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Tony's Top 10: What you may not know about LSU-'Bama for BCS title

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NEW ORLEANS -- When two teams from the same division of the same conference play for the BCS national championship it is, by definition, a historic event. But here is Tony's Top 10 of other things you might not know about Monday night's meeting between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama:

1. If LSU wins, the Tigers must be considered one of the greatest football teams of all time: Just look at the numbers. A victory would give LSU a 14-0 record. Nine of those 14 wins will have come against teams that were ranked in the top 25. That has never been done. Four of those wins (Oregon, Arkansas, and Alabama twice) will have come against teams ranked in the top five. That has been done only one other time in history, by the 1943 team from Notre Dame, which beat No. 3 Army, No. 3 Navy, No. 8 Northwestern, and No. 2 Iowa Pre-flight. In short, if LSU wins, no national champion since World War II will have a better body of work than the Tigers.

2. Alabama, the university, also has a chance to make history: Alabama's record book list 13 national championships from various services over its history. Those who are not Crimson Tide fans will sometimes argue about the validity of some of those championships. But there is no argument about this: Alabama has won seven Associated Press national championships since the poll began in 1936 (1961, 1964, 1965, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009). A win over LSU very likely would give Alabama its eighth AP title, which would tie Notre Dame on the all-time list.

I say very likely because there is always the possibility that the AP poll voters could pick somebody else, like LSU or Oklahoma State, for its national championship. But I doubt it.

3. Alabama, the state, also could make history: If the Crimson Tide wins that would be three straight BCS national championships for the state of Alabama (Alabama in 2009 and 2011 plus Auburn in 2010). That has never been done in the history of FBS football. The state of Texas won consecutive championships in 1938 (TCU) and Texas A&M (1939).

The only major sport where a state has won three straight championships is men’s basketball: Mike Krzyzewski's Duke teams won back to back national titles in 1991 and 1992. Then North Carolina's Dean Smith won his last national championship in 1993 (in New Orleans, by the way).

Ohio State won the national championship in 1960 and then Cincinnati won back-to-back titles in 1961 and 1962.

4. LSU could win an unprecedented third BCS title: Monday night's game will mark the 14th national championship decided in the BCS era (1998-present). In that span no team has won three titles. LSU won championships in 2003 and 2007. Florida won championships in 2006 and 2008. Nine other schools have one title each: Tennessee, Florida State, Oklahoma, Miami, Ohio State, USC, Texas, Alabama, Auburn. By beating Alabama, LSU would become the first team to post three BCS championships and all of them will have been decided at the Louisiana Superdome, about an hour away from the campus in Baton Rouge.

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5. The BCS has been very, very good to the SEC: SEC Commissioner Mike Slive says he is willing to discuss a format change in the next BCS contract. But this format certainly has worked for the SEC. Tennessee won the first BCS championship by beating Florida State 23-16 at the Fiesta Bowl for the 1998 title. Either LSU or Alabama will give the SEC its sixth straight national championship and its eighth in the 14 years of the BCS. But not only has the SEC won eight of the past 14 championships, but the titles have been won by five different schools, meaning that almost half the conference has won at least one national championship in the BCS era.

BCS titles by conference:
 SEC (8): Tennessee (1998), LSU (2003, 2007), Florida (2006, 2008), Alabama (2009), Auburn (2010), Alabama or LSU (2011)
 ACC (1): Florida State (1999)
 Big 12 (2): Oklahoma (2000), Texas (2005)
 Big East (1): Miami (2001)
 Big Ten (1): Ohio State (2002)
 Pac-12 (1): USC (2004)

6. There is only one downside to this game for the SEC: The SEC will wake up on Monday with a 7-0 record in BCS championship games. It will go to bed with a record of 8-1 because somebody's got to lose. The SEC's record in previous BCS championship games:
 1998: No. 1 Tennessee 23, No. 2 Florida State 16
 2003: No. 2 LSU 21, No. 1 Oklahoma 14
 2006: No. 2 Florida 41, No. 1 Ohio State 14
 2007: No. 2 LSU 38, No. 1 Ohio State 24
 2008: No. 2 Florida 24, No. 1 Oklahoma 14
 2009: No. 1 Alabama 37, No. 2 Texas 21
 2010: No. 1 Auburn 22, No. 2 Oregon 19

Note that the SEC has won as the No. 2 team in four of its seven BCS championship games.

