Bye weeks are useful times for teams of course, but they’re also useful times for fans. For me, I had to try to come up with reasons to still care, since, let’s face it, the deck is stacked against LSU right now. We went into the Alabama game last year with the chance to take the lead in the West. Now, even if Auburn loses to Ole Miss this week and LSU beats Alabama the next week, LSU doesn’t control its own destiny.
I never thought that I would actually have more peace of mind right now had Alabama beaten South Carolina, but I sort of wish they had.
Not only would the possibility of beating an undefeated (and likely still #1) Alabama team allow for LSU to make a speedy rebound in the polls and the computers, it would make a three-way tie atop the West more likely. LSU would simply have to beat Alabama, who would then have to beat Auburn, with the three teams winning the other remaining games. I think the only way to resolve this scenario would be to go to the BCS standings, and since in that case, LSU would have the most remote loss, they would probably be higher at that point in the polls. Also, LSU has a better non-conference schedule according to most computers.
But as it stands, basically for LSU to win the West, Auburn has to lose to Alabama AND to another SEC team (the only possibilities are Ole Miss and Georgia, two rather disappointing teams). Of course Houston Nutt loves to play the spoiler role (and also seems to always have teams who play up to and down to their opponents), and Georgia-Auburn is a good rivalry, but I don’t think either is particularly likely.
But consider another scenario. If LSU goes undefeated the rest of the way (which of course would include a win over Alabama), and then Alabama beats Auburn, it’s quite possible that LSU would be a more highly rated team.
I know the last time a similar scenario happened was in 2007, when LSU stayed ahead of Georgia, who had the same number of losses but the second loss had come earlier than LSU’s second loss. Georgia also had not played in the championship game. But those were teams in different divisions, for one thing. The East was probably the weaker division, or Tennessee (with three losses, one out of conference, before the championship game) would not have won. Also, LSU had the better out-of-conference schedule in 2007 with the big win over Virginia Tech.
Tennessee won the East with a head-to-head tiebreaker, but no one seemed to doubt that Georgia was the more deserving team. I don’t think that would have been different had Tennessee beaten Cal either. And Tennessee beat Georgia by three touchdowns. Unlike LSU-Auburn, that was not a tie game with just over 5 minutes left.
Maybe Clemson (an Auburn opponent this year) finishes strong, but I’m still guessing WVU and North Carolina will look better at the end of the year than Clemson and, well, basically no one (Arkansas St., ULM, and Chattanooga).
Of course there is also the possibility that Auburn loses in the SEC Championship game (against either Florida or South Carolina…rematches can be tough). If LSU beat Alabama and Florida, who beat Auburn in consecutive weeks, LSU looks pretty good coming out of the SEC with one loss.
Also, if we can have our first one-loss season under Les, that’s a huge success to me. As I mentioned in the Auburn wrap-up, 2003 was the only one-loss season that included a bowl win and didn’t include any ties since 1961.
So it is too early to give up, but what about LSU’s chances in this next game?
I have to say that LSU has looked pretty good with extra time to prepare in the Miles/Crowton era.
One notable exception is the bowl game last season, but I don’t think we ever got any degree of swagger back after the Alabama game last year. To be that close to beating what turned out to be the best team in the country and lose out on any real hope of winning the SEC West (I can’t remember if Alabama clinched at that time), I think made it difficult to get up for the other games. We should have beaten Ole Miss, but the players and coaches seemed to just shrug it off. We seemed to be phoning in parts of the Arkansas game too before getting it together at the end. I think the month between that game and the bowl game probably had more extended periods of indifference.
So motivation now on the other hand, I’d think it would be to LSU’s advantage. LSU will be back home after a boring and lackadaisical McNeese St. game and after being on the road the last two conference games against Florida and Auburn. This series has not been the most favorable for the home team, but I think those circumstances will add a little something extra.
