It's impossible to imagine a bigger, more intense stage than last year's regular season showdown in Tuscaloosa, a blockbuster pitting No. 1 vs. No. 2 after weeks of hype. LSU prevailed in appropriately dramatic fashion, escaping with a touchdown-free, 9-6 win in overtime. From there, the Tigers ran the table through the SEC Championship Game and into their third appearance in the BCS Championship Game.
As it turned out, the only team good enough to beat the SEC champion in the main event was the SEC runner-up. Alabama's 21-0 revenge romp for the BCS crown marked the conference's sixth consecutive win in the title game, and also its first loss in nine appearances since the BCS lurched into existence in 1998.
This year, all signs point to LSU as the favorite to top the preseason polls in August, although the Tigers are facing a new starting quarterback and a significant exodus of talent to the NFL. As are the Crimson Tide: Between them, LSU and Alabama lost 13 players in April's draft, eight of them in the first two rounds. But both are bound to start the year ranked in the top five, and both will be favored to come into Nov. 3 with perfect 8-0 records. If they fulfill the hype again, the only way the rubber match could be bigger is if the election was riding on it.