The Athlon editorial staff makes our individual official national title predictions.
No. 1 USC Trojans vs. No. 2 LSU Tigers.
It's the official Athlon Sports magazine prediction for the 2012 BCS National Championship showdown. Nine college football junkies sat in a room at the end of April arguing, scrapping, clawing and sometimes throwing things at each other in an effort to finalize the 2012 championship game match-up. In the end, the USC Trojans emerged as the company's pick to hoist the famed crystal ball at season's end.
For the record, Athlon has picked two of the last four national champs correctly. We went against the norm and tabbed Florida in 2008 while picking Alabama to be the 2011 national champions was far less risky. In 2009, Athlon went back to the Gator well and picked Tim Tebow's squad once again, yet came up one game short of the title game. In 2010, the magazine pegged Alabama as a repeat champ but clearly picked the wrong team from the Yellowhammer State. (If you can prove you picked Auburn in 2010 with hard evidence, we will give you all the credit you deserve.) The 2007 USC Trojans were the last non-SEC team projected to win the whole thing — and let's be honest, 2007 was the most bizarre and unpredictable season in the last 15 years of play. Ohio State and LSU were third and seventh in the standings respectively the week before the final BCS release. Missouri and West Virginia fans were left wondering "what if?" while a two-loss LSU team claimed the national title.
That is what makes college football the greatest sport on the planet. But Athlon is digging deeper as the season is set to begin Thursday night. There have been suspensions, dismissals, injuries, coaching moves and more since the magazine went to press, so we asked our editors to offer their individual predictions for the 2012 BCS National Championship Game:
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): LSU vs. USC
Our magazine picked USC and LSU as the top two teams back in the spring, and I see no reason to change my prediction now that the season is about to begin. Sure, LSU took a hit when Tyrann Mathieu was kicked off the team, but this is still an elite team that is ultra talented on both lines of scrimmage. USC’s already potent offense added a nice piece in the summer when former All-Big Ten running back Silas Redd left Penn State to play his final season in L.A. The Trojans’ defense isn’t quite as stout as some of the other national championship contenders, but it’s far from a weakness. As long as the D remains relatively healthy, USC should be able to outscore every team on its schedule. BCS Champion: USC 28, LSU 21
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Alabama vs. USC
There’s not really one dominant team this season, so we could have a surprise team or two playing for the national championship. However, it’s hard to pick against a team from the SEC and USC. Alabama and LSU should be the top two teams from the SEC, and I like the Crimson Tide to edge the Tigers for the SEC West title. I like Georgia to win the East, but Alabama should win the matchup in Atlanta. USC’s depth is a major concern, but the offense is the best in college football, and the defense just needs to make timely stops. The Trojans may slip once during the regular season and beating Oregon (potentially) twice won’t be easy. However, USC is motivated after being on probation for the last two years, and a matchup between the Trojans and the SEC would be one of the most intriguing national championships in recent memory. Stopping Alabama’s rushing attack will be tough, but I think the Trojans find a way to edge the Crimson Tide for the national championship this season. BCS Champion: USC 27, Alabama 24
Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Oregon vs. Alabama
Here is how I see it playing out: USC and Bama enter Championship weekend unbeaten and poised to meet in the title game. Bama beats Georgia or South Carolina to finish 13-0 and clinch a trip to Miami Gardens. However, Oregon's defense and growth at quarterback will make their second trip south to Los Angeles more productive than their first. Not to mention with each passing week, the Men of Troy's depth issues are more and more likely to become a factor. With a 12-1 record and fourth-straight Pac-12 title, the pollsters will force the Ducks above an 11-1 LSU team — whose only loss will come at home at the hands of the Crimson Tide. There will be an overwhelming push from fans and national media against a second rematch with the exact same teams that will have met three times in 14 months. And this time, after knocking off the No. 1 team in the nation, I have no issue with the Ducks getting their crack at the SEC champions. Although, the outcome won't be much different. BCS Champion: Alabama 24, Oregon 20
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): LSU vs. USC
I had USC and LSU projected in the BCS Championship Game earlier this summer and still see those two powers as the best teams for the 2012 season. The Trojans possess college football’s top quarterback Matt Barkley, as well as the nation’s best pass catching unit with Robert Woods, Marqise Lee, George Farmer and tight ends Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble. With the addition of Penn State transfer Silas Redd at running back, the USC offense should be lethal. The only question on defense is the line, but there is enough young talent there to complement a loaded back seven. Defending SEC champion LSU will be stacked once again, but the Tigers will have a tougher road in getting to the national title tilt. I definitely see an SEC vs. Pac-12 matchup in the big game, with Oregon and Alabama challenging the Trojans and Tigers. But in the end, I’ll take Matt Barkley and the USC offense break the SEC’s streak of six consecutive national crowns. BCS Champion: USC 27, LSU 23
Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie): Oklahoma vs. USC
The reign of SEC national championships will soon come to and end. Is the SEC no longer the premier conference? I didn't say that. The SEC is still dominant, but Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, South Carolina and Georgia will trip over each other just enough to leave the door open for one of the "minor" conferences to slip in. Oklahoma will be there lurking, as the Big 12 champion, to earn the right to play USC for the national championship. With Landry Jones returning, Oklahoma is the most skilled and toughest team in the Big 12. But the Sooners' fun will end there. Defensively, OU will not be able to keep up with the potent attack of the Trojans. Quarterback Matt Barkley has a corps of receivers that may rival some NFL teams. BCS Champion: USC 37, Oklahoma 27
David Fox (@DavidFox615): South Carolina vs. Oregon
I’m having trouble picking between Alabama and LSU in the SEC West. I love the defenses for both schools, but I could see the inexperience in Tuscaloosa and the big-play absence of Tyrann Mathieu catching up to the Tide and Tigers at some point this season. That’s why I’m going out on a limb and picking South Carolina in the SEC. This is a team that reached unprecedented heights the last two seasons despite the drama surrounding Stephen Garcia at quarterback. Now that situation is stabilized under Connor Shaw. In all the attention Alabama and LSU received for their D, South Carolina’s defense was overlooked. And in the Pac-12, I’m swayed back to picking Oregon. USC’s depth, especially on the defensive line, remains a liability -- and it plays right into Oregon’s hands. Sure, it’s a risk to pick a team with a redshirt freshman quarterback, but it sounds like Marcus Mariota isn’t just a place holder or an average rookie quarterback. He’s potentially the best run-pass threat Oregon has had since Dennis Dixon in 2007, and without a marquee non-conference game to start the season, he’ll have time to grow into his role. BCS Champion: Oregon 28, South Carolina 21
Rob Doster (@AthlonDoster): Virginia Tech vs. Oregon
It seems foolish to leave the SEC out the discussion after Alabama earned the league’s sixth straight BCS championship this past January. But all of the teams at the top of most rankings have significant questions — at least significant enough to open the door for a surprise or two. The Hokies make their living on defense, and this year’s unit might be the best in ace coordinator Bud Foster’s tenure. Frank Beamer will make the special teams a priority once again after a few uncharacteristic breakdowns recently, and the offense features a Heisman candidate at quarterback in Logan Thomas. Throw in a weak conference, and you have the ingredients for a championship run. In the title game, they’ll collide with an Oregon Ducks team that once again boasts breathtaking talent at the skill positions and will essentially be playing a one-game schedule (a Nov. 3 tilt with USC). Two years after letting Cam Newton and Auburn off the hook, Chip Kelly and company will close the deal this time. BCS Champion: Oregon 31, Virginia Tech 24
Mark Ross, Athlon Sports: LSU vs. USC
Matt Barkley and the rest of the Trojans were kept out of the BCS bowls last season because of NCAA penalties. There's nothing holding them back this season, including the high-powered Oregon Ducks, who the Men of Troy will defeat in a high-scoring Pac-12 title game to earn a spot in the national championship tilt. There they will meet fellow undefeated LSU, who like the Trojans is also seeking some redemption after a embarrassing no-show in last season's BCS Championship game against SEC West rival Alabama. This season, the Tigers will put an end to the Crimson Tide's repeat hopes by beating them in the regular season and go on to defeat Georgia in the SEC title game to get another shot at that crystal football. Unfortunately, for the second straight season a quarterback dashes Les Miles and company's title dreams as Barkley leads the Trojans to victory to cap off a storybook senior season. BCS Champion: USC 27, LSU 17
Nathan Rush, Athlon Sports: LSU vs. USC
There will be a Hollywood ending for senior quarterback Matt Barkley and the Trojans, who will emerge from the dark shadows of NCAA sanctions into the glimmering light of BCS national championship crystal. Coach Lane Kiffin's team has too much firepower — with Barkley throwing the ball to gamebreakers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, and handing the rock off to Curtis McNeal and Penn State transfer Silas Redd. If Monte Kiffin's defense can hold strong against Oregon on Nov. 3, USC should be able to run the table. On the other side, LSU and Alabama will once again battle for SEC West supremacy. While the Tide attempt to find their sea legs with a new wave of talent, the Tigers return too many hungry veterans to be denied. Coach Les Miles' club will make a repeat trip to the BCS title game, where the Bayou Bengals will once again fall short. BCS Champion: USC 34, LSU 24
- A Pac-12 team was picked to play in the BCS title game by all nine editors.
- USC was picked by six editors to claim the BCS championship. The most of any team by far.
- Only one editor, Braden Gall, picked the SEC to win its seventh straight national title.
- Only two predictions didn't feature an SEC-Pac-12 match-up (Big 12 vs. Pac-12, ACC vs. Pac-12).
- LSU was picked to play in the title game by four editors. All four picked the Tigers to lose.
- Six editors picked the SEC to lose in the BCS title game. Something that has never happened in the BCS era.
- Eight of the nine editors picked the Pac-12 champion to win the national championship.