Though the college football world is fixated on how Alabama's A.J. McCarron and Trent Richardson will stack up against LSU's Honey Badger Tyrann Mathieu and his mates, a parallel universe has a chance to orbit around Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Given how many shots the LSU defense will get over the course of 60-plus offensive plays, will McCarron see the fourth quarter, or will 'Bama redshirt freshman and 2009-10 Gatorade Virginia Player of the Year Phillip Sims figure in the outcome of undefeated No. 1 vs. undefeated No. 2?
The Tigers' defensive is stingy, surrendering 11.5 points per game (third in the nation), 76.6 rushing yards (third) and 251.4 total yards (fourth). It's also playmaking, piling up 19 sacks in eight games, including six against defending BCS champion Auburn two weeks ago. It stands to reason that McCarron, a sophomore and first-year starter, will go down at least twice and absorb countless collateral damage.
Suffice it to say: Sims better not stray far from his helmet. Especially given the attrition rate of SEC quarterbacks this fall: 2006-07 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year John Brantley at Florida (ankle), Tyler Bray at Tennessee (thumb) and Larry Smith at Vanderbilt (ankle).
It's not as if Sims -- one of nine former Gatorade POY winners to play quarterback in the 12-team SEC this fall -- lacks the credentials. The 6-foot-2, 217-pound signal caller has taken snaps in all eight games this season for the Tide and completed 18-of-28 passes for 163 yards. He did throw two interceptions in a season-opening, 48-7 win over Kent State.
Sims concluded his high school career as Virginia's career leader in passing yards (10,725) and touchdown passes (119) while finishing second in career completions (636). He owned a 48-4 record as a four-year starter at Oscar F. Smith (Chesapeake, Va.), including a 39-1 record in the regular season.
Sims led his team to the 2008 Virginia Group AAA Division 6 State Championship as a junior (passing for 3,167 yards and 38 touchdowns against just four interceptions) and set state postseason marks for completions, yards and touchdowns in a game. As a senior in 2009, Sims threw for 2,960 yards and 33 touchdowns. In his first two high school seasons, he amassed more than 4,500 passing yards and threw for 48 TDs.
All that said, it was Alabama's defense that dropped Brantley and Smith, so LSU senior starter Jarrett Lee should be just as concerned about surviving into the fourth quarter. Lee narrowly missed out on State POY honors as a high school senior, finishing behind current New England Patriots backup quarterback and 2006-07 Gatorade Texas POY Ryan Mallett, who played at Michigan and Arkansas.
Two more former Gatorade Player of the Year winners suiting up for LSU Saturday night are 2007-08 Louisiana POY Jordan Jefferson (Destrehan, La.) and 2009-10 Louisiana honoree Kenny Hilliard (Patterson, La.).