35 Bowls in 24 Days: BCS National Championship

LSU is ready ... will Alabama get their revenge tonight? (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

SEC fan or not, tonight is the night that college football’s champion of the 2011 season will be crowned, and it will be an SEC school either way. We’ve finally made it to the last game of the year, and the SEC’s two best teams are on the ticket as the finalists.

Before I get to the preview, I want to thank you all for reading along with all 24 days of my bowl series. I’m very grateful for every comment that I’ve received, and I hope you’ve learned a little about each matchup and had something to watch for in each game!

Now, let’s get to the Game of the Year.

More: See the other bowl games

No. 1 LSU Tigers (13-0, 8-0 SEC) vs. No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1 SEC), 8:30 p.m. [ESPN]

It’s hard to argue with LSU’s body of work this season. They played a difficult nonconference schedule and took care of business in their SEC slate, running the regular-season table en route to an SEC title.

Meanwhile, Alabama only stumbled once, at home to LSU. The voters and computers decided that loss wasn’t as devastating as the ones suffered by the other one-loss teams, so the Crimson Tide got the nod, even though they didn’t even win their own division.

Their punishment for losing to LSU at home was that they now have to go play the Tigers in New Orleans for the rematch. It won’t be easy sledding in the Superdome, especially when you consider LSU’s past:

The previous meeting was a 9-6 overtime victory for LSU, but I assure you that there will be at least one touchdown tonight. The defenses are great (Alabama allows fewer points than anyone in the nation and LSU is No. 2), but there is no chance that these two offenses fail to score a touchdown in 120-plus minutes of football this year.

Alabama running back Trent Richardson is going to have a better game than he had last time against the Tigers. His 23 carries for 89 yards on Nov. 5 was mediocre by his standards — expect him to run for at least 100 yards tonight and break a big touchdown run.

LSU’s Jordan Jefferson is expected to start tonight at quarterback, and he was just 6-10 for 67 yards last time (he added 43 rushing yards on 11 carries). Expect that to improve as well, because head coach Les Miles will take more chances with trick plays and deep passes tonight. Why neither team really seemed to take many chances in the first meeting is beyond me, but in a national championship game, it may take improvisation and imagination to win the crystal ball.

The X-factor? LSU defender and special teams extraordinaire Tyrann Mathieu. If the Honey Badger breaks off a big punt return or runs an interception back for a touchdown, the game will be over and the trophy will belong to LSU. I fully believe that one special teams score would be the difference, and I like LSU’s chances to score on defense or special teams, more than Alabama.

But I’m predicting that neither team will score on defense or special teams, and Richardson’s big night will be the difference. Alabama wins, and the BCS will be thrown into a tailspin. Only at the Sugar Bowl — how sweet it is.

My prediction: Alabama 21, LSU 20

Five of my picks in a row have been correct; let’s hope I end the year on a high note!

Past Days: Day 23 | Day 22 | Day 20 | Day 19 | Day 18 | Day 17 | Day 16 | Day 15 | Day 14 | Day 13 | Day 12 | Day 11 | Day 10 | Day 9 | Day 8 | Day 7 | Day 6 | Day 5 | Day 4 | Day 3 | Day 2 | Day 1

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