Alabama and Ohio State.
Steele published his projections for the 2013-14 bowl lineup Monday afternoon, predicting the titanic matchup between the Crimson Tide and the Buckeyes. They also took the top two spots in his projection of AP's preseason Top 26, with Alabama as the No. 1 team.
The Crimson Tide return 13 starters (six on offense, seven on defense), including quarterback AJ McCarron and linebacker CJ Mosley. Nick Saban will need to replace three All-American offensive linemen in DJ Fluker (tackle), Barrett Jones (center) and Chance Warmack (guard). The defense will also need to find replacements for Jesse Williams (tackle) and defensive backs Dee Milliner and Robert Lester.
Despite losing those key contributors, it's hard to pick against a team that has won three of the last four national titles.
That's especially true when looking at the Tide's schedule. Alabama will play divisional foes Texas A&M (on the road) and LSU (at home), but the Tide caught a huge break by avoiding Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in the regular season.
Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes appear to have an even easier path to the title game.
At first glance, Ohio State's toughest tests will come on the road against Northwestern in Week 6 and against Michigan in the regular-season finale. With questions about the Buckeyes' strength of schedule, it's hard to imagine Meyer leading Ohio State to the national championship game unless it goes undefeated.
The Buckeyes will try to do so behind the strength of an offense that returns nine starters, including Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller at quarterback. Ohio State also returns its top three running backs, top two receivers and four of its five offensive linemen.
The defense, though, loses seven starters, including all four along the defensive line. Ohio State does return one of the nation's top linebackers in Ryan Shazier, as well as a talented and experienced secondary.
Will the stars align for a title game between two of college football's most storied programs?
Of course, that won't be determined until the conference championship games are played and the final BCS standings are released in December.
Until then, Ohio State and Alabama fans can only dream about their teams taking the field against each other on that January night in Pasadena.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report .
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.