In the competitive spirit of college basketball's annual championship tournament, The Motley Fool brings you Stock Madness 2007! Our writers are making head-to-head arguments for their chosen stocks (but not necessarily investment recommendations -- this is, after all, a game), and you'll pick the winners with your article recommendations and Motley Fool CAPS ratings. Who will win the right to cut down the net? Let's tip things off and find out!                          

Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) made quick work of computer chip maker AMD in the last round, but the competition has been ratcheted up another level, as is usually the case during Stock Madness as we move through the bracket. Today's foe is South African integrated oil and gas giant Sasol (NYSE:SSL). Before you head for cover under the rafters because of pre-game jitters, let's scout the key drivers for each stock.

In round one, I pointed out that Cisco rules the roost in providing the plumbing that allows networking and communications devices to transport voice, video, and all types of data throughout the world. Cisco is a corporate infant by most standards, having only been around since 1984. But it has grown up quickly and is now considered an ultimate Rule Maker, meaning it's a market leader and operates a profitable business in a growing market. 

Looking at the competition, Cisco dwarfs alternative device providers such as 3Com (NASDAQ:COMS) and Sycamore Networks (NASDAQ:SCMR).  More formidable competitors exist in Nortel (NYSE:NT) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU), but they're still reeling from accounting restatements and a major cross-continental merger, respectively. I'll take Cisco over these guys any day; it's proven adept at growing organically, or internally, and uses its financial clout to buy into newer technologies, as occurred last week when it announced plans to acquire WebEx Communications (NASDAQ:WEBX) and its Internet communication applications.       

For those of you keeping score, Cisco operates at the forefront of an industry that continues to grow robustly as companies increasingly need products to store, retrieve, and send data across the Internet and other communications networks. And while its products aren't necessarily the most straightforward, the market potential is easy to grasp, as is the sorry state of any competitive threat to its reign as industry titan. 

To understand what drives Sasol, a Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation, all an investor has to do is figure out which direction the cyclical oil and gas industry is heading. It also operates in the petrochemicals industry, which is just as susceptible to market fluctuations based on underlying commodity prices and the economic ups and downs in the 30 countries where it has facilities.   

Potentially lucrative growth avenues exist in easy-to-understand technologies called gas-to-liquid (GTL) and coal-to-liquid (CTL), which the company admits may not turn out to have any economic viablity whatsoever. But I'm sure you'll be able to easily determine which countries and industries end up adopting them over traditional, entrenched petroleum-based systems.

Also, Sasol is based in South Africa, so you'll have currency fluctuations between the U.S. dollar and the rand to contend with, not to mention the International Financial Reporting Standards to wade through when reading the company's annual report, also known as Form 20-F. Piece of cake.

In all fairness, Sasol has performed well as conditions have favored oil and gas firms, and it has a low P/E and a decent dividend yield. It's just that there are many moving parts to understand and the industry is extremely competitive, with numerous national energy giants to compete against. I'll stick with Cisco for the reasons mentioned above -- compared with Sasol and just about any other company out there. Unless you're an energy guru, you may want to do the same.         

Does Cisco deserve to move on to the next round? If you think so, simply follow this link and say the stock will outperform in Motley Fool CAPS. If not, vote for underperform and go with Sasol. Later this week, we'll tally your votes to determine which stocks will advance one step closer to the title.

Read our opposing article on Sasol, or see all of the other entries in this tournament.

Think you could pitch your favorite stock -- or ditch your least favorite one -- in 27 seconds or less? That's what we're doing over at Motley Fool CAPS. Check out our new stock videos.

Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann is long shares of Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent but has no financial interest in any other company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.