Top-ranked LSU hasn't yet played No. 2 Alabama—that'll happen on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium (page 100)—but in one very significant way, we can already declare a winner: the home state's economy. According to Ahmad Ijaz, the director of economic forecasting at the University of Alabama's Center for Business and Economic Research, the game will generate a financial impact of up to $25 million for the Yellowhammer State, with as much as $18 million going directly to the Tuscaloosa metro area. (That's an increase of roughly $3 million in both categories compared with a typical Tide home game.) Just take a look around T-town: All 38 hotels listed within its borders have been booked for weeks. A humble Super 8 on McFarland Boulevard, five miles away from Bryant-Denny, is charging $350 per night; last weekend you could get the same room for $65.
But lodging is peanuts compared with the tickets themselves. Michael Janes, the CEO of ticket search engine FanSnap, says that LSU-Alabama, at an average price of $770, is the most expensive college football game of the past two seasons, outdistancing last year's Army--Notre Dame game at Yankee Stadium ($583). On StubHub there are two tickets in the lower-level end zone, on sale for $5,000. Each.
In fact, the game is so huge that nearly a month ago CBS reached out to ESPN to lay the groundwork for a rare, high-stakes transaction of their own. CBS, which had already used its lone, contractually designated prime-time SEC time slot on the Oct. 1 Alabama-Florida game, needed ESPN's permission to move the game from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. EDT. (In return the Worldwide Leader strengthened its position in the selection order when next year's SEC games are drafted by the networks.) The payoff for CBS? Even higher rates for commercials during the game. The payoff for Alabama? Even more fans in Tuscaloosa who'll need somewhere to sleep.