Apparently Florida is the most feared team in the nation, because for 60 minutes and one overtime period in Baton Rouge on Saturday, it seemed as if neither LSU nor Alabama wanted the privilege of representing the West versus the Gators in Atlanta.
Some LSU fans will be quick to tell you that the Tigers lost the game more than Alabama won it. Meanwhile, Tide fans will say we won the game despite playing the sloppiest game since the last game we played versus a Louisiana team, Tulane.
Because of both fanbases' claims, and the fact that I'm kind of a jerk and want to remind everybody that "I told you we would win the West," I want to take a look at how Alabama won the West, in a wacky contest that will go down as one of the best, most nerve-wracking games in recent history.
Alabama got the gaffes going by nullifying a beautiful opening drive by fumbling the ball from inside the LSU one and out of the side of the end zone. I appreciate your effort, Earl Alexander, but please just go down at the one. We'll take it from here.
Not to be outdone, LSU gave the ball right back by throwing the ball into heavy traffic in the middle of the field on 3rd-and-17. Rolando McClain crumpled an LSU player much like a Tiger Fan's empty beer cup, and Rashad Johnson snagged his first interception of the game.
Next up was John Parker Wilson's first mistake. After scoring a TD, he drew a celebration penalty. As a consequence, LSU got the ball back with a short field in front of them. Jarrett Lee capitalized with a beautiful pass to Byrd, and the game was tied.
Keeping the Crimson Tide screw-ups going, Javier Arenas fumbled away the ensuing kickoff. A quick Scott burst up the middle for a TD later, and the Tide faced its biggest deficit of the season.
Wilson continued the blunders by throwing a jump ball to the smallest receiver on the team, which was naturally intercepted by the larger LSU DB.
Obviously feeling left out of the party, LSU's Lee threw his sixth "pick six" of the season, this time to Rashad Johnson, toward the end of the first half.
As the first half wound down, I told my friends, "I can't believe this game is tied. I feel like we should be down 14 points right now." I'm sure many LSU fans felt the same way.
The beginning of the second half actually resembled a game between two semi-competent teams. Alabama finally seized the lead in the third quarter on a beautiful drive capped off by a three-yard Coffee run.
Another Lee interception coming off a blitz did little damage in the big scheme of things, and LSU eventually fought back to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
The Tide had at least two chances to ice the game in the fourth quarter but was the victim of a questionable holding call that wiped out a TD.
I'm still not sure about that call. The flag was thrown from the umpire standing 15 yards away, and the flag was at least three seconds late. Andre Smith's hands were clearly inside the LSU defender's body, and unless the NCAA is changing rules on a weekly basis like the struggling XFL did back in the day, that is a legal block.
After finally getting the ball back and driving into a sure field goal position, Leigh Tiffen proved he was not at all like his father Van when he had the ultimate Varsity Blues "I don't want...your life" moment by kicking a gimme field goal so low it practically left skid marks on the turf.
At the risk of being monotonous, Lee threw his third pick of the night to Johnson, snuffing out any potential of a field goal.
Finally, Alabama put an end to the madness by scoring the final TD of the game. Fittingly, the score was worthy of a review.
Obviously, both teams were in a giving mood all night. Some were good, like Bama's Julio Jones giving free piggyback rides to LSU defensive backs all night, or LSU giving as good as it got on both lines of scrimmage, but mostly the game was a comedy of errors masquerading as a heart-stopping thriller with the SEC West on the line.