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BCS championship game predictions: Our experts lean toward LSU

CBSSports.com
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Our senior staff writers and correspondents pick a winner for Monday night's BCS title game between LSU and Alabama and explain the reasons behind their selection.

As a group, they're 4-2 in favor of LSU going 2-0 against the Crimson Tide this season and finishing undefeated.

Dennis Dodd, Senior College Football Columnist
I realized it when I stepped on the Superdome turf. It felt like my basement with an area rug.

Below the fake grass? Real cement. No surprise, just a bit off-putting that there is little give. The padding is minimal. Unfortunately for Alabama, the footing is real, as in real good.

Mostly for LSU. Among a couple of other reasons, the Tigers will win this game because they are playing on a fast track. Yes, Alabama is fast too, especially on defense, but I believe the effect will most benefit LSU.

The Tigers also now have discernible depth at running back. It goes four deep with Spencer Ware, Alfred Blue, Michael Ford and Kenny Hilliard. Trent Richardson might be the best offensive player on the field, but he can't carry it every time. And backup Eddie Lacy still has toe issues.

I also believe it is Les Miles' time. The man is 75-17 at LSU, with a national title. But you would think he is not worthy of tying Nick Saban's shoes. There is a sneaking suspicion The Mad Hatter has something special for Alabama. Anyone remember the tight end-around in 2010?

Don't forget home field -- LSU will have it. Big. It will be maybe 70-30 Tigers fans. Also, don't forget the Tigers haven't lost yet playing a national championship game in the Superdome.

Hold that Tiger. Final score: LSU 21, Alabama 17.

Brett McMurphy, College Football Insider
LSU already has defeated the champions of six bowls (Rose, Oregon; Orange, West Virginia; Cotton, Arkansas; Music City, Mississippi State; Chick-fil-A, Auburn; and Gator, Florida). The Tigers also blasted SEC East champion Georgia, which lost in overtime to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl.

LSU coach Les Miles is 5-1 in bowl games, and in the past two seasons, the Tigers are a remarkable 13-2 against Top 25 Associated Press opponents, including 8-0 this season. The coverage skills of LSU's outstanding corners -- Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu -- will allow the Tigers to stack the box and slow down running back Trent Richardson, the Tide's top offensive threat.

All season, LSU has demonstrated it's the nation's best team. A win here validates the underrated Miles as one of the nation's premier coaches. Now, the Tigers are playing in the Superdome, their home away from home, against an opponent they already defeated on the road and they're an underdog? I've seen this movie before and know how it ends. Final score: LSU 24, Alabama 14.

Bruce Feldman, Senior College Football Columnist
I buy that both teams have gotten better since the first time around, and that LSU probably has made even a bigger improvement of the two teams due to the emergence of Kenny Hilliard and Jordan Jefferson getting more settled in after a tumultuous start to the 2011 season. LSU has a younger team, which leads me to believe they had more room to develop with added seasoning. The Tigers also are significantly better in special teams than the Tide in every aspect from kicking to punting to the return game.

You'd think it can only help the Tigers that this game is in their backyard, not in Tuscaloosa, but I'm not so sure. I feel like that may actually suit 'Bama better. Then again, Les Miles has proven, more than any other coach in college football, that he knows how to get his team focused amid distractions.

But despite all of that, my hunch is 'Bama wins the BCS title game. Maybe it's due to some kind of bizarro BCS karma that often seems to find the most awkward outcome that sparks the most controversy. Think about it: If LSU wins, clear-cut national champ. If Alabama wins, more debate will spew out from virtually every corner.

Trent Richardson did some damage the first time out, but it was really more as a receiver. I expect him to be even bigger factor for 'Bama this time around because they'll ride him more in the ground game, in hopes of opening up the passing game with the receivers. I think it's also really hard to beat a good team twice in the same season, and the Tide special teams won't have as bad a night this time around. They can't, can they? Final score: Alabama 21, LSU 16

Tony Barnhart, Mr. CFB
Logically, you should pick Alabama. That's because the Crimson Tide is in a totally different mindset for the rematch. They were very confident they would win the first meeting on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa. They didn't, and for 44 days they have listened to people say they don't belong in this game. Now Alabama is just mad.

But this LSU team defies logic because it is so damned talented and has overcome so much. Their starting quarterback missed the first four games on suspension. Their offensive coordinator (Steve Kragthorpe) had to step down because of health concerns. The Honey Badger was suspended a game. They played eight games away from Tiger stadium and in the process beat the Rose Bowl champ (Oregon), the Orange Bowl champ (West Virginia), Alabama in Bryant-Denny, and Georgia in the Georgia Dome. They dominated the Cotton Bowl champs (Arkansas). And here's one other thing: LSU has gotten better as a team since Nov. 5.

I'm not a big believer in Destiny, but LSU is destined to go 14-0 and rank as one of the two or three best teams I've ever seen. Final score: LSU 14, Alabama 10.

Jim Dunn, Alabama RapidReporter
After weeks of hype, discussion and angst, it's finally here: the BCS title game between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama. Forget whether you believe Alabama deserved a rematch. The game is on, and Alabama is playing in it. And the Tide will win this time around.

Why? Because they'll use the tight ends more than they did Nov. 5, which will open up running lanes for Trent Richardson. But also because the team has heard nothing but griping about its being in the BCS title game for weeks and has a chip on its shoulder. And because Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart have had so much time to polish their NFL-level, multidimensional defense that Jordan Jefferson won't be able to get into a rhythm.

Yes, LSU has a huge advantage in special teams. Punter Brad Wing is a genuine game-changer and Tyrann Mathieu is always a threat to return a kick or punt for a huge gain. But that won't be enough to overcome Alabama's advantages. Final score: Alabama 21, LSU 17.

Glenn Guilbeau, LSU RapidReporter
Hope you have enjoyed the scoring bonanza in the previous bowl games, because it is not happening Monday night in the BCS national championship game.

It's time to invite the men to the party.

"I expect it to be big boy football," LSU coach Les Miles said Sunday. "I expect it to be very physical."

It's also time for a search party to locate a quarterback.

LSU's Jordan Jefferson won his starting job back based on the first Alabama game won by LSU 9-6 in overtime in a touchdown-less game. This is amazing since Jefferson completed only six passes while rushing for 43 yards and taking LSU on one legitimate scoring drive. He is also coming off the worst game by a starter who finished the game in two decades of SEC title games, completing 5 of 13 for 30 yards with six rushes for minus 5 yards.

No. 2 LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee has been on sabbatical since tossing two interceptions at Alabama. Alabama's A.J. McCarron tends to miss or not see two or three receivers a game.

Both defenses will make the quarterback throw. This means there may be touchdowns, but not from either offense. LSU will win with a Morris Claiborne interception and a Tyrann Mathieu punt return. Final score: LSU 17, Alabama 13.

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