College Football: 'The SEC National Championship'

The Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, site of Monday's college football championship.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Folks, it's time for the SEC National Championship, I mean BCS...

If you just go by LSU and Alabama's first contest, a 9-6 baseball score in favor of LSU, Alabama could win this game. The Tide was hurt by four missed field goals and an interception at the LSU 1 in the first outing. That said, there's something about LSU shifting into overdrive when they need to. The Tigers did it against Georgia in the SEC championship game, and who's to say they won't do it again?

The two coaches -- LSU's Les Miles and Alabama's Nick Saban -- are probably the two best in the game. Miles is the charismatic, quixotic leader. Saban is the no-nonsense planner who manages to barely get wet in a Gatorade shower.

My colleagues here at the College Football Corner -- David Moss and Joe Deaux -- also are going to weigh in on this game. We're also going to recap our best and worst picks of the season. Dave had the idea this week, and it sounded kind of sweet being that yours truly picked the exact final score of the Rose Bowl, which was Oregon 45, Wisconsin 38.

It wasn't a stretch to assume both of those teams would score a lot of points, but right on the button? You have to like the 45 and the 38; let's call that a field goal parlay, because, you know, six TDs and six PATs are 42, and five TDs and five PATs are 35. That would have been too obvious.

I think my biggest lead balloon of a pick was Michigan State over Nebraska. The Spartans, filled with gusto after a huge last-play victory over Wisconsin, went out to Lincoln but didn't really show up. I had written: "Michigan State seems to have something special this year and has come too far to lose this game . Corner's choice: Michigan State 35, Nebraska 24." The final score? Nebraska 24, Michigan State 3."

Now Sparty, bless their Big Ten heart for that OT victory over Georgia last weekend. I did have them in that game. That win combined with Michigan's victory over Virginia Tech may have been enough to keep the anti-Big Ten crowd from totally kicking the door down this bowl season.

Heading into the weekend, the Corner has a 44-29 season picks record. Tonight, Kansas State and Arkansas meet in the Cotton Bowl. Anyway, let's get to the BCS game.

Trent Richardson, Alabama running back

No. 1 LSU (13-0) vs. No. 2 Alabama (11-1), BCS National Championship Game, New Orleans, 8:30 p.m. ET Monday (ESPN): The key to this one could be if Trent Richardson can break loose. The Heisman finalist was held to 89 yards in the 9-6 loss on Nov. 5, and he's anxious for the rematch.

"Most definitely. ... I'm waiting for it," he told

No one has rushed for 100 yards on LSU this season.

If Richardson breaks into the LSU secondary, he'll have to get past a fellow All-American in LSU cornerback Tyrann "Honey Badger" Matthieu.

Alabama leads the overall series, 45-25-5. But let's not forget that LSU will be playing in its home state of Louisiana. Yes, each team gets a certain number of tickets, and yes, Alabama borders on the east. But the mindset of it being a home game will be there for the Tigers, and they have been looking forward to it.

LSU coach Les Miles

"There's no other place we wanted to play," LSU Coach Les Miles said in comments on the LSU Web site, when the team arrived in New Orleans earlier this week. "I promise you that at the very beginning of this year, really as early as when our team voted to accept the Oregon game and play Oregon early in the year, they really pointed at this game. They wanted to qualify for this game. It was a feeling that the staff, that the team had really all along. For us, there's no other place for us to play. This is right where we needed to be."

Think of New Orleans and Atlanta as the SEC's de facto capital cities.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, himself a fan of playing in New Orelans, took a lot from the November loss.

"The big thing that we've tried to focus on in terms of what we learned in that game is the technical aspects of things that we could have done better, maybe from a schematic standpoint, maybe from an execution standpoint," Saban told The Associated Press.

The hunch is that there will be more offense in this game than in the November game of the century. Alabama has the talent to win this game, but I keep thinking of those spectacular outbursts that LSU can make on both sides of the ball. LSU 24, Alabama 23 -- William Hennelly

Tyrann Matthieu, LSU cornerback

Let's pass on an introduction and run straight to the analysis, because there's nothing pretty about this matchup. The key to a national championship for both teams will be defense and running backs.

