Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 1/8/12
Opinions have swirled like windblown Kansas wheat about the BCS Championship Game. Which team has the better defense? What coach has the advantage? Can Jordan Jefferson make the difference for LSU, or will Trent Richardson and A.J. McCarron finally put together an effective offensive for the Tide? Our Fox Sports experts have been thinking about this game as long as everyone else, and they have some well-thought-out opinions on the matter. Randy Cross: "Although the first meeting was dubbed The Game of the Century, its 9-6 outcome precludes it from that status, in my mind. Those of us who yearn for just a bit more offense not like Baylor-Washington or West Virginia-Clemson, but a little more we will get our wish. "In the first meeting in November, both coaching staffs called ultra conservative games, and neither was willing to step out and take a chance. Two interceptions apiece, calling it close to the vest made sense. But now I look for both offenses to open things up with both play-action and drop-back plays. With receivers like Marquis Maze, Rueben Randle, Darius Hanks, Odell Beckham, Russell Shepard and tight end Brad Smelley, I'm looking for both stellar defenses to be challenged. "I think the running games are a push, but the special-teams advantage goes to LSU. "As for the coaches, most of the attention has been on Nick Saban with the revenge factor, but Les Miles and his staff have done the best job on the FBS level this year in terms of keeping their team focused and ready week after week, even though multiple distractions. Another coaching plus for LSU is the fact that Saban and company were clearly out-coached in the first game, especially in overtime. "Having said all that, I think Alabama will win 20-16, powered by a big passing game, Trent Richardson's running and the determination of Saban to make up for their earlier stumble. "The good news for the SEC is that the conference gets its sixth straight BCS national champion, but it also gets its first Championship loss in the BCS era." Tim Couch: "I like LSU for a few reasons: First, I like their playmakers on offense much more so than Alabama's. I think Rueben Randle, Russell Shepard, Odell Beckham and the stable of running backs they have will wear down Bama's defense. "I also think that LSU playing what is, essentially, a home game in the Super Dome will be a huge advantage. "Finally, the X factor in this game, as is often the case, will be special teams. On that front, LSU has a huge advantage. With Brad Wing's ability to pin teams deep in their own territory, Bama will have to drive the long field against a great LSU defense. And Tyrann Mathieu has big-play potential every time he touches the ball. "Advantage LSU." Charles Davis: "In the first game I picked LSU to win because I thought their defense, heavy on the takeaways, would be a huge factor. I also thought their offense would do nothing to give the game away. I didn't know or expect that Alabama would struggle so much to make field goals. But, the biggest reason I picked LSU was because of the attitude and tone set by Les Miles. "To me, Les is underappreciated in the profession in many ways. He projects a 'what, me worry?' air that is rooted in supreme confidence, a confidence born of a team that is ultra talented, well-coached, and tremendously prepared. "This time around, however, I'm picking Alabama. It's due to the rematch factor. So many times throughout college football history, we've seen teams that have lost, and in some cases lost badly, come back, and win the rematch. I think that is what will happen this time. "It doesn't hurt that Alabama is just as good or better than LSU on the defensive side of the ball. Both will move the ball better in this game, and with Jordan Jefferson back as the starting QB, I would not be surprised to see LSU run more option plays. For Alabama, QB A.J. McCarron has really settled in as 'The Guy,' and Heisman finalist Trent Richardson was very close to breaking big runs in the first meeting. I see Richardson finishing a few of those runs in this one, and keeping the ball away from fellow Heisman finalist, Tyrann 'The Honey Badger' Mathieu. "Alabama 28-27." Kevin Carter: "There are two reasons I believe Alabama will win on Monday: One, it's hard to beat the same team twice, especially a team that's as powerful as Bama. When these two juggernauts met in November, it was a pretty good bet that they would see each other again. Bama began plotting revenge the second after Drew Alleman nailed the game-winning field goal in overtime. And did I mention that Nick Saban is pretty good at rematch games? "The other reason is red-zone play. Alabama was able to effectively move the ball, but came up short when it came to punching it in. Trent Richardson had over 160 yards (combined rushing and receiving), and yet Bama attempted six field goals. "LSU has also shown some vulnerability recently to well-scouted passing schemes. That was obviously against Arkansas and in the SEC title game against Georgia. These are schemes that Alabama has the ability to execute." Tommy Bowden: "I think you're going to see a very similar game to the first one. It's going to be a defensive battle, and it's not going to be high scoring. I also think the big difference is that Alabama won't miss four field goals this time. "Now, you'll see some different things, some trickery and some wrinkles. Nick Saban and Les Miles are smart guys and you can bet they've both added a few things to the play book. But I think, just like the last time, it's going to be close and probably come down to special teams or one big play. And I like Alabama simply because I think it's always hard to beat a team twice, and I think they're not going to have as tough a day on specials teams."
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