Game of the 21st century

Who will win Saturday's epic showdown between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama? US Presswire, Getty Images

This story appears in the November 14, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

No matter who wins in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5, a legend is sure to be born.

No. 1 vs. No. 2 has that kind of instant and lasting effect on college football. And when the clash is between two teams that share a conference -- and bad blood that goes back 116 years -- calling LSU vs. Alabama "the Game of the Century" might sound like a cliche, but it also happens to be true.

Consider the history and stakes: The Tigers and Tide have met 74 times (Bama leads 45-24-5) but never as the nation's top two teams. This matchup of SEC West powers is being billed as the conference's unofficial title game. The team that emerges will be the clear favorite to win the real thing in December at the Georgia Dome, a game that has produced the past five BCS title winners.

So who has the edge? Pundits have their opinions, but in a sport that determines who plays for its title based on what a computer spits out, we thought the best way to answer that question would be to consult the same technology. The Mag asked Stephen Oh of the sports prediction site AccuScore.com to run 10,000 game simulations of LSU at Alabama, one play at a time, to produce a projected final score plus game stats. Of course, football never unfolds without a wrinkle, so to account for the unforeseen, AccuScore also ran simulations that altered major storylines for each team.