- Gene Wojciechowski, Senior Writer
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By midnight Saturday, the BCS could have a nervous breakdown or nod off from boredom. We'll remember Nov. 3 as the night when either this season quit following directions or it followed the chalk.
Two games. Four teams. One season still deciding who it belongs to.
Anyway, how's this for a way to spend a Saturday evening: No. 1 Alabama at No. 5 LSU No. 4 Oregon at No. 17 USC. Death Valley the Coliseum.
As always, I vote for the prison break, for BCS chaos. But it will take some doing. It will take two underdogs (LSU is an 8-point pooch; USC is getting 8½) playing like the preseason No. 1s they once were. Let's face it; it will take a couple of medium-sized football miracles.
LSU has had two weeks to prepare for the cyborg that is Bama. Then again, it's not like the Tigers and the Tide haven't met before. This will be the third time in the past 12 months that they've played each other. I'm surprised they didn't scrimmage each other in their spring games.
The Tigers won last November in Tuscaloosa, but the Crimson Tide won when it mattered: in January at the Allstate BCS National Championship Game.
But these are different teams from last season. Seemingly half of Bama's roster got a man-hug from Roger Goodell during April's NFL draft. And LSU lost its share of players to Sundays and at least one other to rehab.
However, some things never change. Bama's Nick Saban is still there. So is LSU Mad Hatter Les Miles. Bama quarterback AJ McCarron will be on the field. LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo will be chasing him.
The expectations are still there. Undefeated Bama is the favorite to reach the BCS championship. One-loss LSU is the favorite to cause the Tide the most duress between now and the SEC championship.
Death Valley is still there. If you don't think that's a big deal, imagine sitting in front of a refrigerator-sized speaker at a Metallica concert. And in back of you is a Pratt & Whitney jet engine, fully revved.
That's Death Valley during a night game.
This isn't just the game we've been waiting for; it's the game for which we've been doing a mission control-like countdown for months. It might not be the Game of the Century, like last year's matchup, but it's the game of the season.
If Bama wins, the Tide have, for all intents and purposes, won a quarterfinal game in a quasi-national championship tournament. The semis would be the SEC championship.
If LSU wins, all BCS hell breaks loose, especially depending on what happens in Los Angeles on Saturday night. Just think if USC somehow decides to play like the USC team we all thought we were getting back in August. An upset of the Ducks and the Tide in the same day would create more bedlam than the Allstate dude on his riding lawn mower.
The Oregon-USC game can't bench press as many 45-pound plates as Bama-LSU, but you can't deny the star power. The Ducks have three legitimate or budding Heisman Trophy candidates on the same side of the ball: running backs Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas, and quarterback Marcus Mariota. USC has quarterback Matt Barkley, and wide receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. The Coliseum press box will need a separate wing for NFL scouts Saturday.
Undefeated Oregon had the closest thing to a bye week while playing an actual game last Saturday. It beat Colorado 70-14 and could have scored 100 if Ducks coach Chip Kelly hadn't pulled his starters.
Meanwhile, USC wasted a 345-yard receiving game (and 469 all-purpose yards) from Lee in the loss at Arizona. The 6-2 Trojans are officially eliminated from the BCS championship race, but not from screwing up Oregon's BCS hopes.
All USC will have to do to win is quit committing 81 penalties per game (OK, an NCAA-leading 10.3 per game) and play some actual defense. Because if Arizona can score 39 points against the Trojans, just think what Oregon will do.
The Ducks average 330.6 rushing yards. They have the Pac-12's second-leading rusher (Barner), the third-most efficient passer (Mariota) and the fifth-leading defense (one spot ahead of USC).
Can Oregon be beaten? Well, the closest anyone has gotten to the Ducks is Fresno State -- and it lost by 17. Everybody else (Oregon beat Arizona 49-0) has been finger sandwiches for Kelly's team.
To be polite, we should mention that No. 24 Oklahoma State is at No. 2 Kansas State and unranked Pittsburgh is at No. 3 Notre Dame. K-State and the Domers are undefeated and major players in the BCS equation, but nobody at season's beginning was counting the nanoseconds until he or she could watch a Cowboys-Wildcats/Panthers-Irish doubleheader.
A K-State and/or Notre Dame loss would be no small thing. But it would be smaller than if Alabama lost to LSU.
By midnight Saturday, we'll know more about this season and more about two teams -- Bama and Oregon -- that have yet to be truly challenged. And we'll know more about two teams that have -- K-State and Notre Dame.
Nov. 3 isn't just a date; it's an event. Ladies and gentlemen, start your DVRs.
3dSam Khan Jr.