Alabama had to drop in the polls after its 9-6 overtime loss in Tuscaloosa to LSU. But how far? It makes sense that the Crimson Tide would fall below undefeated Oklahoma State and Stanford, which happened in the Athlon, AP and Coaches Polls. The BCS standings have Bama ahead of the Cardinal because of schedule strength. Boise State keeps winning Mountain West games, but the Broncos will need some breaks to reach the BCS title game. With its resume, LSU has to be considered the nation’s best team. But who’s next? We forget the rankings today and judge the teams on quality and body of work.
On the field, who is the second-best team in the country?
LSU is clearly the No. 1 team in the nation — having defeated Alabama in T-Town, Oregon at the Palace in Dallas and West Virginia in couch-burning country. After Les Miles' club, there are several worthy No. 2 candidates. But Nick Saban's Crimson Tide stand head and shoulders above the likes of Oklahoma State, Stanford, Boise State, etc. Bama has it all — a mastermind coach (Saban), Heisman-quality running back (Trent Richardson), electric receiver-returner (Marquis Maze), powerful O-line and arguably the most-talented defense (highlighted by NFL-ready playmakers like Courtney Upshaw, Dont'a Hightower, Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron) led by one of the brightest young minds in the game (Kirby Smart). The Tide are a few missed field goals and unforced errors away from being the undisputed No. 1 team in the country. The "Game of the Century" strengthened my beliefs that LSU and Alabama are Nos. 1 and 2 in the nation. With all due respect, no other team comes close to the Tigers or Tide.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
This question would be a bit easier to answer after this weekend because Stanford will have an opportunity to make a statement against a very good Oregon team. But right now, I will go with Alabama, even after the Tide’s loss at home to LSU. Alabama boasts the premier defense in the nation — and it’s not even close statistically. The Crimson Tide are giving up an average 187.0 yards per game. The next best team is Michigan State, at 249.4 yards per game. In nine games, Bama has allowed a total of 64 points, 34 points fewer than the No. 2 ranked scoring defense, LSU. And despite only scoring six points on Saturday night, Alabama is still a team capable of scoring a bunch of points. Keep in mind that Nick Saban’s club is averaging 39.4 points against teams not named LSU. And even after you factor in the stats against LSU, Bama still ranks 30th in the nation in total offense and 23rd in scoring offense. Combine that type of offensive production with the nation’s best defense, and you have a team that can make a strong case for a No. 2 ranking — even with a loss on its resume.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
The LSU Tigers? This is my subjective opinion, of course, since I still think Alabama is the best team in the nation. However, it's a good thing games aren't decided subjectively, but rather by scoring more points than the other team. Under that assumption, I would say that Alabama is the No. 2 team in the nation. However, there is no way to truly know if the Tide is better than Stanford, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State, Clemson, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech or Georgia without them actually playing the game. Otherwise, it is simply an educated guess by definition. We do know that LSU is better than Oregon and Alabama. We do know that Alabama is better than Penn State and Arkansas. We will know if Oklahoma is better than Oklahoma State. We will know if Stanford is better than Oregon. And we will know if LSU is better than Arkansas and Georgia. What we don't, and may never know if there is a "rematch," is if any of those other teams are better than Alabama or LSU — unless they actually take the field.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I’ll say Stanford because Andrew Luck and crew have not lost, but Alabama would be favored in that game by the boys in Las Vegas. The Cardinal are balanced enough on offense to give the Tide some issues, and the defense does play well against the run. I’d love to see a very physical Stanford-Alabama battle on the field. As far as Oklahoma State, I think the Cowboys would probably lose close in a shootout with Stanford but would get beaten badly by the Tide (just not a good matchup for OSU). That being my opinion, the current rankings have Oklahoma State controlling its own destiny to the BCS Championship Game. The Cardinal and Tide will have to hope OSU or LSU lose down the stretch to get their chance. I know many fans are tired of SEC dominance, but Alabama may get that shot if OSU loses. For now though, I’ll take Stanford on the strength of 17 straight wins with 15 of those by over a touchdown.