By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- So you are planning to watch the BCS championship Monday night between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama but maybe you're not the biggest college football fan. We've got you covered with everything you need for a well-informed and enjoyable game-watching experience.
As an ode to the late, great Alabama coach Paul Bryant, Crimson Tide fans are fond of wearing clothing with a Houndstooth pattern to match the Bear's famous hat. So if you want to feel like a real `Bama backer, you might want to raid your grandfather's closet.
LSU fans like to accessorize with Mardi Gras beads, especially when their team is playing in New Orleans, its home away from its Baton Rouge home. How you go about getting those Mardi Gras beads is your own business.
Alabama's Big Al is a student in an elephant costume. LSU's Mike the Tiger is a 6-year-old Bengal/Siberian mix with a 15,000-square feet habitat on campus that includes large oak trees and a waterfall.
For Alabama fans, "Roll Tide" is used as a greeting. Or a compliment. Or a threat. Or a proclamation. Or an exclamation. It is both a question and an answer. If you've seen the ESPN commercial showing the varied and odd ways Alabama fans use the phrase, understand this: That was NOT an exaggeration.
LSU's "Tiger Bait" call has a far less ambiguous meaning: "We plan to feed you to Mike."
Alabama and LSU both play in the Southeastern Conference, making this the first BCS title game between league rivals -- from any league.
It's an article of faith down here that the SEC is the greatest college football conference in the history of the world and the only current conference that actually allows tackling. Six straight national championships (including whichever school wins Monday) makes it a little hard to argue with that.
LSU beat Alabama 9-6 in overtime on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in what was dubbed the Game of the Century. It was an epic struggle so dazzling and thrilling the public demanded a rematch. And by the public we mean Alabama fans.
At some point you might hear that Alabama claims 13 national titles, more than any program in the country. It's a claim fans of other teams tend to roll their eyes at because it includes four from before there were major polls handing out championships in 1936, and another in 1941 that was bequeathed to a two-loss Crimson Tide team by the Houlgate System. Tide fans argue all national titles are mythical. Skeptics counter that some are more mythical than others.
LSU has won three national titles (1958, 2003, 2007), but even that comes with some controversy. The Tigers were BCS champions in `03 under then-coach Nick Saban, but Southern California was No. 1 in both polls before the bowls. When LSU beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game, it made the Tigers No. 1 in the coaches' poll. USC was voted No. 1 in The Associated Press media poll, which was then part of the BCS formula.
WARNING: Do not ask an LSU fan about that SPLIT national title with USC.
SPEAKING OF SPLIT TITLES
Yes, it is possible that LSU could lose the game and be voted No. 1 in the AP poll. It may not be the most likely scenario, but if Alabama wins a very close game under fluky and/or controversial circumstances the Tigers absolutely could be crowned national champions by the AP voters. So if you're looking for an endless debate and messy finish to what has been a messy and scandal-ridden college football season, pull for a 10-9 victory by Alabama.
UNCLE LES vs. SAINT NICK
The man in the white hat is usually considered the good guy in those cowboy movies, and it seems appropriate that LSU coach Les Miles never coaches a game without his white cap.
No offense to Alabama coach Nick Saban, with his perfect hair and glittering record, but Miles does comes across as more approachable and affable when he's doing that flat-handed clap on the sideline and talking about his players "want" -- meaning desire -- to compete.
On the other hand, Saban might not be warm and fuzzy but surely some Alabama fans vote to canonize him.
If a running back could be genetically engineered, the result would likely be Alabama All-American Trent Richardson. The 224-pound junior ran for 1,583 yards, scored 23 touchdowns, finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting and can squat 600 pounds. To sum up, Richardson is a bad, bad man with the ball in his hands. This will likely be his last game with Alabama. Next stop, first-round NFL draft pick.
LSU defensive Tyrann Mathieu would do well in those Allstate insurance TV commercials. He is mayhem for opponents. The sophomore forced six fumbles and recovered five, made two interceptions and scored four touchdowns, two on punt returns. He finished fifth in the Heisman voting.
And maybe you've heard, they call him Honey Badger, which somehow never gets old. Unless you're Mathieu and you have to answer questions about it all the time.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN LSU HAS THE BALL
Running backs struggling to get past the line of scrimmage. Receivers being laid out. Quarterbacks throwing the ball away. All to be followed by long punts from LSU All-American Brad Wing.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN ALABAMA HAS THE BALL
See above, but substitute missed field goal attempts for long punts.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.