7. Les Miles tries to make it three straight vs. Nick Saban: Before the two teams first met in Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama's Saban had one of the more impressive coaching stats I've seen in a while. In the previous 12 games where he had lost to a coach the year before, Saban was a perfect 12-0.

Saban lost back-to-back games to Florida's Steve Spurrer in 2000 and 2001. In 2010 he lost to Miles and LSU, 21-14 in Baton Rouge. Miles broke the Saban's string of rematch games with the 9-6 overtime win on Nov. 5.

Nick Saban has been a college head coach for 11 seasons: one at Toledo (1990), five at Michigan State (1995-99), five at Alabama (2007-present).

In those 11 seasons five coaches have beaten Saban in consecutive games:

 Tom Osborne, Nebraska (1995-96)
 Hayden Fry, Iowa (1995-96)
 Joe Paterno, Penn State (1995-96)
 Steve Spurrier, Florida (2000-01)
 Les Miles, LSU (2010-11)

No opposing coach has ever beaten Nick Saban three straight times. Miles could become the first.

8. Can Alabama handle the layoff? This comes from my friend Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News. Alabama's last game was Nov. 26 against Auburn, which means the Crimson Tide will have been off 44 days when they face LSU in New Orleans. LSU, of course, last played in the Dec. 3 championship game in Atlanta. Only three teams have gone through a layoff as long as Alabama's and still won a national title: Florida State 1999 (45 days), Colorado (1990), Miami 1983 (51 days).

In the BCS era, Jon points out, the team with more time off has lost five of the last seven championship games.

9. Four reasons why the SEC is the most successful conference in college football: Money, coaching, talent, support.

Money: A recent survey by the Business of College Sports listed college football programs based purely on the profit they generate. Texas was easily No. 1 at $71.2 million. But seven of the top 11 were from the SEC.

Coaching: According to a report in the Omaha World-Herald, in 2006 five of the top 20 highest-paid coaches were in the SEC. Today, 10 of the top 20 are from the SEC. And here's the real rub: There are eight college football assistants who make $700,000 or more. Seven of those are in the SEC.

Talent: Five of the top six picks in last year's NFL Draft came from the SEC. In all, the SEC had 10 of the top 32 players taken in the first round. Over the past five years the SEC has had more players drafted than any other conference.

Support: Six of the top 11 schools in terms of average attendance come from the SEC: Alabama (101,821), Tennessee (94,642), LSU (92,868), Georgia (92,613), Florida (89,061), Auburn (85,792). If you throw in the new kid, Texas A&M (87,183), the SEC has seven of the top 11.

10. These same two teams may be ranked Nos. 1 and 2 this fall: The word on the street, folks, is that LSU is going to be better next season than this season. Yes, you read that right.

Of the 12 defensive linemen on the depth chart for Monday night's game, only two are seniors. The Tigers go four deep in great running backs and the best one (Kenny Hilliard) is a freshman. The Tigers will have a new quarterback in junior Zach Mettenberger, a 6-foot-5 transfer from Georgia who has a rocket arm. The Tigers should have a legitimate vertical passing game.

We don't expect junior RB Trent Richardson to return at Alabama but there are two stars waiting in the wings in Eddie Lacy and freshman Dee Hart, who didn't play this season because of injury. Barrett Jones, Alabama's best offensive lineman, has already announced that he'll return next season. There will be some big holes to fill on the defensive side. So don't be surprised if LSU and Alabama are 1-2 when the preseason polls come out next summer.

Bonus Top 10. How good are these two defenses? This good:

 Alabama and LSU are the only two defenses in college football that give up less than four yards per play. Alabama gave up an average of 3.39 yards on 676 plays. LSU gave up a 3.96 average on 828 plays.

 Temple's defense gave up 24 touchdowns, which was the third-best total in college football. LSU allowed only 14 touchdowns while Alabama gave up only 12.

 Alabama and LSU are the only two defenses in the country allowing less than 11 points per game. Alabama gave up 8.83 points per game while LSU gave up 10.54.

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on The CBS Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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