TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Opponents of the BCS and advocates of a college football playoff are in for a treat Saturday.
Math and logic create an unofficial bracket that starts in Tuscaloosa.
Third-ranked Alabama's 3:30 p.m. EST date with No. 9 LSU is a de facto national quarterfinal game, at least for the home team, given records and rankings. A Crimson Tide win would guarantee Alabama a second straight trip to the SEC championship game to meet Florida, which clinched its spot by beating Georgia.
If the Tide and Gators remain in the top of three of the BCS standings, the winner of their matchup would be guaranteed a spot in the national title game.
Only LSU (7-1, 4-1) can ruin the possibility for the Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0). A Tigers win Saturday would give both teams one loss atop the SEC West, and they would have the tiebreaker with a head-to-head win. The Tigers' only setback came against No. 1 Florida, which won 13-3 in Baton Rouge on Oct. 10.
With Alabama coach Nick Saban's tie to LSU, Saturday's nationally televised game has all the makings of a classic. Just don't mention that to Saban.
Trying to get ahead of any such questions, he tried to downplay the hoopla surrounding Saturday's game before taking questions from reporters at his weekly Monday news conference. He even borrowed a quote from New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi to illustrate his point.
"Girardi said 'to close out the (World) Series, I want to play good baseball. What gives you the best chance to close out the Series? Play the best baseball you can play and keep playing the best you can play,'" Saban said.
When a reporter asked about the SEC title implications several minutes later, Saban didn't wait for the question's conclusion before showing his agitation.
"Do I need to repeat it again?" he said, reiterating his feeling about special meaning to Saturday's game.
Regardless of how much it's downplayed, the stakes remain. And they're hard to ignore.
"It just so happens that this next game's a pretty big one for us, pretty important," senior offensive lineman Mike Johnson said. "I think everybody's going to be at a little higher level. I mean, it is LSU week. This is always a big game around here, especially in the last few years."
Ignoring the pregame build-up isn't too hard, linebacker Rolando McClain said.
His reason is simple enough.
"We've got Coach Saban," McClain said. "It ain't very hard. He keeps us focused and we've got good leadership that keeps us focused. It's a one-game season. That's how we're going to take it."
Like Saban, LSU coach Les Miles doesn't see the need for motivational speeches this week. He faced questions about the intertwined coaching tree when meeting with reporters in Baton Rouge on Monday.
"I don't think we need to put other pretense on this game," Miles said. "This is a game that is very significant, and our guys understand it."
If Alabama has an advantage Saturday, it's going to be in fresh legs. Having a week off following the 12-10 win over Tennessee was extremely beneficial, several players said Monday. LSU beat Tulane 42-0 on Saturday -- two weeks after its Saturday away from competition.