Despite opinions to the contrary, the B in BCS does not stand for boring. So, for those who thought the original LSU-Alabama game was a snoozer, take heart: even though its the same teams, this game is likely to be a lot different.
The biggest difference will be the LSU offense. During the first meeting in Tuscaloosa, Jarrett Lee led the Tigers at quarterback for most of the game. Lee had started the first nine games of the season after Jordan Jefferson was allegedly involved in a fight outside a bar called Shadys. During that run, LSU stuck with a traditional pro set offense and Lee threw for 1,274 yards and 14 touchdowns, not Robert Griffin III numbers, but good enough to beat six ranked opponents and move to Tigers to the top of the rankings.
But two interceptions against Alabama (and Jeffersons legal problems being downgraded) led to a change, not just in players but in styles. Jefferson is a pass-option quarterback who is always a threat to run, a dimension that Lee did not bring. And while his rushing numbers havent been great, the fact that Jefferson can run has forced defensive coordinators to hold linebackers a second longer than normal, which has opened passing lanes.
Jeffersons yearly high came in the final regular season game against Arkansas where he threw for 208 yards and rushed for 53. With a compliment of rushing and receiving talent around him, Jefferson will open up the BCS Championship game in a way that Jarrett Lee could not.
But there is another reason to watch Jefferson in this BCS Championship game: of all the players who will run onto the turf of the Superdome on Monday night, he has the most to prove.
I'm back with my team, back with the coaches I love, Jefferson said. There's no bitterness. We're playing in the national championship game. It's all good. Everything is back in order, back the way it needs to be. I got my life back, really. That's why there's more peace. It's back to normal.
That is a far cry from early September when Jeffersons name came up in connection with the parking lot brawl that sent one man to the hospital. Police questioned him numerous times and seized 49 pairs of shoes from Jeffersons apartment as well as taking DNA samples, all of which proved inconclusive.
Suspended from the first four games after charges were filed, Jefferson wasnt allowed to practice or be involved in any team activity. He watched his teammates work out from a balcony above the practice field and he watched one home game from the stands with the rest of the student body. The others he viewed on television. The pain of being in the stadium and out of uniform was too much for him.
After coming back, he watched from the sidelines as Lee played the best football of his career. According to everyone involved in the LSU program and those who know both men well, Jefferson and Lee were supportive of each other throughout.
Jordan is a great example of everyone thinking about the team first, Coach Miles said. His practice ethic, the issue beyond his suspension, he's handled it as well as anybody. He made it through a difficult time.
Now he has two things left to prove: his innocence on the battery charges (a hearing is scheduled for February) and that he is the quarterback who can lead LSU to their third national championship in eight years.
It's a good feeling knowing you are back in the leading spot, Jefferson said. It will be my fourth bowl game that I've started, a big accomplishment in my career at LSU. I want to just go out and try to win another one. I didn't expect to play as much as I did (after being reinstated), but at the same time I stayed prepared in case my number was called. When it was called, I was ready.
Jefferson will be ready again on Monday, this time for the biggest game of his career.
Sitting out was devastating, he said. At the same time I had to stay positive, cheer the team on, and pray they won every game until I got back.