Alabama's and Louisiana State's offenses look good against most opponents, but against each other they're passable. Think of this game more like a minor-league NFL football clash. A combined seven defensive players from these two teams made the All-Americas team's first, second and honorable mention lists.

Alabama's defense is absolutely dirty (in a good way) on paper. Linebacker Courtney Upshaw had 17 tackles for loss, which included 8.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He also grabbed one interception. LSU running backs Michael Ford and Spencer Ware breezed through defenses in 2011, but part of that is because no team has been able to contain them once they've burst through defensive lines. Upshaw is the kind of linebacker who stops that problem. He has the NFL quickness to meet running backs a few yards off the line of scrimmage and wrap them up, but he's also deadly on the blitz.

Upshaw isn't alone in that category. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower recorded more solo tackles than Upshaw, which included 9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and eight quarterback hurries. He blocked a kick, broke up three passes and deflected four more. It's easy to understand why LSU only managed to score 9 points against Alabama in November.

Alabama's secondary is also formidable as it had 12 interceptions and only gave up 113.3 yards passing per game. Where the defense might be weak (against a caliber team like LSU) is on its defensive line. After its linebackers and secondary, Alabama's defensive linemen recorded just eight sacks. The D-line also didn't account for the most tackles for loss.

LSU rushed for 148 total rushing yards, which proved to be the difference-maker in the November game, capped by Ford's 15-yard rush to set up a 25-yard winning field goal. When Ford and Ware come bashing through the line Monday night, the question will be if Alabama's literal first line of defense can hold them to one or two yards per carry.

Look for the Tigers' offensive line to continue to push 'Bama off the line of scrimmage to give its running backs some holes, but don't be surprised if LSU's boys break down against the linebacker-blitz packages that Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban has thrashed opponents with all season.
Nick Saban, Alabama coach

AJ McCarron threw for nearly 200 yards against the decade's finest secondary (maybe ever), but failed to convert a touchdown. This means that LSU's All-American corps of defenders clamped down at important junctures of the game -- the same happened early against Georgia in the SEC Championship.

It's important to note that Alabama, known for its dominant ground attack, managed just 98 rushing yards against LSU in the first game. LSU's defensive front, which should have been burned by All-American running back Trent Richardson, performed well. Richardson only gained 89 yards, but his performance was enhanced by his receiving performance of 80 yards on five catches.

Because LSU's secondary is so phenomenal, the D-line has received less attention. Defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo combined for 16 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss. They are absolute terrors on the field. Led by these two, the Tigers defense mastered Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and their unsung accomplishment was how they completely shut down 'Bama running back Eddie Lacy.

Lacy failed to provide any support for Richardson as he carried the ball for only 19 yards. He had trouble finding holes and LSU was not tired by the dual back system.

LSU is deeper than Alabama at running back, quite simply because when quarterback Jordan Jefferson drops back, he always has the potential to break away when passing options disappear. The biggest question for the Tigers is which Jefferson will take the field against the Crimson Tide? Will it be the one who stumbled past Alabama, or the one who trounced Arkansas?

If LSU gets Jefferson at his best, there's no way that Alabama beats them. But if Jefferson shows up like he did against Georgia, a quick start by 'Bama could be enough for Saban's team to slip by. Still, the Tigers won in November despite Jefferson's poor showing.

Expect Saban to expose LSU's weak linebackers (again, against a caliber team like Alabama) with dump passes, screens, and slants to Richardson and slot receivers. But I wouldn't be surprised if LSU head coach Les Miles has prepared his experienced corner backs and safeties play a spy on those all night -- they learned from the first time, right?

This game is a virtual toss-up, and the key is defenses versus running backs. But when it comes to picking a champion, you have to decide between Saban's superb game plan preparations or LSU quarterback Jefferson's talent potential. I think the greatly improved coaching of Miles coupled with a home game-like atmosphere will have Jefferson in a comfortable position Monday night. Scary. LSU 17, Alabama 14 -- Joe Deaux