Night of the Crimson Tiger: Your Alabama-LSU hype begins…now.

Notes on the Game of the Century of the Year.

Alabama is 8-0. LSU is 8-0. Between them, they currently control 232 of 234 first-place votes in the three major national polls. With Saturday's demolitions of Auburn and Tennessee, respectively, there's nothing standing between their collision as the two best teams in the country on Nov. 5 except a pair of open dates and the perils of campuses too giddy to think about anything else over the next two weeks.

The fans are in their blocks, the starter's pistol is out... and the obsession is off and running.

The Line. Most sports books don't issue point spreads more than a week before the game, but the earliest line has Alabama as a four-point favorite, due almost entirely to the home field. Enterprising bettors may also find the Crimson Tide listed at —6, with an over/under for total points by both teams at 44, from which we can surmise an "official" Vegas prediction in the neighborhood of Alabama 24, LSU 20.

Programming Note. The SEC's contract with CBS calls for one primetime game per year, determined well before the start of the season; all other after-dark kickoffs are the province of ESPN. This year, for the second year in a row, that game was Alabama-Florida on Oct. 1. CBS was so desperate to get Alabama-LSU in primetime, though, that it orchestrated a kind of trade with ESPN to move the start time from 3:30 pm ET to 8 pm, in exchange for "future programming considerations for next season" — i.e., ESPN will likely get to take CBS' place at the top of the pecking order for a week or two in 2012, allowing it first pick of SEC games for that week.

Two other networks also found their way into the deal. To fill the void in the afternoon slot, CBS traded with NBC for Army-Air Force, which was scheduled to air on NBC's cable channel, Versus. In return, Versus gets the rights to Colorado State-TCU on Nov. 19 from CBS' cable channel, CBS Sports Network. And if you suddenly see Verne Lundquist popping up in a cameo as Kathy Bates' new love interest on "Harry's Law," don't say you weren't warned.

The Big Question. What's the status of LSU's suspended stars, Tyrann Mathieu and Spencer Ware?{YSP:MORE} Their absence didn't make the slightest difference against Auburn, where Mathieu's replacement at cornerback (Ron Brooks) returned an interception for a touchdown and backups Michael Ford and Kenny Hilliard churned out 147 yards in Ware's place in the backfield. But that was at home, against a quarterback in his first career start and one of the worst defenses in the SEC. They might come in slightly more handy in Tuscaloosa, where deploying the offense's resident hammer between the tackles and the most reliable defensive playmaker in the country could be the difference in SEC and BCS championships and another consolation prize.

There's still no official word from LSU on the subject — neither Les Miles nor anyone else at the university has offered any on-the-record acknowledgement that two of the Tigers' best players were nowhere to be found against the defending national champs — but latest reports suggest both Mathieu and Ware (as well as nickel corner Tharold Simon) could be back on Nov. 5 if they meet a series of stipulations for reinstatement. If that's the case, and they somehow fail to clear the bar for the biggest game of their lives, LSU's probably just as well off making the trip without them.

Look, aren't we getting a little carried away with… No. Stop. Don't speak. I know what you're saying. Nick Saban is saying the same thing. But he cannot defeat the hype, and neither can you. Embrace it. Revel in it. Because it's got two weeks to build, and it's not going away.

Obviously, it's frustrating for the rest of the country to endure proclamations that this is the de facto national championship game, a full month before either team can appear in the conference championship game, or hints at a possible rematch of a game that hasn't happened yet. It was frustrating the last time there was a regular season game of this magnitude, too, when No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan duked it out to such impressive effect in 2006 that the Wolverines felt legitimately snubbed two weeks later when voters picked Florida to play the (heavily favored) Buckeyes for the BCS title game instead. Anyone who considers the rest of the season after Nov. 5 mere prologue hasn't been watching this sport for very long.

But anyone who doesn't lose their mind a little over the prospect of a 1 vs. 2 showdown between a pair of undefeated, blue chip-laden powers who have yet to be challenged — who have yet to break a sweat — over the first two-thirds of the season is a little shortsighted, too. Outside of the championship game itself, there have only been four 1 vs. 2 games in the BCS era; outside of the 2008-09 SEC Championship matches between Florida and Alabama, there's never been a 1 vs. 2 game featuring two SEC teams. Regular season games can't possibly get any bigger.

It's not worth pretending the winner has ascended into another realm that allows it to pass directly to the championship podium on Jan. 9. But it's no use pretending it doesn't deserve to be treated like the rare spectacle that it is, either.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.