Would you rather watch a “Game of the Century” in college football or a Game 7 — in any other sport?
It shouldn’t be an argument. There’s not a more distinct sporting event than those rare occasions when the two best teams meet with everything on the line.
Sorry, Game 7, but nothing beats the regular-season matchup when No. 1 meets No. 2 on a college campus. Game 7 claims to be the two-best words in sports — and the winner-take-all-nature of it creates a compelling case. It just isn’t better than No. 1 vs. No. 2 — and that will be proven one more time when No. 1 LSU meets No. 2 Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.
A large section of sports fans will disagree with that sentiment, and that’s fine. We didn’t say Super Bowls, national championship games, the World Cup final or the English Premier League final. We won’t touch those, because we know it’s not possible (and we’re still not 100 percent sure how the EPL works).
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At least read our case before you retweet with comment:
We’ll start by taking the argument we can win. There is not a better regular-season sporting event than a college football No. 1-vs.-No. 2 matchup. College basketball can create those with ease, like it did Tuesday night with No. 1 Michigan State and No. 2 Kentucky in the Champions Classic. That’s on a neutral site. There’s not a regular-season matchup in the NFL, NBA or MLB that creates the kind of buildup that No. 1 vs. No. 2 does. It has attracted President Donald Trump’s attention, too. There is no argument to be had here.
Now let’s go for more.
There have been just 24 regular-season “Game of the Century” matchups since the AP Poll era began in 1936. LSU and Alabama met in the last such meeting on Nov. 5, 2011. That came a little more than a week after St. Louis and Texas played in Game 7 of the World Series.
There have been six Game 7 situations in the MLB playoffs since, including the World Series with Kansas City-San Francisco (2014), Cleveland-Chicago (2016), Houston-Los Angeles (2017) and Washington-Houston (2019). It would be hypocritical not to mention that the Indians-Cubs Game 7 could be considered the greatest single sporting event of all time, but the other three games were just OK (and it’s OK to say that out loud).
There have been 38 Game 7 situations in the NHL playoffs and 28 Game 7 situations in the NBA playoffs since LSU and Alabama played in 2011. Game 7 is great — all 66 of them. Cleveland-Golden State was great in the 2016 NBA Finals. St. Louis was great against Boston in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals last year. Those are the only ones that touch Alabama-LSU.
It’s about the value of scarcity, and that is what a “Game of the Century” provides. This is just the seventh regular-season Game of the Century since 1991, and chances are you remember where you were, who you were with and what you were doing for all of them:
— Where were you when Gerry Thomas’ 34-yard field goal sailed “Wide Right” and No. 2 Miami beat No. 1 Florida State 17-16 in 1991?
— Where were you when Shawn Wooden batted down Charlie Ward’s last pass and No. 2 Notre Dame beat No. 1 Florida State 31-24 in 1993?
— Where were you when No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan put on a 42-39 show in the first “Game of the Century” between the storied rivals in 2006?
— Where were you when LSU’s Drew Alleman made a field goal to win a 9-6 slugfest against Alabama in 2011?
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Those are the games you remember watching from the living room with your friends and family. They were special event. You might have thrown something at the TV. There’s just something about No. 1-vs.-No. 2 that lives on forever.
You can argue that the stakes aren’t high enough and that there has to be some sort of championship finality to the game, but that is the beauty of the “Game of the Century.” It doesn’t need that to pull in monster TV ratings. The last LSU vs. Alabama matchup pulled in the second-highest Nielsen rating for a regular-season game, behind only the legendary Notre Dame vs. Miami “Catholics vs. Convicts” game in 1988. That was No. 1 vs. No. 4 — another game is up there with any Game 7 or “Game of the Century.”
It’s just better when you have No. 1 vs. No. 2. Let the teams do the rest. This one Saturday might be the best one in the regular season yet. It won’t be a 9-6 rock-fight this time. You need stakes?
How about the SEC West, a College Football Playoff spot and perhaps the Heisman Trophy and the No. 1 pick in 2020 NFL Draft? You’ll get that with Alabama and LSU, Nick Saban and Ed Orgeron and Tua Tagovailoa (yeah, he’s going to play) and Joe Burrow. There’s more than enough drama, and it will unfold in front of 100,000-plus fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It doesn’t even primetime billing to be that big. There is no guarantee for a rematch either. It’s a unique sporting event, and it has the passion to match.
You’ll remember where you were when the winning team throws that “No. 1” in the air after the game is up. Moments like that don’t come around often, and you could feel that for 100 years. That’s why they call it the “Game of the Century.”
There will be more than enough Game 7s before the next one.