Rematch of the CenturyBy Laura Owens | 12/08/2011 11:10pm
While Nov. 5 was labeled the “Game of the Century,” Jan. 9 has become the "Rematch of the Century." In an unprecedented move, Alabama and LSU, both from the same conference, were selected Sunday to play for the BCS National Championship game in New Orleans.
The first time these two teams met, Alabama came out on the short end of a 9-6 overtime game. The then-No. 2 Crimson Tide only dropped one spot, while LSU stayed at No. 1, going on to a 13-0 season and an SEC Championship. After the loss to LSU, offensive lineman Barrett Jones said the team was frustrated, having put so much emotion into the game and still suffering the loss.
“Ever since then we’ve really just wanted another opportunity, and I think we’re going to get that,” he said. “We’re excited about another shot.”
When the Tide fell to No. 3, its fate was no longer only up to how the team played. Oklahoma State was still in the way, and the Cowboys didn’t look like they’d fall until the last game of their season against Oklahoma. But on Nov. 18, when they went on the road to play Iowa State, the Cyclones prevailed in overtime.
Jones said while the team knew they still had to win out, they were also happy to be back in the No. 2 spot.
“I think we took care of business our next two games, and that’s put us in a great position to win the national championship,” he said.
Oklahoma State moved back into the No. 3 spot when Arkansas lost to LSU and the Cowboys soundly defeated Oklahoma. With their victory, the biggest question last weekend became whether it would be enough for the Cowboys to jump Alabama.
Sunday night during the BCS unveiling show, the team was at a banquet. Head coach Nick Saban said he knew Alabama would be No. 2 right before the show started, but did not tell the team.
“Our players learned about it at the banquet when we piped the ESPN show to them,” he said. “They were extremely excited to have the opportunity to play the BCS National Championship Game.”
Jones said waiting to find out at the banquet was a nervous experience.
“We had to sit there and watch it on TV as a team, but I think all of us were optimistic,” he said. “We were really excited when we saw the little tab flip over and No. 3 was Oklahoma State, and we knew that it meant we were No. 2. We were really excited, and I guess relieved, that we get another chance.”
Now with another shot at LSU, Jones said the team would probably do nothing differently in preparation for their second meeting with the Tigers.
“I just think we’ve got to focus on executing better,” he said. “That’s what we didn’t do in the LSU game. We didn’t execute very well at times, and I think that’ll be our focus.”
While there’s controversy about the fact that this game is a rematch, Saban said teams split the series all the time in the NFL. He said if Alabama wins the national championship, they will be the national champion, regardless of the split series.
“This should be a totally different type of game,” he said. “There’s so many good players on both sides of the ball for both teams, I just think there’s a lot of opportunity for the game to be completely different.”
LSU head coach Les Miles said he hadn’t thought about if LSU still deserved a share in the national champion title even if it lost this game to Alabama. Beating Alabama and Arkansas won LSU the Western Division, which he said was important and a big accomplishment for his team, and while it was an honor to win the SEC championship, the opportunity to play for the national championship was a completely different scenario.
“We’re going to enjoy this,” he said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for both teams, and we’re certainly looking forward to it.”
While the last game was in Tuscaloosa, this game will be in LSU’s backyard. Saban said when his LSU team played for the national title game in 2003, he thought being in New Orleans was an advantage, and perhaps it will be again this year, when he’s on the other side of it.
“New Orleans is in Louisiana and an hour and 45 minutes from Baton Rouge, and there’s a lot of LSU fans in Louisiana,” he said. “I’m sure that our Alabama fans will represent us extremely well, but it’s obviously going to be a little bit of a home field advantage, playing at the Sugar Bowl.”