I don’t think the bye week favors Alabama as well, and I don’t think the focus is as much on LSU. Alabama wants to win, and they’re going to prepare hard, don’t get me wrong, but this is not the game they want so badly, and it probably never was.
To try to put my feet in the shoes of an Alabama fan…The game they circled was probably Florida, and Auburn always has to be in the top 2 at least. Can’t let Tennessee get away with one, that was a close call last year. Oh yeah, and we better beat those other teams in the West.
LSU had two really close calls against Alabama the last two years, even though Alabama won the West in 2008 and the whole thing in 2009 and LSU didn’t live up to its own standards. Even with the disastrous Jarrett-Lee pick-six mode LSU was in for much of the year in 2008, LSU still took Alabama to overtime.
Despite everything I said about the uphill climb they face, a motivational speech for LSU is not difficult here. Are you going to let this team who barely beat us the last two seasons come into our house and beat us a third year in a row? The last two things our fans have seen is an escape against Tennessee and an altogether unimpressive win over the pride of Lake Charles, and now they’re going to watch us lose to Alabama? Are you going to let that happen? Maybe Nick was right, maybe the place to win championships is Alabama, not LSU. He was the last person to coach this team to a one-loss season, I guess that’s not going to happen again anytime soon.
Maybe there are too many statistics in there. but you get the idea.
I don’t see the angle from Alabama’s perspective. If we win this game and then beat Mississippi St., and then win the Iron Bowl, and then win the SEC, we MIGHT have a chance to get back to where we were last year. Are we going to let two coaches with goofy hats beat us in the same season? Doesn’t exactly get the blood flowing.
Alabama has some great athletes on offense, like Auburn does, but it’s not something revolutionary and creative that we haven’t seen before. It’s also not like the loss to Arkansas in 2007 where we saw bascially the same offense the year before and couldn’t handle it (althouth LSU managed to beat Arkansas in 2006 anyway). LSU’s offense was running better last year, as was Alabama’s defense, but I don’t think LSU is at a relative disadvantage there as compared to last year. Also, like I said, I do think the week off will be a help in the offense department. A fairly big part of the problem, which has been true for years, is that Crowton, LSU’s offensive coordinator, comes up with things that are too complex. Sometimes we can’t even get the personnel on the field, much less execute the play properly. But two weeks is enough time to both come up with a new wrinkle and execute it properly.
On the other side of the ball, Alabama isn’t going to be trying to do that. Playing to their strengths is being more ordinary than they tried to be against South Carolina, for instance, not trying to trick the other side through something fancy. It’s an offense that works when it’s run-first, and it’s not any of this Tim Tebow spread/wildcat stuff. They have a few such things in their playbook, buf if they try to replicate Auburn or Florida (as in Florida in the past couple of years more than this year) all night, that’s going to be a joke. Also, if McElroy tries to air it out all night, I like LSU’s chances there.
LSU can find a way to lose, Alabama can find a way to win, and just maybe Alabama does have the better team, but I think if I were a neutral observer, I would still pick LSU.
I thought about this game when I heard this song. Really gets me pumped up, by the way….
(You’re Going Down by Sick Puppies…It’s not the best song for sensitive viewers/listeners, sorry)
If you don’t want to listen to it, these lyrics in particular:
“I wouldn’t put my money on the other guy
If you know what I know that I know
“It’s been a long time coming
And the tables’ turned around
Cause one of us is goin’
One of us is goin’ down”
It’s only been three years since LSU beat Alabama (which they had done in 2007 for the fifth straight year), but it seems like a lot longer. So that’s why “it’s been a long time coming” fit in my mind.
I thought about this blog while I was driving today, so I wanted to get it down, but I don’t have enough time to polish it very well, so apologies if it needs editing. I used to be a copy editor, so I know that can be annoying to some.
Also, as I’ve been doing occasionally, this is going to be the only place this entry will be for at least the first 12 hours. It’s mostly so I can get some sleep, but if it gets people to visit my wordpress blog without my prompting elsewhere more often, so be it.