LSU vs. Alabama goes from hyped rematch to lopsided score

LSU vs. Alabama was the first shutout in the title game since the current bowl-game selection process was instituted in 1998. Alabama won Monday night 21-0.

Dave Martin/AP
LSU vs. Alabama: LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson (9) is tackled by Alabama's Mark Barron during the second half of the BCS National Championship college football game Monday, in New Orleans.

Before the BCS National Championship Game on Monday night, some announcers and sportswriters were hyping the rematch big time. It was like countless Ohio State–Michigan grudge matches. Or think Ali vs. Frazier (world champion boxers) or Borg vs. McEnroe (Wimbledon tennis players).

It was not to be.

LSU, which had beaten Alabama on Nov. 5, fell to the Crimson Tide 21-0. It was the first shutout in the title game since the current bowl-game selection process was instituted in 1998.

Far from the action in New Orleans’ Superdome, football lovers streamed out of sports bars calling the game “not good for the sport.”

“I just don’t think a lopsided game is good for football,” said office clerk Ted Bennington, walking out of the Off Kilt sports bar in Sherman Oaks, Calif. “Those of us who aren’t from anywhere near Alabama or LSU just want to see a great and very close game. This was not it.”

The Nov. 5 matchup between the two teams went into overtime, and some have called it the Game of the Century. For at least one viewer, Monday’s outcome had some worth.

“I’m not a football fan, but I enjoyed seeing one team get revenge and even the score,” said Mr. Bennington's wife, Michelle. “It just somehow ... lets you feel the world is a fairer place.”

As noted on air by ESPN’s Brent Musburger, nine national championships puts Alabama ahead of storied football schools like Notre Dame and Oklahoma. Coach Nick Saban becomes one of only 10 college coaches to win three national championships.

After the game, replays showed the Alabama defense forcing turnovers and letting the LSU offense over the 50-yard line just once.

 Other highlights included:

• Alabama’s Jeremy Shelley kicked five field goals, which matched an all-bowl record. He also missed two field goals and an extra-point attempt.

• Running back Trent Richardson, a Heisman finalist, ran for 96 yards on 20 carries, and he made a 34-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback AJ McCarron, offensive player of the game, passed for 234 yards. LSU completed only 92 yards and five first downs.

Some sports broadcasters say one perennial debate was substantially quieted by the game: whether the winner of the BCS championship game is really America’s best college-football team. Prior to 1998, the Associated Press’s first- and second-rated teams met in bowl games only eight times in 56 seasons. Since 1998, No. 1 has played No. 2 nine times according to the AP poll and a dozen years straight by the BCS’s own calculations.

“There’s no one anywhere who could have seen this game and think that Alabama is not the best college team in the country,” said Mr. Musburger after the game.

Not so fast, say sportswriters, who have more time to think about it.

“Boring. Not a national championship pedigree,” wrote sports columnist Bill Dwyre in Tuesday morning’s Los Angeles Times. “Its game plan, well executed, seemed to be getting in position for field goals.”

After a year of scandal at Penn State, Miami, and Ohio State, Mr. Dwyre and others agreed that college football could have used an exciting finish.

Dwyre wrote, “So a college football season that could have used a grand conclusion of excellence and drama stumbled home instead, with BCS officials perhaps wishing, in their most private moments, that they had just called this one a season after the Rose and Fiesta bowls.”

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