Split national title not on anybody's agenda

NEW ORLEANS -- The only drama in what remains of the 2011 college football season won’t be saved for just Monday night’s Allstate BCS National Championship Game.

If Alabama should beat LSU, particularly in a close game, then the vote in the final Associated Press poll in the hours following the game could get really interesting.

Can you say split national championship?

Nobody has really wanted to talk about the possibility this past week in New Orleans, and that includes both sides.

“The only thing on our minds is this game,” LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson said. “This is the BCS championship game. It’s not about what we’ve done this season or anything that’s happened in the past. This is the game that counts.”

One by one, the Alabama players have also shrugged off the possibility that they might have to share the national championship if they win on Monday night.

The only time that has happened in the BCS era, ironically, was in 2003, when LSU beat Oklahoma in New Orleans to win the BCS national championship and USC was voted No. 1 in The Associated Press poll after beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

“All we can do is play this game,” Alabama running back Trent Richardson said. “They’re going to remember who wins this ballgame, nothing else. It’s just like a lot of people saying we didn’t deserve to be in the game. Well, we are, and we plan on proving to everybody that they got it right by putting us here.”

The winner Monday night is automatically crowned the BCS national champion, but the AP poll is no longer part of the BCS equation.

And already, a sampling of AP voters have said they would seriously consider keeping LSU No. 1 even if the Tigers lose to the Crimson Tide in a close game.

Oklahoma State (12-1) is also sitting there and would warrant some consideration, especially if it’s a sloppy game and Alabama barely squeaks by. The Cowboys were just 18 points behind the Crimson Tide in the final AP regular-season poll.

LSU’s overall body of work is what’s so impressive, and the thinking among some AP voters is that the Tigers would be as deserving as anybody at 13-1 when you consider that they’ve already beaten eight nationally ranked teams, including three top-5 teams, and took down Alabama the first time in Tuscaloosa.

If Alabama were to win handily on Monday night, the talk of a split national title would die down considerably.

Either way, the Crimson Tide’s Outland Trophy winner, offensive tackle Barrett Jones, said nobody on the team has spent any time worrying about having to share the championship with anybody.

“Whoever wins the national championship game is the national champion,” Jones said. “I understand how a lot of people are saying that they’ve already beaten us once, and they have.

“But this is the game for the national championship. They know that, and we know that. No matter what side you’re on, this is the game you wanted to be in when the season began.”

The LSU players didn’t even want to broach the subject of what happens if they come up short on Monday night.

Rather, their focus is on making history. They could become the first unbeaten national champion since the advent of the AP Top 25 poll in 1937 to beat four top-5 teams on their way to the title.

“We want to be remembered as the best team ever,” LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne said. “When you mention LSU, we want people to remember this team.”