There’s a world in which the 2024 College World Series ends the exact same way that it did in 2023. That is, with Tommy White and Jac Caglianone leading LSU and Florida, respectively, in an all-or-nothing Game 3 in Omaha.

Of course, many of the surrounding pieces could be different. Three of the first 4 players selected in the 2023 MLB Draft came from those 2 teams. LSU All-Americans Paul Skenes and Dylan Crews became the first set of teammates to ever go 1-2 in the same draft while Florida slugger Wyatt Langford came off the board at No. 4 overall.

But Cags vs. Tanks for all the marbles? Again? It’s an easy world to envision. As ESPN analyst and LSU legend Ben McDonald said “they are the faces of college baseball.” It’s not too early for McDonald to count down the days until he’s on the call for that Florida-LSU regular season showdown in Baton Rouge on March 22.

“I’m looking forward to it, man,” McDonald said. “I can’t wait to see just how good these two teams are.”

As the season kicks off Friday, that’s the question for LSU and Florida, which enter 2024 ranked No. 2 and No. 4, respectively, in Baseball America’s preseason Top 25. Louisiana sports books like the odds of either team winning the CWS. Both teams will be a hot ticket in 2024, and for good reason. Caglianone and White are worth the price of admission alone. Both are among’s top 7 draft prospects, with Caglianone in the mix to go No. 1 overall. They can leave the yard at a moment’s notice. White already has 51 career home runs and, last year, became just the 6th SEC player to top 100 RBIs in a season.

Caglianone’s bat burst onto the scene by leading the nation with 33 home runs, which was a Florida record as well as a BBCOR-era record. That record-setting season also included him breaking the RBI mark (90) while racking up 208 total bases.

“Every pitching coach in the SEC is circling them on the scouting report going, ‘This guy’s not gonna beat me,’” McDonald said of White and Caglianone. “If teams pitch to them, both could be guys that hit 30 homers this year. It’s just about how many pitches they’re gonna get to hit this year.”

During that All-American sophomore campaign, McDonald met Caglianone in person for the first time and couldn’t stop looking at the 6-5 lefty’s size 16 shoes.

“It was like he had clown shoes on,” McDonald said. “When I met him, I thought it was a joke. I said, ‘Man, whose shoes you got on?’”

That’s saying a lot coming from the 6-7 McDonald, who rocks a size 14 of his own. It’s hard not to be impressed with Caglianone, and it’s hard not to be intrigued by the potential that still exists on the mound. It was his pitching prowess (his fastball approaches 100 mph from the left side) that made him a standout recruit at Plant High School in Tampa, Fla. In Florida’s ideal world, Caglianone’s accuracy improves — that’s the expectation after he walked 55 of the 342 batters that he faced — and he’s college baseball’s version of another guy that McDonald saw in person for the first time last year … Shohei Ohtani.

Of course, Caglianone doesn’t have to do everything. This is Florida. Like, the program with 8 College World Series trips in the past 15 full seasons under Kevin O’Sullivan, including the 2017 title. “It’s hard to argue that the University of Florida is not the No. 1 program in the entire country right now,” McDonald said.

It’s not hard to argue that the Gators are the best bet to lead the nation in home runs again.

“Most teams are returning 30 or 40 home runs,” McDonald said. “Florida is returning 114 home runs.”

LSU isn’t returning 114 home runs, though if White gets hot, it might be easy to forget that.

White only went deep 24 times last season, though he missed a handful of games. Including the 27 he hit at NC State, White’s first 2 college seasons totaled 51 home runs in 121 college games, none of which were more notable than the 2 he hit in Omaha. A walk-off winner sent LSU to the College World Series final — he was fooled on the pitch too — and an 8th-inning blast tied it up 2 days later in Game 1 against Florida.

“I laugh at him sometimes because he can look God awful. He can swing at a pitch and miss by 3 feet, and I’m going, ‘What in the world was that?’” McDonald said. “Then all of the sudden, he gets fooled, it finds the barrel and he hits it 400 feet. This dude, his hands are very, very special.”

The talent translating to the SEC isn’t a question anymore; pitch selection is. No longer is White protected in the lineup by the aforementioned Crews or Tre’ Morgan. To his credit, White, a career .368 hitter, only struck out 41 times in 273 at-bats last season.

“Listen. I wouldn’t pitch to him,” McDonald said. “After seeing what he did the last 2 years, I wouldn’t pitch to him unless I had to. I would walk him and pitch around him until somebody behind him begins to hit. Once that happens, he’ll have an opportunity to drive in runs again. He’s gonna have to be patient and understand that teams are gonna try to pitch around him … when Tommy steps in the box, that dude isn’t trying to walk. He’s gonna get his swings in.”

LSU’s path to repeating won’t come down to just White. Replacing Skenes and Crews isn’t the only question for Jay Johnson’s squad entering Year 3.

How much will the addition of decorated new pitching coach Nate Yeskie help the depth of a Skenes-less staff? Is Thatcher Hurd going to parlay his College World Series brilliance into being a Friday night starter? Can LSU hit another home run in the transfer portal with Michael Braswell III from South Carolina? Will Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year true freshman Jake Brown have an immediate impact as an everyday outfielder?

It’s fair to say that the defending champs have more questions than Florida. Hence, why some polls have the Gators starting slightly ahead of the Tigers. McDonald added that LSU could endure a tough start with a schedule that has 4 top-10 teams — No. 4 Florida, No. 3 Arkansas, No. 7 Vanderbilt and No. 8 Tennessee — in those first 5 SEC series.

It could be an uphill climb for LSU to get back to Omaha. Shoot, the same could be said for Florida with how fickle the postseason can be.

The better bet? The faces of college baseball are about to do a whole lot more damage.

RELATED: SEC baseball preseason power rankings