ATVS Roundtable: the BCS Championship Edition

Billy: Alright guys, here we are. Game of the Century Part 2: Game Harder. LSU-Bama, for all the marbles. What does this mean to you?

PodKATT: It means that maybe, just maybe, LSU will finally start getting the respect the program always seems to be missing. There are pundits out there who, faced with another very even matchup, still pick Bama just because of the name on the jersey (or helmet, rather). It doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but just once I wish LSU was the team that gets favored "because they're LSU."

I doubt It means that much for the team, who seems to have spent the season relishing the "disrespected underdog" role. For them I'd say it means the chance to complete potentially the greatest and most difficult season in the history of college football. To be able to stay undefeated to this point with all of the tough road games, top ranked opponents, and numerous self-inflicted off the field issues has been a miracle in itself. I get frustrated when I hear folks talk about how it'll all be for naught if LSU suffers a loss next Monday, as if the lack of a title sweeps away what is already the greatest season of LSU football ever. Not that the championship is meaningless, but there's no way that I'll be regretting anything that has happened this year, regardless of the final outcome.

It also means my pact with the Devil that LSU wins the BCS every 4 years when it's in NOLA is coming true. Totally worth it.

actioncuse: My response will be totally different from most other LSU fans. As you may or may not know, it's only my second year as an LSU fan. Coming from a far away area, my sports allegiances differ greatly from most of the LSU fanbase. And one thing I can tell you about my favorite teams is that they generally don't win championships. The lone championship team I've seen in my lifetime is the 2003 Syracuse Orangemen. This LSU team gives me a chance to finally see my team finish the season not only perfect, but as champions.

I often wonder how long it has been since I've seen my favorite team win a championship. When counted by seasons, it comes out to about 51 seasons without a winner. So for me, this LSU season means more than it will for most others. It will feel unique and special.

Billy: As somebody who only discovered it in the last 10 years with LSU and then the Saints, I have to say, it's pretty damn sweet. You never forget the first one, and I'll always remember that feeling leaving the Superdome the 2004 Sugar Bowl. I recall walking off the field doing a Bender-style fist-pump, because I was 21 and still thought irony was 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.

But anyways, for me this game is about making one more statement. This LSU team has a chance to post one of the greatest single-seasons resumes in history, and this coaching staff has a chance to go down as the greatest in school history. This game is about finishing that story. Part of me accepts that LSU may never truly be in the college football's millionaire's club, and I'm okay with that. We're new money. Programs like Texas, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC, Bama -- their threshold for achievement isn't what LSU's is. A nice winning streak gets them an SI cover and the media eating out of their hands. And honestly, they've earned that with their histories. That's the reality of college football coverage and media markets. LSU may never get that level of consideration, and I can accept that.

But I've never cared about money's age, only its value. And a third BCS title in 10 years says that no matter what, we belong on the list. Maybe we can't get into the country club, but we can still throw a kick-ass kegger with a big-ass pot of jambalaya out on the 18th green. And we all know which party will be more fun.

Paul: When driving through Oklahoma lately, I tuned to the local sports radio station to help pass the time. One of the hosts was Sam Mayes, a former lineman at Oklahoma State, who played under Miles. From my time living there, I was familiar enough with Mayes to know that he really didn't care much for Miles. I've never expressly heard him say it, but I imagine it has a lot to do with the way Miles left Oklahoma State to take the LSU job.

Regardless, a kid, probably 10 years old, calls in and asks him what he thinks will happen in the MNC. He responds, without hesitation, "Alabama by two touchdowns, at least." The kid was flabbergasted, and even went on to say he thinks Alabama will win but not by that much. Mayes' reasoning? "Miles' luck will run out soon."

I went from chuckling to irked. To have a sheer confidence that either team would blow out the other is silly to me. But for your rationale to be that Miles is "lucky" just completely irritates me. I realize that is apparently is shaded by some negative personal experiences, but at least try to be objective. Please give me one realistic example of how "luck" helped LSU this year. No doubt, he would say, "If Alabama had a kicker..." which is about as poor reasoning as can be imagined. I digress.

So what does it mean to me? It means that maybe, just maybe, this could be the final nail in the "Miles is lucky" meme, and an assertion that we're not just keeping pace with Nick Saban and Alabama, but currently ahead of them, especially considering most think we could be better next year, and Alabama will be in a "rebuilding" year. It means that LSU will now be propelled into the upper-echelon, all-time elite CFB program discussion (after all, this would be our 5th "recognized" National Title, just two behind Oklahoma, tying us with Miami, Nebraska and Army). It adds another bullet point to our growing resume for team of the the last two decades. It means we're elite and everyone has to deal with it.

Poseur: Millionaire's Club. I like that. I also think that LSU will stake its very real claim at membership in this club with a win. LSU will be one of the most successful programs all time and can move past its current stature in the Hall of Very Good to Great.

LSU had a decent claim to team of the Aughts alongside USC and Texas, but now we are trying to stake a claim to nothing less than Best Program of the BCS Era. That's some heady stuff but that's where we legitimately are. LSU, with a win, will have three BCS titles, giving us a clubhouse lead. Not to mention four SEC titles and five BCS bowl appearances and five wins.

