Scooter Hobbs (American Press)

So Alabama is your national champion again, which isn't really startling news.

It would be sporting perhaps, to just congratulate the Tide, to go ahead and crown Nick Saban as the Greatest Of All Time (sorry, Bear) and to admit that it probably only makes him want an eighth trophy all the more.

Not that eight will be enough.

But this is sports in the internet age, and that's just not the way things are done.

You cannot miss an opportunity for pettiness, for nit-picking, for childish arguing and bickering over minutiae.

Much more fun than common courtesy or sportsmanship.

So the crimson confetti was still flying from Alabama 52, Ohio State 24 when, in some circles at least, the debate began:

Alabama 2020 vs. LSU 2019.

Best team of all time?

Miami 2001 might like a word here, maybe Nebraska 1995 too, but we're going full recency bias here.

LSU vs. Alabama. The rest of you … get outta here.

True, Alabama isn't even dead certain that this year's edition is its best of all time, maybe not even Saban's.

LSU has no such qualms.

The 2019 Tigers were the school's grandest, most dominant national champion and, although the previous three all had their charms, it isn't particularly close.

No real argument.

Many of college football's more accomplished scholars proclaimed that those Tigers are the best of all time.

They're now picking apart the most recent Sabanators for consideration. After all, it's a team that almost made Saban look happy, with hints of an occasional smile.

So head to head — LSU 2019, Bama 2020 —what's it going to be?

Wait. You could almost say that particular game has already been played, in Tuscaloosa no less, and that 2019 LSU won 46-41.

It wasn't really that close — Alabama never had the ball in the second half with a chance to tie.

And that was, after all, basically the same Alabama team that ransacked the nation this season.

Maybe the biggest head-scratcher is that this year's Alabama team had three of the top five Heisman Trophy vote getters — winner DeVonta Smith (receiver), No. 3 Mac Jones (quarterback) and No. 5 Najee Harris (beast), not to mention probably the nation's best offensive lineman in Alex Leatherwood — and all were seniors.

How does that happen?

Jones was in his first year as a full-time starter, but the other three should already have been in the NFL this season with most of the 2019 Tigers.

Side note: If LSU wants a program to rival the Tide — certainly not even in the neighborhood yet — then figuring out how Saban keeps future millionaire talent like that around for graduation day would be a start.

That's a discussion for another day. So back to today's crisis.

The only one of those four who didn't play a major role in the 2019 game was Jones — and he was waiting behind Heisman contender Tua Tagovailoa.

Tide apologists like to point out that Tua was injured against LSU, but he didn't really start limping until after throwing for 418 yards (213 of them, if you're curious, to Smith). So it wasn't like there was any real quarterback upgrade for this year's Bama.

LSU had its own Heisman winner in Joe Burrow, plus an array of targets like Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall.

Smith this year was better than all of them were last year, but the Tigers maybe get the edge with the supporting cast. Running back is about a wash between Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Harris.

In addition to the Heisman Trophy and most of the relevant individual swag, both teams won the award for the nation's best offensive line.

Neither defense would be confused with either school's best. But I would put the way LSU played defense late in that season, particularly in the postseason, ahead of this year's Bama.

You have to factor in that all that Tide talent was a year older for this argument.

Neither team ever seemed to be in any real danger of losing a game.

Maybe LSU's diciest moment came in the waning moments at Texas, and Burrow responded with his third-and-17 Heisman Moment that kind of jump-started the season.

And maybe that's it.

Burrow's clutch gene and mobility at quarterback might give LSU a slight edge if we could put this dream game together.

Still, if anybody wants to argue, it's not a hill I'm willing to die on.

It's that close.

But if you want to talk about which team had the best season, it's far easier.

And we're not doing a pandemic downgrade on what Bama 2020 accomplished. No asterisks allowed around here.

Give the Tide a pass for not playing as many games, going 13-0 to 15-0 for LSU. Couldn't be helped.

But playing an all-SEC regular season was overrated. COVID and opt-outs watered down that gauntlet.

Yet 2019 LSU had some non-conference pastry, but went 7-0 against top-10 teams, 4-0 against the rest of the top five. Bama played only four top-10 teams.

Sure, it's still up for debate.

But one thing I'm positive about: it would be a fun game to watch. Far better than Monday night's Buckeye massacre.

l

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU

athletics. Email him at

shobbs@americanpress.com

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