Let's stake that claim. It's not just one of the greatest seasons by any program, but also entry into the most exclusive club of all time programs. That's some big time stakes.

Billy: Are there any elements from game one that you think will carry over? Do either of these teams feel different to you two months later?

Paul LSU is certainly different. Since the Alabama game they've gone with a different quarterback, which changes the offense a bit. Now, rather than a lot of short, rhythm-based passes, there's more designed QB runs and option plays. Miles wants the offense to be turnover allergic, believing his defense is dominant enough to ride through victory after victory (and it is). Jefferson's mobility is an added dimension to the offense, as well as his downfield passing... IF he's on. Against Georgia, while the entire offense struggled, Jefferson had his worst game of the season. But the week previous against Arkansas, was his best. Historically, JJ has played well against Alabama, but I wouldn't expect the option game to be as effective, because with time to prepare, it's often easily snuffed out. Then again, if Saban dedicates too much time to that, JJ is capable of beating you with his arm. These are the reasons he's the starting QB.

Alabama, looks the same. Still suspect on special teams. Offense about the same, workmanlike, lack of receiver talent, average QB play. I've heard several people say they really "got better" after the LSU game, but it looked more to me like the rest of their schedule was just worse. Defensively, they yielded two of their highest 3 point totals all year in the last two weeks of the season, one to Georgia Southern.

So if we're looking for a team with a "different" feel, it's definitely LSU. That doesn't necessarily mean "better," but it is different.

Poseur: The obvious change is that both teams are healthy. Nothing like a month off to heal those bumps and bruises which accumulate over the course of the year. There shouldn't be any excuses that one team wasn't 100%.

Aside from the obvious change at quarterback Paul went into, our backfield looks dramatically different as Kenny Hilliard is sure to get more touches. Depth is LSU's biggest advantage over Alabama, and that advantage has increased. Bama probably has a better starting lineup, as evidenced by the All American team, but LSU just comes at you in waves.

But the biggest difference is Mathieu. NICKNAME REDACTED was at a low ebb in the Bama game, coming off a suspension. He didn't play with his normal aggression as if hung over from getting caught breaking team rules. Now, he comes in confident and ready to prove his Bama game was a fluke. Be afraid.

actioncuse: A tiger can't change its stripes right? I don't think Miles will really change anything in his approach to the game. Running the ball will still be the key to winning it for LSU. We might see more of an effort to mix the plays up since Kenny Hilliard has become much more of a force since the last game and he could be an asset if we make it into the redzone against Alabama again. Play action will also be something I think Les Miles will use to attack the Alabama defense. We've got speed on the outside with Randle and Sheppard and it could take just that one play that either gives us the lead or makes it a two score game.

As for Alabama, I think Saban will go into the game with the mindset that we can't just count on the kicker once we get close. On certain plays, such as a 3rd and 8 from the LSU 32, he might go for a first down rather than just running the ball and settling for points. That could be key in the battle for field position if that is indeed how he decides to play it.

Defensively, I don't think the teams change one bit.

Billy: I think the main thing that has changed, as far as LSU is concerned, is that this team has learned to take a punch, so to speak. You never want to complain about dominating wins, but there's also something to be said for coming back after you've gotten your nose bloodied a little. Arkansas and Georgia were both able to jump out to two-score leads, and in the latter case just about everything was going wrong. This team found a way to swing momentum and once the ball started rolling the other way it only picked up steam. And remember, the last time LSU played for a national championship it found itself in a similar position against Ohio State.

But otherwise, these two teams are both still built around defense and a running game. LSU's rushing attack has gotten a little more dynamic, probably due in part to Jefferson and the emergence of Hilliard. The passing game has regressed slightly, but neither one of these teams will be trying to wing the ball around much. What will be interesting to see if which team got its timing back on track over the layoff.

In closing, how will you be taking in Monday's matchup?

actioncuse:

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Made some bets in Canada. You have to take 2 teams to place a bet, and those are the tickets I have left with LSU on them. You would think SEC vs. Big 10 is a lock, and then Georgia happens...

Paul: I'll be in NOLA, cruising the Quarter, in all likelihood. Not really sure where we will land yet. Hopefully I'll be double-fisting in front of a big screen, celebrating with a bunch of good ole Louisiana folk.

PodKATT: Despite a nice string of road games for me this year, the fact that this game is on a Monday so far removed from the holidays means I'll be couch bound manning the game thread for the first time this season. I won't even be able to drink if things get out of hand (us Bloggers gotta get paid y'all).

So it better not get out of hand.

Poseur: I, too, should be manning the game thread. Work is busy right now so it should be a matter of coming home, making dinner, and then holing up at Poseur HQ. I'm looking forward to it. This is not a social event for me.

Billy: I figure don't fix what ain't broke. Myself, the Mrs. and my friends will be taking this one in at the same spot we watched the first Bama game in the Varsity/the Chimes by the North gates of campus. Tough to beat all-you-can-drink draft beer for $10. And unlike most people I know, I took TUESDAY off. A little recovery time never hurts.

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